ST GEORGE Illawarra lock Jack de Belin will report for preseason duty with the the Dragons at his own discretion after being given an April retrial date on Wednesday.
De Belin, and co-accused Callan Sinclair, will be tried for a second time after a jury failed to reach a verdict in their sexual assault trial in Wollongong District Court on Monday.
The jury deliberated for nine hours but could not reach either a unanimous or 11-1 majority verdict in relation to five charges stemming from an alleged sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman in Wollongong apartment in December 2018.
Read more: Hung jury: no verdict in Jack de Belin trial
The pair have pleaded not guilty to all charges, claiming that the sexual encounter was consensual.
A backlog of cases due to COVID meant the first available date for a retrial in Wollongong was in August next year, leaving de Belin facing a third straight season sidelined under the NRL's no-fault stand down policy.
However, District Court Judge Andrew Haesler on Wednesday agreed to move the anticipated three-week retrial to Sydney, with the second trial set to begin on April 12.
Should he be found not guilty, he may be free to resume his career a quarter of the way through the season. De Belin's previous NRL contract, worth $600,000 a year, expired on November 1, but the former NSW lock had agreed, in principle, to a three-year extension with the Dragons contingent on a not guilty verdict.
It remains in place, but the NRL will not register a contract for the 29-year-old while the matter remains unresolved. De Belin is free to resume training with the club, as he has done for the past two seasons while sidelined, though the deal contains various 'protections' that ensure he won't be paid the full terms of his deal until the criminal process plays out.
De Belin's manager Steve Gillis had indicated he will seek a meeting with ARLC chairman Peter V'landys and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo to request a relaxation of the policy but both have publicly stood firm on the no fault stance.
Despite some denials, the drawn-out saga was a huge destabilising factor for the club over former coach Paul McGregor's final two seasons in charge.
Without an NRL contract in place, it will be up to new coach Anthony Griffin to manage his role within the squad, but the club has left the initial decision on when he resumes training in the hands of de Belin himself.