St George forward Jack de Belin will be clear to play the remainder of the 2021 season when rape charges against him are formally withdrawn.
The NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has advised lawyers for De Belin, 30, and Callan Sinclair, 24, the cases against them would be withdrawn after trials in Sydney and Wollongong resulted in hung juries.
The NRL says once the charges are formally withdrawn, a new contract between De Belin and the Dragons will be registered allowing the forner NSW State of Origin representative to return to the field.
De Belin hasn’t played first grade since 2018 after being accused of sexually assaulting a then-19-year-old woman in a North Wollongong unit in December that year.
The Dragons agreed to a contract with De Belin during the 2020 season which will keep him at the club until at least the end of the 2023 season.
“Today’s outcome concludes a tumultuous period for all involved in the Jack de Belin matter,” Dragons chief executive Ryan Webb said in a statement.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo defended the code’s “no-fault stand down” policy which had led to De Belin being sidelined throughout the period after he was formally charged.
“We make no apology for taking the hardest stance in Australian sport where our players are charged with serious criminal offences,” Abdo said.
“We cannot remain indifferent to such charges, particularly those against women.
“This is an example of our processes working. Jack continued to be employed by the club and was able to extend his contract with the Dragons during the process.
“The rule worked as it should.
“Once there are no longer charges against him, Jack will be free to play.”