You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

AU News Top Stories

NRL's no-fault stand down rule 'unfair, draconian', Jack de Belin's lawyer tells court

ABC Grandstand logoABC Grandstand 3 days ago
a person in a suit and tie walking on a sidewalk © Provided by ABC Grandstand

New rules that allow rugby league players charged with serious criminal offences to be stood down are unfair, draconian and unprecedented, the Federal Court of Australia has heard.

St George Illawarra's Jack De Belin is challenging the Australian Rugby League Commission's (ARLC) decision to stand him down as he faces allegations of aggravated sexual assault relating to a woman he met in Wollongong in December.

De Belin has pleaded not guilty.

A string of off-field incidents prompted the ARLC to change NRL policy, effective from March 11, so players could be stood down if they faced criminal charges carrying a maximum penalty of 11 years or more in jail.

"In our submission it's a harsh rule, it's an unfair rule, it's a draconian rule," de Belin's lawyer Martin Einfeld QC told the Federal Court.

"It's unprecedented, as far as the evidence enables one to tell, in any sporting code in Australia."

Mr Einfeld said it may also be a world-first to have such a measure applied retrospectively.

He said since the NRL began in Australia in 1908, players had always had a right to a hearing and a review of the hearing.

"That has been removed by these rules," Mr Einfeld said.

"This is, on any view, a remarkable and extreme provision."

Under the new rule, affected players are entitled to full pay and can still train with clubs.

De Belin could face a custodial sentence of up to 20 years, a court heard in February.

He is suing the NRL, demanding it pay for "corrective advertising" and accusing it of misleading and deceptive conduct, court documents revealed last month.

De Belin's agent, Stephen Gillis, a 25-year veteran of the industry, told the court he had not sought to extend the player's contract beyond its 2020 expiry.

He said a possible term of imprisonment would be an "extremely severe impediment" to negotiations and a player slapped with a lengthy ban would have difficulty in later contract talks.

"I would expect that the player would take a severe financial hit if the player is not allowed to ply his trade in the next 18 months," Mr Gillis said.

"He needs to be in the shop front window."

As he announced the new rules, ARLC chairman Peter Beattie said the commission was making no judgement about the innocence or guilt of a player.

But the Rugby League Players' Association opposed the change and said the rule undermined a player's right to be presumed innocent.

De Belin's case is due to be mentioned in a Wollongong court on Wednesday.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon