We are into the final week of the countdown to the start of the 2019 NRL season and for players, fans and officials, the football can't start soon enough. Every year there seems to be a spate of incidents to feed the outrage machine during the offseason, but this year has seen the bar set at an ugly new level.
In response, the ARL introduced a new no-fault policy to deal with incidents which were continuing to mortally wound the game's image. Anyone charged with an offence which carries a possible imprisonment period of 11 or more years is to be stood down until the matter is resolved in court.
NRL announces no-fault stand down policy
NRL Chairman Peter Beattie announced changes to the league's behavioral policy, resulting in the suspension of Dragons lock Jack de Belin.
St George Illawarra Dragons forward Jack de Belin vehemently denies being guilty of the aggravated rape of a 19-year-old woman. The law in this country states that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and de Belin's camp insists that the no-fault policy removes his presumption of innocence.
De Belin has taken his case to the high court hoping that he'll be able to pull on the Big Red V for the start of the season. His representatives are claiming that his NRL ban is a restriction of trade in that there has been no legal grounds for his suspension.
Not only is the de Belin camp insisting that he should be able to play for the Dragons, they want the NRL to take out a full advertising campaign to repair his damaged reputation.
In court yesterday it was revealed that the new rule hasn't even been enacted yet. Something that the ARL will rush to rectify before the case returns to court next Thursday - the very day that Melbourne Storm are set to take on Brisbane Broncos in the season opener at AAMI Stadium.
The Dragons travel to Townsville for their season opener against the Cowboys on Saturday night. It is yet to be seen whether de Belin will be with them.
The Panthers meanwhile have accepted the no-fault ban handed to Tyrone May after he was charged with two counts of recording an intimate image without consent and disseminating images without consent. May was suspended under Todd Greenberg's discretionary powers, as his charge doesn't meet the 11 year imprisonment criteria. It will be interesting to see how the de Belin outcome will affect May.
It's hard to imagine that the back pages on Friday will cover anything other than the de Belin case. Fans will have to dig deeper to read up on what should be an exciting clash between the Storm and Broncos. It appears the game still has a long fight on its hands before on field performances regain their rightful place in the media spotlight.
The NRL offseason from hell
* September 4 - Pictures are published of Canterbury players dancing nude during Mad Monday celebrations. The club was fined $250,000 and Adam Elliott and Asipeli Fine both pleaded guilty to wilful and obscene exposure.
* September 20 - Manly hooker Manese Fainu pleads guilty to recording an intimate image without consent. No conviction was recorded. He was banned for two Tests and one NRL game.
* September 25 - Parramatta's Tony Williams and Nathan Davis are banned for 12 weeks after recording their second illicit drugs strike.
* September 30 - Jarryd Hayne is alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman after travelling to her home in the Hunter region. He has been charged with aggravated sexual assault and has pleaded not guilty.
* October 1 - Greg Inglis is caught speeding and drink-driving while returning from Dubbo. He was stripped of the Australian Test captaincy and handed an 18-month good behaviour bond.
* October 13 - Parramatta's Jaeman Salmon is charged with drink driving after a traffic accident in which he flipped his car and hit three parked vehicles. He was convicted and disqualified from driving for six months. He has been stood down from round one and fined $10,000.
* November 24 - Zane Musgrove and Penrith's Liam Coleman are involved in an alleged incident at a Coogee hotel. The pair have pleaded not guilty to indecently assaulting a 22-year-old woman. The NRL has refused to register Musgrove's Wests Tigers contract.
* December 2 - Newcastle prop Jacob Saifiti suffers a broken leg after being knocked out in a fight outside a pub. He was not charged by police but is fined $25,000.
* December 6 - Dylan Walker is charged with common assault following an alleged domestic violence incident at his Dee Why home. He has pleaded not guilty. He has been stood down by the NRL.
* December 13 - Jack de Belin is charged with aggravated sexual assault and has pleaded not guilty. He became the first player to be stood down by the NRL under their new behavioural rules.
* December 18 - Shane Flanagan is found to have communicated with club officials during his 2014 ban. He is deregistered indefinitely and the club is fined $500,000.
* December 18 - The Wests Tigers are found to have failed to declare an ambassadorial role offered to Robbie Farah. The club is fined $375,000 and has had $670,000 shaved off their salary cap for the next two years.
* December 21 - Six Cronulla lower-grade players are involved in a scuffle at the Cronulla Sailing Club. The nightclub banned the entire Sharks playing group. The six players were all fined.
* December 25 - Brisbane's Myles Taueli shatters a man's jaw with a coward punch. He has been convicted of assault, jailed for two years and has had his contract torn up.
* December 26 - Newcastle's Tautau Moga allegedly slaps a taxi driver. He has been charged with common assault and will appear in court on March 21.
* December 30 - Wests Tigers' Michael Chee Kam is alleged to have punched a ride-share driver. He has been charged with common assault.
* January 7 - Scott Bolton pleads guilty to common assault after grabbing a woman's upper thigh. He was given a 12-month good behaviour bond. He has been suspended for five games and fined five percent of his salary.
* January 11 - The first of three lewd videos involving Dylan Napa emerge on the internet. He is fined 10 percent of his salary.
* January 15 - A video emerges of Corey Norman watching on as a man snorts a white substance off a plate. Norman was sanctioned by the NRL for the video in 2016.
* February 1 - Ben Barba is sacked by North Queensland after the club views CCTV of an alleged domestic incident at a Townsville casino. He has been banned for life by the NRL.
* February 20 - Brisbane's Payne Haas is stood down for four games and fined $20,000 for failing to comply with an integrity unit investigation.
* March 1 - Cronulla is found to have rorted the salary cap and is fined $250,000 and has $707,000 shaved off their salary cap over the next two years.
* March 1 - Two sex tapes are leaked which lead to Penrith's Tyrone May being charged by police and stood down by the NRL. May has been charged with two counts of recording an intimate image without consent and disseminating images without consent.
* March 4 - A sex tape featuring Penrith's Tyrone Phillips and Liam Coleman is leaked online.