Jack de Belin should be stood down until sexual assault charges are finalised

Jack de Belin, pictured here at Wollongong court house, should be stood down. Picture: Adam Mclean.
Jack de Belin, pictured here at Wollongong court house, should be stood down. Picture: Adam Mclean.

So a court has changed the bail conditions of Jack de Belin, the Dragons player accused of raping a young woman after the Santa Claus Pub Crawl last December. 

If he had to report to Wollongong police twice a week, you see, he wouldn’t be able to travel with the Dragons for games interstate.

We can’t have that, said the magistrate.

That might have an impact on a football contract. That’s important. We’ll change your bail conditions, set for the charge of aggravated sexual assault in company. We wouldn’t want you missing a game.

Cart before the horse, anyone?

It is now up to the St George Illawarra Dragons to make a statement about its values, and stand down de Belin until the matter has been dealt with. But don’t hold your breath.

We find ourselves in the farcical situation of looking to a football club to do the honourable thing, after a court of law failed to do so. 

Police had set the bail conditions and opposed them being softened, citing the seriousness of the charge.

De Belin, whose wife is heavily pregnant, is accused of aggravated sexual assault in company, with his friend Callan Sinclair.

The allegations are disgusting. They have not been proven in court, and de Belin and Sinclair have pleaded not guilty.

The allegations depict a woman being treated as little more than a plaything for bigger, stronger, more powerful, more famous men to exert their will upon.

At one stage, de Belin is alleged to have invited Sinclair to participate, saying “come on, have a go”, as the alleged victim lay on the bed, crying.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor has made comments which indicate his concern is for his player. Given his job, it’s fair that he feels a duty to take care of them. But they are not the only people involved here. And let’s be honest – allowing de Belin to play is all about winning football games.

De Belin’s barrister, David Campbell SC, made the priorities quite clear when asked if the Dragons were supporting de Belin.

“Of course they are and he's standing by the Dragons and hopefully the Dragons will win the premiership,” he said.

If the allegations are true, a young woman has been violated, and is up against the might of a big club and its lawyers, over an offence which is notoriously hard to report in the first place.

Is it perhaps time to admit there are bigger things at stake than premiership points?

Who are the Dragons? What do they stand for? And what does the NRL stand for? Is all the “respect” talk actually worth a dram?

Suspending him until the matter is dealt with would say "we understand how serious this is". It would say "the game can wait until this serious matter is sorted".

The presumption of innocence is one of the foundations of our legal system. But in a league beset byproblems in how it treats women, it’s not the only thing that matters.

Just as the priorities of an NRL season are not the only criteria for deciding what’s just.