Ex-Newcastle Knights captain and State of Origin player Jarrod Mullen has been charged with drug trafficking after being arrested at his new home in Wollongong on Wednesday.
The 31-year-old is facing three counts of supplying an indictable quantity of a prohibited drug and one count of supplying a traffickable quantity of prohibited drug, police have confirmed.
Mullen was arrested at his home in Tarrawanna and spent several hours in custody at Wollongong Police Station being interviewed by Newcastle detectives.
He was given conditional bail to appear at Newcastle Local Court on June 20.
The Mercury understands police will allege Mullen supplied cocaine in the Newcastle area between September and December last year.
Police have said Mullen is the eighth person to be charged by detectives attached to Strike Force Castlestead, which was set up in September 2018 to investigate and dismantle an alleged drug syndicate importing, manufacturing and supplying GHB, MDMA and cocaine in the Hunter region.
Police allege the syndicate is headed by brothers Matthew Shane Pearce and Brett Robert Pearce, 35 and 33 respectively.
Other facing charges over their alleged involvement in the ring include Leslie Charles Mason, 40 - the older brother of former Newcastle Knight Willie Mason - engineer Jay Edward Ramsden, 28, and Aaron Macey, 28, who police will allege was the syndicate's connection to the Sydney market.
All accused, bar Ramsden and now Mullen, remain in custody without bail.
The Singleton-born Mullen was a junior protege who debuted in the NRL at 18 after playing for Wests Newcastle.
He turned 20 the day after Andrew Johns retired and was immediately thrust into the shoes of the future Immortal at the Newcastle Knights on a $1 million-per-year deal.
Just a few months later he was calling the shots for NSW at the Suncorp Stadium cauldron in Brisbane in his only Origin appearance.
Mullen is currently serving a four-year ban after testing positive for steroids in 2017.
The Newcastle-born Mullen's promising NRL career came to an abrupt end in 2017 when he was suspended for four years under the League's Anti-Doping Policy, after his A-sample tested positive for an anabolic steroid.
His suspension will expire in 2021.
He played 211 games for Newcastle over his 11-year career with the Knights but recently moved to the Illawarra to live.
Knights CEO Phil Gardner has previously described Mullen as "one of our greatest ever players" in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.