De Belin bankruptcy fears raised
THERE are fears Jack de Belin could be left bankrupt, with the St George Illawarra lock needing to pay almost half a million dollars in court costs and his own legal fees.
On Friday, de Belin failed in his Federal Court bid to overturn the NRL's "no fault" stand-down policy, leaving his career in limbo as he answers a rape charge.
De Belin has been ordered to pay the NRL's legal costs, understood to be about $300,000, and his own legal fees are in excess of $100,000.
The financial burden leaves him almost no other option than to pursue damages against the NRL should he be found not guilty in his criminal trial.
It is unclear if de Belin will appeal the federal court ruling but there was an early suggestion late on Friday that it would be unlikely.
While de Belin will still be paid his full contract for the rest of this year ($545,000) and next year ($595,000), the hefty court toll could cripple him financially.
He will also miss out on the $90,000 State of Origin bonus this year and with the 28-year-old off-contract at the end of next year his value significantly dips due to his inability to play at the top level.
De Belin reiterated his innocence and said he was "very disappointed" by the court's decision, and St George Illawarra chief executive Brian Johnston said the club was "extremely concerned" for de Belin's welfare.
The Dragons will pursue a replacement for de Belin and apply for the NRL's salary cap dispensation to replace him in their top squad for this year and next.
St George Illawarra had so far held off applying for the cap exemption in the belief de Belin would win his court case.
The club now has about $150,000 to spend.
It is alleged that De Belin raped a 19-year-old woman inside a Wollongong apartment last year while his friend and co-accused, Callan Sinclair, watched on.
De Belin returns to court on Wednesday but there is no short time frame on when he will receive a final decision.
Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter Beattie said de Belin would be welcomed back to the game if he was found innocent.
"This is not a time for celebration," Beattie said.
"We would have preferred not to be in court on this matter. What the commission did, what the NRL executive did was actually act in the best interests of the game.
"Our job is to protect the game, which is why the no-fault rule came in. I just want to stress at the end of this, any player who is involved in a serious offence of 11 years of more, or an offence involving children or women, they clearly understand what the position of the game is.
"If Jack de Belin is found innocent by the courts, he will be welcome back to the game."
The RLPA will consider issuing a dispute with the NRL under the Collective Bargaining Agreement in the coming days, challenging the "no-fault" stand-down policy.
RLPA chief executive Ian Prendergast said the rights to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence "must be protected".
"The association must stand up and defend these rights," Prendergast said.
"I want to make it clear that I realise the seriousness of the charges against de Belin and that this is a deeply distressing time for all parties.
"The court case must be able to go ahead without interference or presumptions of guilt."