Dragons captain backs JDB despite NRL ruling
ST George Illawarra captain Gareth Widdop has echoed the RLPA's disappointment regarding the suspension of Jack de Belin, stressing: "As good mates of his, we'll be supporting Jack".
Only hours after De Belin was stood down by NRL CEO Todd Greenberg, Widdop revealed the Dragons were "fully supportive" of its union - who in a press statement not only expressed disappointment in the decision, but hinted at legal action against the rules changes and the "irreparable damage" it could cause.
The skipper added his team fully supported of the NSW Origin star who was "hitting the peak of his career", while adding it would not derail their 2019 NRL premiership.
"This won't be an excuse," he said.
Speaking in Mudgee after a coaching clinic to promote Saturday night's Charity Shield, Widdop described the De Belin suspension as a "complex and sticky situation".
"But as a good mate of Jack we fully support him," he said. "It's not ideal but we're fully supportive of (him) and the RLPA … we're fully behind them and their process.
"They've got their procedure they're going through and we support their stance."
Asked if the NRL should allow players the presumption of innocence, he continued: "I'm not going into that because you'll write what you want to write.
"But like I said before … we support Jack. He's an important part of this team and nothing will change (that)."
Asked how de Belin was handling the situation, Widdop continued: "Obviously Jack isn't going to come and talk about it.
"He seems to be OK and, first and foremost, we want to worry about his welfare.
"It's really important as his friends, as a club, he's going through a difficult time and we'll be there to support him if he needs us.
"He's aware of what he needs to do and his mindset is the most important thing now.
"I think (it's best if) everyone just leaves him alone."
Asked about the hole his absence left in the Red V pack, he continued: "Jack's an Origin rep, close to playing Test football.
"He's been at the Dragons a number of years now and really instilled himself as a leader in our forward pack.
"The last couple of years he's been working really hard on his game, becoming that enforcer, that aggressor. He was starting to hit the peak of his career. So to where we are now it's a bit disappointing.
"It's a big loss but we have to move on."
And as for the playing group?
"It hasn't been a distraction," the captain insisted. "It's not ideal and we understand that.
"Every day it's being talked about and talked about.
"But we've got a job to do and that's our focus.
"We understand that it's going to be talked about, but when we turn up to training our coach gives us things we need to improve on, things we need to do well - and as players all we can do.
"Everything outside that is completely out of our control.
"We can only be there for Jack and support Brian (CEO Johnston) and the club. That's what I'll be doing."