Legal twist could result in Amone making shock return for Dragons

Suspended St George Illawarra playmaker Talatau “Junior” Amone is seeking immediate reinstatement over claims he should no longer be bound by the NRL’s no-fault stand down rule due to the way his case will now be prosecuted.

Amone has been unavailable for selection since he was charged over an alleged hammer attack on a roofing contractor in November. The case of the Dragons five-eighth – who was charged with reckless grievous bodily harm in company, destroying property and intimidation – was mentioned in Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday.

Under the NRL’s rules, players charged with an offence carrying a maximum prison term of 11 years or more are automatically stood down until their court proceedings are finalised.

That was initially the case for Amone, who was facing the prospect of being behind bars for up to 14 years if the more serious grievous bodily harm charge was dealt with in the district court.

However, police confirmed on Wednesday the case would be prosecuted in the local court, where the maximum sentence available for the charge is just two years. Even if convicted of all charges, the maximum sentence available to the court is now only five years.

Amone’s high-profile lawyer, Elias Tabchouri, is taking immediate steps to lobby the NRL’s integrity unit to change its stance and allow his client to play immediately.

Junior Amone could make an unexpected return to NRL duties.Credit:Getty

“I have been a strong advocate for the NRL integrity unit to exercise the discretion they inherently have in dealing with these matters on a case-by-case basis,” Tabchouri told the Herald.

“I believe they should exercise their discretion in this circumstance to allow Mr Amone to rejoin his team and continue with his career.

“He is stood down now in a circumstance where the 14-year sentence doesn’t apply and we are still maintaining his right to defend the matter. He is also maintaining his innocence.

“I’ve found the NRL integrity commission to be open and receptive in all of my dealings with them and hope they will again remain open to discussion in this instance.”

The legal development raises hopes that Amone could be considered for selection for the Dragons’ first game, against the Gold Coast at Kogarah on March 12. The Dragons, who have the bye in round one, had identified Amone as the long-term halves partner for marquee halfback Ben Hunt.

Amone’s potential availability would be a huge boost for a club that has lurched from one drama to the next during the summer. The adverse headlines include the presentation dinner no-shows, Amone’s  incident and a heated argument between Zane Musgrove and Mikaele Ravalawa after the Charity Shield loss.

However, the biggest issue for under-pressure coach Anthony Griffin is who will partner Hunt in the halves. Jack Bird is returning from knee surgery, Jayden Sullivan’s preparations have been hampered by a hamstring issue and Moses Mbye has had mixed results as a starting half.

The NRL is monitoring the situation. The Dragons declined to comment.

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