Amid a downward spiral after his rugby league career ended at the hands of drugs - a descent involving a daily cocaine habit that destroyed half his hearing and ended with him being rushed to hospital - a police surveillance team caught Jarrod Mullen engaged in a Hunter supply ring.
On Wednesday, the former Knights and NSW Origin player pleaded guilty to one count of supplying a prohibited drug.
Three other charges levelled at the 32-year-old were withdrawn.
Court documents said Mullen bought 39 grams of cocaine from a dealer at a Cameron Park home, which he largely used to finance his own drug habit.
He mostly sold to his friends, according to the documents, used encoded messenger apps like WhatsApp to avoid detection and employed code phrases such as "a couple of beers" to refer to the drugs.
"Just ever since my career finished, I spiralled out of control and was taking cocaine on a daily basis just to get through the day, to suppress the demons, I suppose," Mullen told police, according to an agreed statement of facts tendered to Newcastle Local Court.
"And a lot of prescription drugs, stuff which led me to rehab ... well I did go through a dark stage, yeah."
The statement of facts outlined how Lake Macquarie and Newcastle detectives, as part of Operation Castlestead, targeted a man last year who they believed was running a drug supply operation out of a Cameron Park home.
Police believed the 36-year-old to be a key member of a syndicate that was importing MDMA, cocaine, Ketamine, Xanax, Butanediol and Pseudoephedrine into the Hunter using several Australia Post PO boxes.
Investigators got warrants to monitor the man's phone interactions and to record visual surveillance at the property.
They intercepted a call between Mullen and the man and recorded the former footballer visiting the property on five occasions - four of those within five days last November.
The agreed facts said Mullen bought cocaine from the 36-year-old at the Cameron Park address, for the former NRL half to on-sell.
The pair discussed how to split drug sale profits, the statement of facts said, and during two visits Mullen snorted cocaine at the home.
The facts said Mullen went to rehabilitation and eventually moved to Wollongong after his parents found him unconscious on their lounge last December - he woke up in hospital and has been clean since then.
Court documents also said Mullen had damaged his cochlear nerve as a result of taking too much cocaine and had lost half his hearing. He now lives with a continuous ringing in his ears.
Mullen's top flight rugby league career ended in 2017, when he tested positive to an anabolic steroid and was banned from the game for four years.
Magistrate David Price granted an application on Wednesday for Mullen to be sentenced at Wollongong, where he now lives in one of the city's northern suburbs. He will be sentenced on February 26.
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