NRL player Jack de Belin will not face a third trial, with sexual assault charges against him officially dropped on Thursday.
De Belin had faced two trials over the charges which stopped him from playing for St George Illawarra over the past three seasons, but both juries failed to find him guilty.
The 30-year-old was informed of the decision by his legal team on Thursday after the Department of Public Prosecutions opted not to pursue a third trial.
The Dragons forward will now be allowed to play again after being subject to the NRL’s controversial no-fault stand down policy since December 2018.
The NRL announced on Thursday it will soon give de Belin’s return the green light.
“We make no apology for taking the hardest stance in Australian sport where our players are charged with serious criminal offences. We cannot remain indifferent to such charges, particularly those against women,’’ NRL boss Andrew Abdo said.
“The “No-Fault Stand Down” rule upholds the values of the game, protects the game’s commercial relationships and provides safeguards for the very small number of players who find themselves the subject of serious criminal charges.
“This is an example of our processes working. Jack continued to be employed by the club and was able to extend his contract with the Dragons during the process.
“The rule worked as it should.
“Once there are no longer charges against him, Jack will be free to play. Our welfare team will continue to liaise closely with the Dragons.”
De Belin was accused of raping a woman with a friend following a pub crawl in 2018.
He was at the top of his game when the accusation was levelled at him, having made his State of Origin debut for New South Wales earlier that year.
De Belin and his friend Callan Sinclair, 23, had pleaded not guilty to five charges of aggravated sexual assault, claiming their encounter with the then 19-year-old woman was consensual.
It is unclear if the charges against Sinclair have been dropped.
After a week of deliberations in the men’s second trial earlier this month, the Sydney District Court jury of eight men and four women acquitted the men of one charge related to an allegation of anal rape.
But it was unable to return unanimous or 11-to-1 verdicts on the other four charges against each accused.
Judge Nicole Noman then discharged the jury.
The men were tried last November in Wollongong, where the jury was discharged without returning any verdicts.
St George face Wests Tigers on Friday but de Belin is expected to play several weeks in the lower grades before he returns to the NRL.
He could make his return for the Dragons NSW Cup side as soon as Saturday, against Wests at Lidcombe Oval.
– with AAP