St George Illawarra Dragons forward Jack de Belin pleads innocence after Federal Court backs NRL ban


I am innocent and I will continue to vigorously defend the single charge made against me.

Jack de Belin

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has previously said a ban of that length would effectively end the career of de Belin, who is off contract at the end of 2020.

“I am very disappointed by the decision,” de Belin said. “I have been stood down from my employment as a professional rugby league player because an allegation has been made against me.

“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.

“This is very difficult for me, and also my family, who I would like to sincerely thank, along with my friends, teammates and staff at the Dragons. Their support has been, and will continue to be, greatly appreciated as I seek to find my way forward.”

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De Belin enjoyed a break-out season for St George Illawarra last year, earning State of Origin selection as Paul McGregor’s side marched into the second week of the finals.

The Dragons were preparing to apply for a special exemption to allow de Belin to make his return against the Knights in Mudgee on Sunday if he was successful in the Federal Court bid.

But those hopes were dashed – and with it virtually any chance of him playing in the NRL this year until the case stemming from an alleged incident in Wollongong last year is finalised.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg phoned Dragons boss Brian Johnston shortly after the Federal Court verdict, which was reached after a four-day hearing last month. He offered further welfare provisions for de Belin, who has already missed the opening nine matches of the season.

“The public discussion and pressure around this circumstance and Jack personally has been extreme,” Johnston said. “It has been both unfortunate and unnecessary that Jack has been the focus for a number of issues across the game.

It has been both unfortunate and unnecessary that Jack has been the focus for a number of issues across the game.

Brian Johnston

“Jack’s welfare has always been, and will continue to be, our number one priority.

“We will continue to provide Jack and his family with the all necessary support they require and consider our options with respect to any potential replacement in the squad.

“We also greatly appreciate the support that we as a club have received from our partners, members and fans throughout this process.”

Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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