Jack de Belin was absent from a NSW State of Origin breakfast function in Sydney on Friday morning.
He was the only player missing from a Blues squad looking to the future after breaking Queensland’s near-perfect State of Origin stranglehold in the past decade. Instead, he reported to Wollongong Police Station as part of his bail conditions while on an aggravated sexual assault charge, which allegedly happened early on Sunday morning.
Whether he will continue training in the off-season is in the hands of the NRL Integrity Unit. Teammates are reeling.
He has, by all reports, maintained his innocence and so awaits his court date in February. So this could have been a column about Corey Norman’s imminent arrival from Parramatta.
Is he worth the risk, given his own history? And if so, should he be playing in the No.6 jersey? Or No.1 jersey?
Matt Dufty is the likely man to make way, which would mean captain Gareth Widdop shifts to fullback in what is almost certainly his final season in the Red V.
It’s risky. Widdop has had his injury problems and a move to the back creates its own athletic demands, but then it also means he will be out of the defensive line.
This is what the column should be about.
Instead, this columnist can only reflect on what was written in last Saturday’s edition, discussing the other major off-field incidents.
“For all the community work, theme rounds, education programs and genuinely nice blokes in the game, rugby league still has a problem.
A cultural problem. A behavioural problem. An image problem. And a problem with consistency in how they deal with major off-field issues. Assault. Domestic violence. Performance enhancing drugs. Recreational drugs. Assorted drunken stupidity. It’s not just that it happens. It’s that it’s so tolerated.”
AND ANOTHER THING…
When the Wolves were ruled out of the A-League expansion process, they were privately offered hope for the future, as happened with the Canberra bid after Thursday’s decision to include South-West Sydney and Western Melbourne Group.
Southern Expansion is as a dead as Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership.
The Wolves must now court new financial backing and await a roadmap to when the league might become 14 teams, when the fantasy of a national second division might become reality, or even if Wellington Phoenix could be stripped of their licence. But until the region’s governing body – Football South Coast – and the premier club – the Wolves – can come together and build a vision for the future, the public and the FFA will not trust the officials involved to build an A-League club.
Change, significant and lasting change, is needed. And quickly.