The NRL is rushing to enact its new no-fault stand-down rule after admitting in court St George Illawarra star Jack de Belin is still eligible to play in the competition.
De Belin is suing the NRL and the sport’s Australian governing body over the code’s new discretionary powers for players charged with serious criminal offences.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg says the rule will be in place by Saturday night – five days out from the league’s season opener in Melbourne.
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De Belin, who has pleaded not guilty to raping a woman in December, claims the NRL and Australian Rugby League Commission didn’t have the power to suspend him.
The NSW State of Origin lock also claims the NRL and ALRC engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and wants the court to permanently restrain the two bodies from inserting the new rule into the NRL Rules.
Alan Sullivan QC told the court on Thursday de Belin was not suspended.
“People cannot be stood down until the competition starts,” he said.
That prompted the forward’s barrister Martin Enfield QC to refer to the NRL’s and Australian Rugby League Commission’s widespread comments that he had been stood down.
Justice Steven Rares said the declarations that de Belin had been stood down as he faces a sexual assault charge were damaging to him as a professional and as an individual.
“There is no entitlement to stand him down from what you have told me,” he said to Mr Sullivan.
“It is pretty damaging to anyone, the trouble is nothing is in place at the moment.”
Mr Enfield cited an NRL senior reporter writing on its website that de Belin ” was banned from playing”.
The case returns to court on March 14 – two days out from St George Illawarra’s first-round clash with North Queensland.
© AAP 2019