JACK de Belin may be sidelined from the NRL for up to two years and the door could soon close on him returning to footy in the bush, with the CRL to consider adopting the NRL's no-fault stand-down policy.
De Belin's federal court challenge of the new no-fault policy failed on Friday, with Justice Melissa Perry finding in favour of the NRL and ARLC, with costs.
The ruling will see de Belin sidelined indefinitely as he continues to fight a charge of aggravated sexual assault, a process that could last well into next year.
He remains stood-down on full pay with the Dragons, who will seek salary cap relief while he remains out of action.
That would likely preclude him from playing in the Canterbury Cup - where he would remain a member of the club's top 30.
It's led some to ask the question as to whether he could continue playing in lower-level competitions like the Illawarra Rugby League or Ron Massey Cup.
However that door could be slammed shut, with the CRL board to meet on Friday to consider following the NRL's lead and adopting the no-fault stand-down policy.
"It depends on whether we move forward and adopt the stand-down rule that the NRL have put in, which might be the case at our board meeting next week," CRL chief executive Terry Quinn said.
"It wasn't [on the agenda] until yesterday but it will be and the board definitely wants to discuss it now. The board has to ratify it.
"We've got a board meeting next Friday and since the [federal court ruling] only happened yesterday the board hasn't determined what we want to do as yet.
"It was debated in a court of law and with the [case] being won by the NRL in the courts, I think that'd make it a very strong chance that we'd adopt that and use it on a case by case basis. We wouldn't use it willy-nilly."
De Belin was charged over the alleged sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman in a Wollongong apartment in December. He pleaded not guilty and has vigorously maintained his innocence.
However, in February ARLC chairman Peter Beattie introduced the new policy that stipulates players charged with serious offences carrying penalties of 11 years jail or more will be stood-down until the conclusion of the criminal process.
It was a move condemned by the Rugby League Players Association, who haven't ruled out a challenge on de Belin's behalf under the game's Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Former Dragon Russell Packer made his return to the NRL through the NSW Cup after serving a year of a two-year prison sentence for assault.
It's a different matter to de Belin's however given Packer had been convicted on the charge and served his court-imposed penalty before making his return to the game.
The CRL currently has discretionary powers to refuse registrations for players considered "undesirable" though it typically relates to those who have been convicted of a crime.
There is no precedent in regards to those who have pleaded not-guilty and are awaiting the outcome of the court process.
"We do have a clause in our rules and regulations that we can stand anybody down if we believe they're an undesirable for the game, but that's a tough one to do," Quinn said.
"We've got guys currently deregistered at the moment for serious offences. That's under the rules and regulations we do have, but you have to wait until it comes across the table."
Were the CRL to adopt the no-fault policy it would likely be used on a similarly discretionary basis.
It could have ramifications for de Belin's co-accused Callan Sinclair, who has also pled not-guilty and continues to play for Shellharbour in the Group Seven competition.
"It is a consideration and it probably will be now more so with the stand-down clause coming down the way it did yesterday," Quinn said.
"Once we put it to the board I daresay he'll come come under consideration for being stood down."