DRAGONS lock Jack de Belin's rugby league career hangs in the balance after his federal court action against the NRL ended in defeat on Friday.
In a case that had huge implications for the NRL and its handling of off-field incidents, in particular those involving criminal charges, Justice Melissa Perry ruled in the NRL's favour, with costs.
It was a face-saving victory for the game, in particular ARLC chairman Peter Beattie, with the no-fault stand-down policy to remain in place with the backing of the verdict.
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De Belin was set to be rushed into the Dragons line-up for Sunday's clash with Newcastle if successful but now faces up to two years on the sidelines until the conclusion of his criminal case, a stint out of the game that could spell the end of his career.
The 28-year-old was stood down by the NRL in February after he was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman in a Wollongong apartment in December.
He pleaded not guilty but became one of the first players sanctioned under the NRL's new no-fault stand-down policy that stipulates players facing serious charges - carrying 11 years imprisonment or more - can not play until their court process has concluded.
The policy was applauded in some quarters and criticised in others, with the Rugby League Players Association condemning the move and stating it undermines the legal presumption of innocence.
De Belin, who may yet appeal the verdict, will remain stood down on full pay while his sexual assault case plays out, with his next court date coming on May 29 in Wollongong.
The Dragons, who will play the Newcastle Knights on Sunday, were awaiting the outcome of the case before seeking salary cap relief from the NRL but will now accelerate that process following Friday's verdict.