NRL star Jack de Belin has reportedly unlocked a $3 million contract extension after sexual assault charges against him were dropped on Thursday.
The Director of Public Prosecutions announced the decision to drop the case on Thursday — meaning de Belin will not face a third trial and is free to make his return with the Dragons.
He pleaded not guilty to five counts of aggravated sexual assault on a 19-year-old woman inside a North Wollongong unit in December 2018.
Reports claim the NRL will now rubber stamp his return to the league, having been sidelined for more than two years under the league's no-fault stand-down policy.
The NRL's expected clearance means de Belin's four-year, $3 million contract extension with the Dragons could be signed off by the NRL before this weekend, according to The Daily Telegraph.
The report reveals the Dragons want de Belin to make his return to rugby league during the Dragons' NSW Cup reserve grade match against the Magpies on Saturday.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo earlier this week also suggested de Belin would make a quick return — if cleared of the allegations against him.
"Clearly we have said before the no-fault stand-down policy is just that — while a player is facing serious criminal charges which carry a sentence of more than 11 years that player is not permitted to play," Abdo told The Australian.
"If those charges fall away, de Belin will be permitted to play. We will work with the Dragons on that process but it will certainly be a relatively quick process."
De Belin had been in limbo waiting for the DPP to pursue a third trial after a jury was dismissed earlier this month after failing to reach a verdict on five of the counts before the court.
Now he is free to play.
The Dragons last year agreed to a new contract with de Belin, but refused to reveal details of the contract.
The contract will see him play through to the end of the 2024 season — and includes a clause in de Belin's favour to activate a one-year extension through to the end of 2025.
The NRL has not yet registered the contract.
According to reports, the Dragons had to offer de Belin a richer salary on his future contract because the New Zealand Warriors were also pursuing his signature despite de Belin not playing in the NRL since 2018.
He was at the time still waiting for his first trial to commence. The Warriors' offer was reported to be worth $800,000 per-year across four seasons.
The Dragons are yet to respond publicly to de Belin's charges being dropped but released a brief statement after the jury was dismissed at the conclusion of his second trial.
"The Jack de Belin court matter did not reach a verdict on five of the six charges as a result of a hung jury in Sydney District Court on Monday," the Dragons statement read.
"De Belin was however found not guilty of a sixth charge.
"De Belin remains subject to the NRL's no-fault stand down policy.
"The next steps concerning all facets of matter are yet to be established.
"The Dragons will continue to provide the necessary welfare support to de Belin and his family.
"As this remains a legal matter, the club will make no further comment at this time."