De Belin future uncertain after court loss
St George Illawarra star Jack de Belin's NRL future hangs in the balance after the Federal Court dismissed his attempt to be reinstated.
In a landmark decision on Friday which will have far-reaching repercussions for the game, Justice Melissa Perry dismissed de Belin's case against the ARL Commission and NRL.
De Belin was challenging the game's "no fault" stand down rules under which he was sidelined after he was charged with aggravated sexual assault.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charge and on Friday maintained his innocence.
De Belin did not attend the Federal Court however the NSW Origin forward said in a statement he was disappointed with the result.
"I have been stood down from my employment as a professional rugby league player because an allegation has been made against me," de Belin said.
"I am innocent and I will continue to vigorously defend the single charge made against me.
"Professional rugby league careers are short-lived, I have worked hard to build my career and I have now been stood down at the height of it, without any certainty around the timeframe to return.
"I am told it could be well into next year."
De Belin's criminal case could take another 12 to 18 months to finalise, meaning he may not return to the field before his contract expires at the end of 2020.
Given he is 28 and at the height of his playing powers, it is a massive blow for his playing future and earning potential.
Rugby League Players Association chief executive Ian Prendergast flagged challenging the no fault rules under the collective bargaining agreement in arbitration.
It is vindication for the ARL Commission, ARLC chairman Peter Beattie and NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg who pushed through the rules which allow them to sideline any player charged with a crime which carries a jail sentence of 11 years or more.
"This has not been a pleasant exercise for anybody, we had to make a tough decision," Beattie said.
"Our job is not a popularity contest, it's to do the right thing by rugby league."
Justice Perry dismissed de Belin's claim that the no fault rule represented a restraint of trade, saying the NRL was acting to protect its interests.
"The Court accepted that nothing short of a rule precluding Mr de Belin and others charged in the future with serious offences of a similar nature from taking the field was likely to address the clear and present danger established by the evidence," Justice Perry said.
"The court also accepted that where criminal proceedings were not finalised there would be a real danger of contempt of court if the NRL were to investigate whether the code of conduct had been breached."
© AAP 2019