By knock-off time, he could be back with a chance of playing NRL again in a little over a week. Or he could be facing the prospect of not knowing when – or even if – he’ll play another NRL game. His criminal trial on an aggravated sexual assault charge will drag on well into next year. De Belin has pleaded not guilty.
On Thursday, he stood opposite the teammates he desperately wants to join as he helped them prepare for a match against the Knights. The Dragons have lost three on the skid, the Knights have won three on the bounce.
The rest of the St George Illawarra squad will fly to Mudgee on Friday while de Belin waits to hear if he can join them. If cleared, it’s unlikely de Belin will be ready in time to face Newcastle. The Dragons will need to get a rapid exemption from the NRL – if they even apply for one – and then whisk him to Mudgee. A return against the Sharks at WIN Stadium the following week would be more logical.
There was certainly no signs coach Paul McGregor was keen to play him immediately, despite the longtime Dragons boss keeping his cards close to his chest on Thursday. Korbin Sims (broken arm) ran with the main group nearing a return, de Belin brought the energy opposite them in that dreaded bib.
For McGregor, it’s the issue which just won’t go away. He wasn’t flippant when he said a few weeks ago de Belin’s career is as good as over if he doesn’t successfully challenge the NRL’s rule and his trial spills well into 2020.
Right now he just wants to close the book on this chapter.
Certainly we’re looking for some closure and the decision that will be made on Friday is an important one to everything
“It’s all hypotheticals at the moment,” McGregor said. “Of course I’ve spoken to Jack and it’s mainly around his welfare at the moment and how he’s feeling. Certainly we’re looking for some closure, and the decision that will be made on Friday is an important one to everything.
“There has been conversation around it on a weekly basis, daily basis so it will be nice once the decision is made everyone can move on and Jack’s get a bit of closure about what’s next so to speak.
“What happens after that I really haven’t given it much thought to be honest. I’ve got to focus on the team that is training at the moment and who is available this week. We’ll have to worry about it when the decision comes down.”
To a man his Dragons teammates have spoke glowingly about his contribution away from the bright lights.
“He’s been fantastic,” back-rower Jacob Host said. “He trains the same all the time, whether he’s in the team or not. He’s good for team morale as he’s an upbeat and positive person. It will be good if he can get a positive result. He’s a rep player and that’s how much of a boost he would bring to the team.”
Without that green vest, and with a green light he’s been banking on for months.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.