St. George Illawarra Dragons player Jack de Belin will appeal against the NRL ruling. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
St. George Illawarra Dragons player Jack de Belin will appeal against the NRL ruling. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

De Belin’s legal bid to boot NRL playing ban

St George Illawarra star Jack de Belin is preparing to take the NRL to court over his contentious suspension from the 2019 season - a move which could leave the game's new player behaviour policy in tatters.

Only seven days after being stood down by NRL CEO Todd Greenberg, de Belin's legal representatives will on Thursday enter Federal Court to challenge the hard-line 'no fault' stand down policy which has also been handed to Manly Sea Eagles star Dylan Walker and young Penrith playmaker Tyrone May.

De Belin, 27, has pleaded not guilty to the aggravated sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman in Wollongong during a night out last December.

It is understood the NSW Origin star is also suing League Central for misleading and deceptive conduct, arguing that comments made about him publicly suggested they had formed a view the backrower was guilty.

Incredibly, the parties will appear before Justice Steven Rares only hours before the NRL holds its 2019 season launch.

According to court documents seen by The Daily Telegraph, lawyers for the suspended 27-year-old will claim neither the NRL or ARLC had the power to suspend him on February 28.

The NSW Origin forward, stood down indefinitely after being charged with rape, is not only questioning the validity of the league's new behavioural policy, but also seeking to restrain it from being introduced into either the NRL rules or Code of Conduct.

 

If successful de Belin may be available to play in Round 1. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
If successful de Belin may be available to play in Round 1. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

 

An NRL spokesman confirmed late Wednesday that they had received legal documents relating to de Belin and were "currently reviewing those documents".

ARLC chairman Peter Beattie added: "This is now a matter for the courts … we will let the process take its course".

As part of de Belin's court documentation, the St George Illawarra club is also listed as an 'applicant'.

However, a club spokesman said on Wednesday night the Dragons were no longer attached to the injunction and that de Belin was pursuing the matter alone.

When asked if they supported the back-rower's push for court action, the club refused to comment.

De Belin was the first casualty of the code's new player behaviour policy after being charged in December with the aggravated sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman, something he has pleaded not guilty to.

Dylan Walker may also be cleared to play in the season opener. (AAP Image/Jeremy Piper)
Dylan Walker may also be cleared to play in the season opener. (AAP Image/Jeremy Piper)

 

Less than a week later, however, the code's push to clean up the game is suddenly under threat.

Should de Belin win his appeal, the Dragons backrower would be immediately free to play in the 2019 NRL season.

The decision would also mean Walker, charged with assaulting his partner, and May, facing court over four charges surrounding sex tapes, including two counts of filming and disseminating video footage without consent, would also be cleared to play.

It is understood de Belin's lawyers will also ask the Federal Court to have the NRL and ARLC place advertising in a range of Sydney newspapers stating the Dragons No. 13 has not been suspended, while also seeking damages.

Only last Thursday, Greenberg and ARLC chairman Peter Beattie fronted the media to confirm de Belin had been indefinitely stood down.

In an online poll run by The Daily Telegraph, an overwhelming 76 per cent of respondents agreed with the decision.

Greenberg also announced a new hard-line stance to clean up the code, which included the immediate suspension of any player charged with an offence carrying a maximum prison term of 11 years or more.

Dubbed the 'No Fault' Stand Down policy, the NRL chief said he would also have the power to suspend any player charged with offences relating to acts of violence against women or children.

As part of the policy, suspended players are still paid a salary and receive access to the club, including the opportunity to train.