Jack de Belin in action for the Dragons against the Broncos in the teams' elimination final last September. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
Jack de Belin in action for the Dragons against the Broncos in the teams' elimination final last September. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Let them play: rare support shown for NRL duo

VETERAN NRL playmaker James Maloney says Jack de Belin and Dylan Walker should be free to play in their respective club trial matches, despite facing serious assault charges.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor will on Tuesday name his squad for the club's opening trial against Newcastle on Saturday night, with de Belin tipped to play.

Walker has been given the green light to play in the Sea Eagles' trial against the Sharks.

So far the Dragons have not hidden from their moral and legal obligation to continue supporting de Belin through the legal process.

And, as it stands, it is also written in the player code that all NRL players have a right to play until criminal matters are settled in court.

The NRL and clubs are under pressure to stand down Jack de Belin and Dylan Walker.
The NRL and clubs are under pressure to stand down Jack de Belin and Dylan Walker.

Maloney was heavily involved in the recent Rugby League Players Association's collective bargaining agreement and has been a long-time advocate of players' rights.

While he agrees tougher action needs to be taken against players found guilty of serious crimes, especially relating to women, he does not support NRL players being judged by a different set of laws to the rest of society.

"Not just footballers, everyone in the country has a presumption of innocence until they are proven guilty," Maloney said.

"Just because you are a footballer or a high-profile person, you don't lose that right.

"Definitely, I think, they are innocent until proven guilty. You let the justice system run its course and do what it needs to do and rule accordingly.

"I think you get into some really muddy waters when you start making punishments and doing things before anything is actually settled.

"As I said, that is the world we live in. That is, innocent until proven guilty. And that is what I think everyone should be."

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter Beattie has foreshadowed immediate changes could be rushed through at an ARLC meeting on February 28.

The ARLC is seeking legal advice but is mindful not to make any decision that will impact de Belin getting a fair hearing.

James Maloney has come out in support of letting Jack de Belin and Dylan Walker play. Picture: Brett Costello
James Maloney has come out in support of letting Jack de Belin and Dylan Walker play. Picture: Brett Costello

There is growing pressure on the Dragons and de Belin to take the decision out of the ARL Commission's hands though, by de Belin standing down while the matter proceeds through the courts.

Former District Court Judge Paul Conlon told The Daily Telegraph last week that de Belin's legal rights to a presumption of innocence would be dramatically influenced if the NRL took action before the case was settled.

Maloney played in NSW's winning State of Origin series last year alongside de Belin and while the two had not spoken recently, Maloney conceded he had inquired with Dragons teammates about de Belin's welfare.

"I have spoken to the boys about how he is," said Maloney, whose thoughts were also with the woman in the de Belin case.

"I haven't spoken to him personally. He is probably busy enough.

"He is doing it pretty tough I think, as anyone is who is in that situation.

"I hope he is all good.

"At the end of the day everything will come out about what has gone on and you deal with it after that."

News Corp Australia


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