Jack de Belin is fighting his NRL ban. Picture: Toby Zerna
Jack de Belin is fighting his NRL ban. Picture: Toby Zerna

Greenberg makes NRL ban admission during de Belin appeal

NRL boss Todd Greenberg has admitted to having no evidence a new hard-line policy would curb off-field scandals before introducing it, the Federal Court has heard.

Suspended St George Illawarra star Jack de Belin fears his career will be ruined unless the code's "draconian" no-fault stand-down rule is overturned and has mounted a legal challenge.

The Dragons were ready to play the 28-year-old this weekend if he won, but de Belin's hopes of being named for the club's clash against Manly on Saturday night were dashed on Tuesday.

His case will not be resolved before the Dragons team to face the Sea Eagles is named, which leaves the club no alternative than to leave him out of the squad.

Mr Greenberg defended the controversial provision at the hearing on Tuesday, saying while the NRL had been working to stamp out cultural issues for some time, he felt compelled to introduce it before the 2019 season kicked off due to "numerous issues we were facing".

"It was urgent for us to get that rule in place before the start of the season," he said while giving evidence.

But Mr Greenberg admitted he had no proof the policy would curb poor player behaviour before he unveiled it in March.

De Belin's lawyer has slammed the code's "draconian" policy he says is unprecedented in Australia, if not the world, as it applies retrospectively.

Mr Greenberg agreed that since the NRL began in 1908, players had always had a right to a hearing following such decisions, which has been removed by the policy.

"It's a harsh rule, its an unfair rule, it's a draconian rule," barrister Martin Einfeld QC said in his opening address on Monday.

Last month the NRL and Australian Rugby League Commission unveiled a plan to clean up the code following a spate of scandals with the immediate suspension of any player charged with an offence carrying a maximum prison term of 11 years or more.

The NRL and ARLC argue the game's reputation has taken a battering following a hellish off-season marred by alleged domestic violence, drug use, leaked sex tapes and Mad Monday public nudity.

Jack de Belin's  hopes of playing on Saturday have been dashed. Picture: Toby Zerna
Jack de Belin's hopes of playing on Saturday have been dashed. Picture: Toby Zerna

Mr Greenberg predicted the number of women playing league and touch footy across Australia won't grow in 2019, adding he could give examples of those who have quit in the wake of the off-field incidents.

The NRL and ARLC note that the new rule reflects the expectations of fans and sponsors which protects the game's revenue base, adding its impact on de Belin is "justified".

The court heard revenue for the 2018 season was nearly half a billion dollars, the lion's share of which came from games.

De Belin hasn't run out for the Dragons since being charged with aggravated sexual assault in December.

The NSW State of Origin player, who last week welcomed the birth of his daughter with partner Alyce Taylor, vehemently denies the allegations and faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

Todd Greenberg arrives at the NSW Federal Court in Sydney. Picture: AAP
Todd Greenberg arrives at the NSW Federal Court in Sydney. Picture: AAP

NSW State of Origin forward de Belin allegedly raped a 19-year-old woman inside a Wollongong apartment in the early hours of December 9 last year, while his friend and co-accused, Callan Sinclair, watched on.

De Belin was entitled to full pay but could only train with his team for the duration of that criminal case, which might take up to two years to conclude, barrister Martin Einfeld QC said.

On Monday the lock's manager, Stephen Gillis, testified that the ban was likely to extend past de Belin's October 2020 contract and he would be virtually unemployable if sidelined for that long.

De Belin's ruling will have huge ramifications for the game after Mr Greenberg's use of his discretionary powers to bench Manly's Dylan Walker and Penrith's Tyrone May for off-field incidents.

De Belin's immediate playing future is not the only career at stake, with ARLC chairman Peter Beattie's own leadership on the line pending the result of the landmark case.

News Corp Australia

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