Jack De Belin To Sue The NRL Over Suspension
The St George Illawarra star claims the NRL did not have the power to suspend him
St George Illawarra star Jack de Belin claims he wasn't validly suspended by the NRL after being charged with rape, contending the league engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct.
The 27-year-old is suing the NRL and the Australian Rugby League Commission, with his lawsuit to come before the Federal Court in Sydney on Thursday for a preliminary hearing.
In documents filed with the court, de Belin states the bodies did not have the power to suspend him on full pay on February 28, purportedly under a new rule allowing players charged with a serious criminal offence to be stood down so they can't take part in the NRL competition.
De Belin and Callan Sinclair, 21, have pleaded not guilty to raping a 19-year-old woman in Wollongong on December 9 and are due back in court on April 17.
De Belin claims the NRL and ARLC engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by claiming they had the power to suspend him and by making a number of public comments.
They include suggesting they had "formed a view that de Belin was guilty" of the rape and had "engaged in conduct that warranted his immediate suspension as a player for the club".
"The suspension representation was made in press releases, social media, on www.nrl.com, in television, radio and newspaper interviews by Peter Beattie and Todd Greenberg published in every state and territory of Australia," the court documents state.
The player says this caused irreparable damage to his reputation and financial loss.
He is seeking an order that the NRL and ARLC immediately issue a press release and place corrective advertising in numerous newspapers stating: "The NRL has not suspended St George Illawarra player Jack de Belin. He is available to play for St George Illawarra".
De Belin is seeking damages, compensation and legal costs, as well as a string of court declarations including that the two bodies engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and unconscionable conduct.
He also wants an order permanently restraining them from inserting the new rule into the NRL Rules or NRL Code of Conduct, claiming it is unreasonable and contrary to public policy.
Under the old policy, players who pleaded not guilty to serious charges were allowed to continue playing until their case was finalised in court.
His lawyers say neither body had any material to enable them to determine de Belin was guilty of rape or in breach of the NRL Code of Conduct.
But for the "threatened suspension", de Belin intends playing in the first 2019 match on March 16 and in matches through the year and 2020, and to make himself available for representative selection including for State of Origin, the documents state.