The New South Wales State of Origin player Jack de Belin has pleaded not guilty to raping a woman in company with his friend.
The 27-year-old was charged with aggravated sexual assault after the alleged attack on a 19-year-old woman in a Wollongong unit in the early hours of 9 December.
Police allege he had sexual intercourse with the woman without her consent, in circumstances of aggravation, and in the company of his friend Callan Sinclair.
De Belin entered his not guilty plea at Wollongong local court on Tuesday before the matter was adjourned to 17 April.
The St George Illawarra Dragons lock successfully had his bail varied so he doesn’t need to report to police every Monday and Friday.
The magistrate, Roger Clisdell, added an additional condition that De Belin does not enter any international point of departure aside from travelling on an airport train line. De Belin has also surrendered his passport.
The police prosecutor Sean Thackray had opposed the bail variation due to the “nature and seriousness of the offence” and the custodial sentence it carries.
Clisdell said there appeared to be “a reasonably strong case” against De Belin. But the magistrate agreed to delete his reporting conditions because the 27-year-old was “a high-profile sportsperson” with professional rugby league obligations and was therefore unlikely to flee.
De Belin’s barrister, David Robert Campbell SC, told the court De Belin had a heavily pregnant wife and owned property in the area.
“The proceedings have to take their course in the usual way and there’s really nothing more he can say,” Campbell told reporters outside court.
“Obviously, it was an essential [bail] variation because he wouldn’t be able to continue playing football with the team, pursuant to his contract, if we didn’t get it.”
Sinclair, 21, has indicated he will be pleading not guilty to the same charge. Neither man commented as they left court on Tuesday.
The Dragons on Tuesday noted De Belin was now able “to fulfil his training and playing commitments”.
“The club will make no further comment as this matter remains before the courts,” the club said.