De Belin is now facing the prospect of having to sit out two entire seasons after a witness, whose identity has been suppressed, was too sick to attend court. As a result, Wollongong District Court judge Andrew Haesler on Thursday morning adjourned pre-trial proceedings to April 8 in round five of the season.
It is a huge setback for de Belin and the Dragons, who were hoping for a verdict before the opening game of the season.
The player’s union slammed the NRL’s stand-down rule in light of the trial delay, saying it demonstrated the “inherent unfairness” of the NRL’s policy.
“The policy restrains players from plying their trade for an indeterminate period of time while denying the player their fundamental right to the presumption of innocence,” the Rugby League Players Association said in a statement. “The player is also denied the right to be heard by the NRL in relation to its decision and the ongoing impact of the stand-down period.”
De Belin’s two-week trial was originally due to begin on February 3 over the allegations the Dragons star and Shellharbour Sharks player Callan Sinclair sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman in a Wollongong apartment in December 2018. Both players have pleaded not guilty to all five charges.
The trial was pushed back due to a series of complex arguments relating to the conduct of the court proceedings against the pair, the subject of which cannot be legally reported.
The policy restrains players from plying their trade for an indeterminate period of time while denying the player their fundamental right to the presumption of innocence
Rugby League Players Association
The NRL and the players union are currently locked in a battle over the stand-down rule, which the RLPA argues breached terms of the game’s collective bargaining agreement. The RLPA, which has also argued more clarity is required to understand when a player will fall under the rule, said on Thursday that the conflict was “ongoing”.
Before de Belin was stood down he and Frizell were among the game’s best forwards and were also NSW teammates.
with Angus Thompson