St George Illawarra player Jack de Belin was apparently moved to tears following his return to the NRL on Thursday night after two sexual assault trials.
The Dragons made his return a memorable one, banking a decisive 52-24 win over the Brisbane Broncos in what was de Belin's first NRL match in more than three years.
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The 30-year-old reportedly broke down in tears as he entered the tunnel to cheers from Dragons fans, while he was embraced by his partner Alyce Taylor after the game as well.
But one reserve grade game and a week after sexual assault charges against him were withdrawn, it didn't start pretty for the former NSW State of Origin lock.
After two minutes on the field, de Belin rushed up out of the line and made a bad miss on the stepping Albert Kelly in the lead-up to a Teurui Robati try.
But with Robati sin-binned in the second half for a high shot, de Belin was back to his best in attack.
Dragons coach Anthony Griffin said after the game that he hoped the performance would be enough for the spotlight on de Belin to dim.
“As a club, the club stood by him long before I got here,” he said.
“Legally he got cleared to play last week so it’s been a big week.
"Probably after tonight let’s put an end to the Jack de Belin stuff on how he’s going to play. I think he answered all your questions over the last two weeks.
“I wasn’t planning to play him initially but the way he went last week in NSW Cup, he pulled up really well. To see him in the NRL sheds tonight,
"I thought was just great for him and great for the club and the way he played just shows how great a player he is and obviously mentally tough.”
Jack de Belin completes NRL return after charges dropped
De Belin impressed in his return to rugby league via reserve grade last week after 987 days on the sideline through the NRL's no-fault stand-down policy as he faced sexual assault charges.
The prosecution's decision to withdraw the case and not pursue a third trial came too late for the 30-year-old to be named in the NRL last week, instead giving him the NSW Cup hit-out.
Despite claims from coach Anthony Griffin that it was 'premature' for the lock to return so early, de Belin was named on the bench at Kogarah on Thursday night in the No.17 jersey.
It meant de Belin made his return to NRL footy after just two training sessions with the top squad, before Thursday night's game.
While the game has become faster in de Belin's absence, due to multiple rule changes, Griffin was confident the lock will be able to adapt.
Matt Dufty made a bigger statement as the Dragons posted 50 points for the first time since March 2018.
A week after being told by the Dragons he wouldn't be kept on as fullback for 2022, Dufty set up five tries and scored two of his own in the best game of his career.
He created their first when he dummied and stepped past Tyson Gamble with ease and put Jack Bird over from 40 metres out.
With the Dragons down 18-12, Dufty brought them level when he put Gerard Beale through a hole with a cut-out ball, before chasing through for a crucial try on the break to claim the lead.
Dufty's brilliance was equalled by Jamayne Isaako's horrors, when the Broncos fullback inexplicably failed to dive on a set-play kick from a scrum on the siren.
Isaako finished the night hooked by the Broncos, with Kevin Walters admitting his exit in the 65th minute was not injury related.
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