As de Belin challenges NRL ban, Sinclair back playing in Group Seven for Shellharbour

Back in court: Jack De Belin (right). Picture: AAP Image/Peter Rae
Back in court: Jack De Belin (right). Picture: AAP Image/Peter Rae

As Jack de Belin fights to overturn his NRL playing ban while on an aggravated sexual assault charge, co-accused Callan Sinclair has been on the field for Group Seven club Shellharbour.

De Belin attended the NSW Federal Court in Sydney on Monday, the first day of a hearing to challenge the validity of the NRL's contentious "no-fault" policy, brought in to have players charged with serious crimes stood down.

Less than 48 hours earlier, Sinclair scored a try in the Sharks' 50-nil first grade thumping of neighbours Stingrays at Flinders Field, having also been part of the season-opening win against Warilla.

The Country Rugby League declined to comment on the matter on Monday, however, the NRL's "no-fault" policy does not extend to competitions under CRL jurisdiction.

The Mercury unsuccessfully attempted to contact Shellharbour for comment.

The ARL Commission introduced the new rule in March after a number of off-field allegations, with de Belin, Manly's Dylan Walker and ex-Parramatta and NSW State of Origin star Jarryd Hayne the first to be stood down.

De Belin and Sinclair were granted conditional bail after being accused of repeatedly raping a 19-year-old woman inside a Wollongong apartment in the early hours of December 9.

The case will be mentioned in Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday.

A St George Illawarra and NSW State of Origin forward, de Belin fears his NRL career will be irreparably damaged unless the NRL's "draconian" no-fault stand down rules are overturned.

In action: Callan Sinclair (back row, second from right) after playing for Shellharbour against Warilla.

In action: Callan Sinclair (back row, second from right) after playing for Shellharbour against Warilla.

De Belin's barrister Martin Einfeld QC told Justice Melissa Perry on Monday the NRL's stand down rule was: "A harsh rule, an unfair rule, a draconian rule.

"It's unprecedented in any sporting code in Australia."

Einfeld told the court that there were grave fears for De Belin's playing future because there was no guarantee that his criminal case would be finalised before the end of 2020 season, when his Dragons contract expires.

De Belin's manager Steve Gillis testified his client would have trouble resuming his career if he was to remain on the sidelines for the remainder of his deal.

"I would expect he would be severely financially hit if he's not allowed to ply his trade in the next 18 months to two seasons," Gillis said.

"The player needs to showcase what he can do, he needs to be in the shop front window."