De Belin withdraws appeal, ends stand-off with NRL

WITHDRAWN: Jack de Belin, pictured outside Wollongong Local Court on Tuesday, has withdrawn his appeal against the NRL's no-fault stand-down policy. Picture: Sylvia Liber.
WITHDRAWN: Jack de Belin, pictured outside Wollongong Local Court on Tuesday, has withdrawn his appeal against the NRL's no-fault stand-down policy. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

DRAGONS forward Jack de Belin has withdrawn his appeal against the NRL's no-fault stand-down policy, ensuring he remains stood down pending the outcome of his criminal case.

De Belin and co-accused Callan Sinclair appeared in Wollongong District Court on Tuesday morning where Acting Judge Paul Conlon set a starting date of March 2 next year for for their trial on aggravated sexual assault charges.

It will see the trial, that's expected to last two weeks, begin just 10 days prior to the start of the 2020 NRL season and before the Federal Court appeal process would have concluded.

De Belin and Sinclair have pleaded not guilty to the charges stemming from an alleged incident in a Wollongong apartment last December.

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.

He subsequently launched an appeal that was withdrawn on Thursday, a move welcomed by the NRL who've worn criticism from the Rugby League Players Association that claims the policy undermines the presumption of innocence in criminal matters.

"The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and the National Rugby League (NRL) welcome the withdrawal by Jack de Belin of his appeal concerning the NRL's no-fault stand down rule," The NRL said in a statement.

"The NRL's no-fault stand down rule introduced in March 2019 and confirmed by the Federal Court in May continues to apply.

"The Commission and the NRL take very seriously our responsibility to protect the reputation of the Game and its stakeholders.

"We have always held the view that the no-fault stand down rule is in the best interests of the game and are pleased that the legal challenge to this rule has now been concluded.

"We continue to work with the Club to monitor the welfare of Mr de Belin."

The RLPA has signalled it's intention to continue it's fight against the policy, releasing a statement soon after the NRL on Thursday.

"The agreement is in Jack's interests and we understand the reasons for this," it read.

"The RLPA remains of the view that the NRL's stand down rule has been introduced in breach of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

"The RLPA also remains of the view that the stand down rule operates as an invalid and unreasonable restraint of trade, and will continue to address this with the NRL together with other issues through the CBA dispute process.

"The RLPA understands the pressure the recent alleged integrity issues placed on our game.

"However, it is important that under a partnership model the parties to the CBA work together in finding joint solutions to address challenges of this nature.

"The CBA dispute is critical to our members to ensure the role of their collective representative is not undermined and that the arrangements secured under the CBA are protected."

The Dragons also released a statement addressing the matter, saying de Belin's decision to withdraw the appeal was in response to the trial date coming prior to the start of the 2020 season.

"Jack de Belin has made the decision to discontinue his appeal process against the judgement of her Honour Justice Perry in his case against the Australian Rugby League's 'No-fault' stand down policy that was scheduled to take place in the Federal Court today," the statement read.

"De Belin made the decision to discontinue proceedings as a direct result of the determination early this week of the commencement of his criminal trial in the District Court on March 2, 2020, which is prior to the start of the 2020 NRL season, and given the likelihood that the outcome of the Federal Court appeal would not be finalised until after the completion of the Dragons' 2019 season.

"De Belin maintains that the NRL's stand down rule operates as an unlawful restraint of trade and is contrary to his presumption of innocence."

This story De Belin withdraws appeal, ends stand-off with NRL first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.