De Belin banned as NRL addresses culture


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Jack de Belin has reaffirmed his intention to fight a sexual assault charge after becoming the first player stood down under the NRL’s controversial new behavioural policy. The ARL commission announced changes on Thursday it claimed could fix the game’s broken culture, beginning with standing De Belin down until the court case against him is finalised. Under the new rules already opposed by the players’ union, players facing charges which carry a jail term of 11 years or more will be stood down under a no-fault policy which doesn’t apply a presumption of guilt. NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg also has the discretion to stand down players facing other serious charges, including violence against women and children. The decision prompted Dragons lock de Belin to break his silence, speaking publicly via a media release for the first time since being charged with aggravated sexual assault and pleading not guilty. “Rugby league has always been a big part of my life, I love the game,” de Belin said. “I am innocent and will vigorously defend the charge against me.” The NRL’s changes – announced by chairman Peter Beattie – come after an off-season which has included 17 off-field incidents and scandals at the rate of almost one every 10 days. Beattie claimed the game’s reputation had to be rebuilt after the horror summer. “I do (believe this can change the culture),” Beattie said. “Because this is the first time we’ve actually got a rule with teeth. “It’s a rule that can bring about cultural change. It’s a rule that says to everyone in the game that you have got to behave. “At the end of it all, we’ve got to have standards and values. We’ve sent out a message.” Under the terms of the rules, de Belin will still be afforded full pay and be able to train with the Dragons. Beattie claimed the changes had been supported by 15 of the NRL’s 16 club chairs. But the measures might still be met with opposition, with the Dragons considering their position on the matter and the Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) backing any player who wants to explore legal options. “We understand and support the commission’s desire to improve the standards of player behaviour and propagate the game,” Dragons CEO Brian Johnston said. “This is a very complex and difficult issue that impacts many stakeholders. “To date, we have been guided by the NRL rules and code of conduct, in addition to advice suggesting any action taken by the club could interfere with the judicial process. “Given the change today, we need time to digest this information and consider the implications for our club.” The RLPA said while it was wholly supportive of wiping out off-field violence, it claimed the rules would impact on employment rights and could prejudice the legal process. “That is a matter we will engage the commission and NRL on in the coming days and weeks, as well as considering our options legally and through the CBA dispute process,” RLPA boss Ian Prendergast said. “As always, we will support our members to explore any legal options they may have available to them.” Australian Associated Press

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