Jack De Belin will stand trial on aggravated sexual assault charges in November after a pre-trial challenge was thrown out by a judge.
The St George Illawarra back-rower pleaded not guilty to five charges of aggravated sexual assault after he was accused of raping a 19-year-old Wollongong woman in 2018.
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A pre-trial challenge from De Belin and co-accused Callan Sinclair was thrown out by Wollongong District Court Judge Andrew Haesler, with a readiness hearing scheduled for September 7 and the trial slated for November 7.
De Belin has been absent from the NRL for nearly 18 months after being stood down under the league’s ‘no fault’ policy.
The trial comes at a crucial time for De Belin, whose $595,000-a-year contract with the Dragons is up at the end of the year.
The embattled star has had some interest from incoming New Zealand Warriors coach Nathan Brown, but his immediate future hinges on the outcome of his November trial.
De Belin was originally slated to face court in February, but a variety of delays kept pushing the date back.
Initially held up over legal arguments, the global outbreak of the coronavirus and a key witness contracting the virus also led to significant delays in hearing evidence.
Dragons turn to rookie to get best of Hunt
St George Illawarra coach Dean Young is on a mission to get the best out of Ben Hunt and a four-game NRL hooker could be key.
Billy Brittain has played just two games with the Dragons - since arriving from South Sydney this year - and has been added to the bench to play Gold Coast on Friday.
While a big fan of the 26-year-old, Young's theory is Hunt needs to be spelled rather than play 80 minutes in the middle at hooker - which is where Brittain comes in.
"It's not easy in the middle when you're the size of Cam McInnes or Hunty and you've got 115kg bodies running at you for 80 minutes, it takes its toll on you," Young said on Thursday.
"If we can find Hunty a spell we can get even better footy out of him.
"He's playing some good footy at the moment but I think that'll even improve if we can find him a spell."
Brittain made his NRL debut for the Rabbitohs last season but played only the first two rounds for the Dragons in 20-minute stints from the bench.
He originally arrived on a four-week train and trial deal but he was so impressive the club signed him until the end of next year.