Sidelined St George Illawarra Dragons player Jack de Belin will stand trial early next year on rape allegations.
De Belin and co-accused, Shellharbour Sharks player Callan Sinclair, appeared in Wollongong District Court on Tuesday morning where Acting Judge Paul Conlon set a starting date of March 2, 2020 for the estimated two-week trial.
The trial date means it would likely begin less than two weeks before the NRL kick-off next season.
Police will allege de Belin and Sinclair jointly raped a woman inside a Wollongong unit last December after meeting her at a CBD nightclub.
They have both been charged with five sexual assault offences including a charge of aggravated sexual assault in company causing actual bodily harm, which carries a potential life sentence if convicted.
The duo deny the allegations and have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In court on Tuesday, solicitors for both parties had some initial discussion in the proceedings over the unavailablity of both Crown and defence barristers assigned to the case, with a suggestion at one stage that the trial would not be able to proceed until May.
However, Judge Conlon refused to allow such a delay.
"Both Mr Sinclair and Mr de Belin shouldn't be required to wait any longer than is absolutely necessary to get this trial on - the same for the prosecution witnesses I would have thought," he said.
"If the Crown is not available I would have thought another can be instructed."
Lawyers for de Belin confirmed he will be represented by Sydney silk David Campbell, SC, while Sinclair will be represented by Matt Johnson, SC.
David Scully has been appointed to prosecute the case on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
De Belin and Sinclair had a brief chat to each other outside the courtroom after the proceedings concluded, with both seeming comfortable and relaxed with one another.
It is the first time they've been seen to speak to each other at court since their first appearance in February this year.
A set of police facts previously sighted by the Illawarra Mercury said de Belin and Sinclair met the alleged victim at Mr Crown nightclub on the evening of December 8, where they talked as part of a larger group.
It is alleged the woman accompanied De Belin and Sinclair to an apartment in Gipps Street so the two men could "charge their phones".
Once inside the apartment, de Belin allegedly grabbed hold of the woman, forcibly removed her clothing and pinned her on the bed with his right forearm before allegedly raping her.
Sinclair allegedly silently watched on until de Belin said to him "come have a go".
It is alleged the pair then engaged in the joint rape of the woman, at one stage swapping positions between them, before Sinclair allegedly said "I can't get hard anymore" and went to shower.
Police allege De Belin continued to rape the woman, at times putting his hand around her throat, making it hard for her to breath.
Afterwards, the woman said she had a shower before ordering the trio an Uber to take them to Fever Nightclub. She said she left soon after they arrived, and contacted a friend.
She then went to Wollongong Hospital where she underwent a rape test. Police allege she had injuries to her legs, neck, lower abdomen and shoulder.
Meanwhile, de Belin was stood down by the NRL in February after his first court appearance, becoming the first player sanctioned under the game's new 'no-fault' stand-down policy.
The policy stipulates that players facing serious charges - carrying 11 years imprisonment or more - will be automatically stood-down from playing until their court process has concluded.
De Belin failed in his first legal challenge of the no-fault policy in the Federal Court in May, with the court ruling in the NRL's favour ensuring he remains stood down until the conclusion of the criminal case.