A defiant Paul McGregor insists he will pick Jack de Belin as soon as next week if he's able to successfully challenge the NRL's no-fault stand-down policy in the Federal Court.
De Belin's immediate future will be decided in a three-day hearing due to start on Monday as his high-powered legal team challenge the NRL's validity of standing down players on serious criminal charges.
Jack de Belin will be picked for the Dragons if his court case is successful, says coach Paul McGregor.Credit:Adam McLean
The NSW representative has trained throughout the opening five weeks of the season in the hope of returning to the field after the court case, which could pave the way for his return in the Dragons' clash with the in-form Sea Eagles in Wollongong next weekend.
St George Illawarra has strung together three straight wins – including a 40-4 hiding of the struggling Bulldogs at Netstrata Jubilee Oval on Sunday – and McGregor said he would have no hesitation to rush de Belin straight back into a winning side if successful in the courts.
"What I hope happens is yeah, he does win," McGregor said. "I don’t know too much other than you guys. Will I pick Jack? If he’s mentally and physically right, absolutely.
"If we play possibles and probables at training when first plays reserve grade, he’s ready [to return on that evidence]."
If he’s mentally and physically right, absolutely.
The return of de Belin, who was stood down over aggravated sexual assault charges, would be a huge boost to the Dragons and again ignite public debate over the NRL's handling of off-field matters.
De Belin's sexual assault case could be dragged through the legal system for the rest of the year and well into 2020.
It's understood the NRL's legal team, led by Tony O'Reilly QC, will call Storm chairman Bart Campbell, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and NRL chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo to the stand on Monday as the no-fault stand-down rule is put under the microscope.
The Herald revealed on Thursday that the Net Promoter Score – known as the NPS – will prove critical to the case of both sides.
An alarming drop in NPS was used as a means to justify the NRL's decision to stand de Belin down.
It has been reported that the score dropped from plus-3 per cent after last grand final to a minus-seven rating in January after a summer filled by off-season scandals.
Abdo, who will take the stand today, has referenced the NPS score in one of the affidavits tendered in court.
At its core, NPS helps gauge the amount of financial damage done to the game by the off-season scandals.
Souths chief executive Blake Solly estimated the financial damage to be in the $10 million range.
Campbell led the charge – both privately and publicly – to have de Belin stood down, stating that if he was a Storm player the club would have done so immediately.
It's understood the Storm had trouble attracting sponsors through the summer, despite none of their players featuring in the off-field scandals.
The Storm chair and co-owner sent an email to the 15 other NRL clubs in February, labelling the code as "morally tone deaf" if de Belin was permitted to play.
Manly's Dylan Walker and Penrith's Tyrone May have also been stood down under the edict after being charged with criminal offences.
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