Lawyers for sidelined Illawarra Dragons star Jack de Belin will return to court earlier than expected to continue legal argument, however a decision in the pre-trial case is still at least seven weeks away.
Judge Andrew Haesler set out a tentative timeline for the remainder of the pre-trial discussions in Wollongong District Court late on Thursday afternoon, suggesting a decision on the issues in dispute would not be delivered until at least mid-August.
De Belin and his co-accused, Callan Sinclair, stand accused of sexually assaulting a young woman inside a North Wollongong unit block during a night out in December 2018.
They have pleaded not guilty to all charges against them.
The pair had been due to stand trial in early February however lawyers for both men raised significant legal complications in the case they said needed to be resolved before a trial could begin.
They spent the following week-and-a-half in pre-trial legal argument before a key witness in the discussions fell ill.
The case was adjourned to April but those sittings had to be abandoned due to COVID-19 and the case was rescheduled to this week.
The legal argument resumed on Monday and at the time and it was hoped the matter could be resolved by the end of the week, however protracted discussions meant by Thursday evening only Sinclair's lawyers had given their closing submissions in the pre-trial case.
Judge Haesler said it was unlikely submissions from de Belin's barrister and the Crown prosecutor would finish by Friday afternoon.
Lawyers for all parties agreed they would return to court on July 31 to finalise the submissions.
However, an earlier date of July 9 was nominated on Friday afternoon.
The Mercury understands the lawyers will need at least both days to complete the complex submissions and could take even longer, further delaying the case.
Meanwhile, Judge Haesler indicated once the submissions were finished, it would take him "a couple of weeks" to review all the material, make a decision and prepare a written judgement.
Details of what has been discussed in the pre-trial legal argument cannot be published for significant legal reasons.
The court has pencilled in the duo's joint trial for three weeks in November.
De Belin and Sinclair, who have been in court for each day of the proceedings, remain on conditional bail.