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Stewart expected to return to training

By Liam Fitzgibbon 08/03/2009 07:41:40 PM Comments (0)

NRL player Brett Stewart is expected to return to training with premiers Manly on Monday but his future remains clouded following the allegation that he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl.

Manly are waiting to hear from police and yet to decide whether Stewart should be stood down from their season opener against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.

The 24-year-old Test fullback, who has denied the claim against him, is the subject of a police investigation into an alleged incident at a North Manly unit block after Manly's season launch party on Friday night.

Channel Seven reported on Sunday that Stewart had been refused service at several bars before the alleged incident took place.

Stewart was understood to be staying with his parents in Wollongong at the weekend after an apprehended violence order taken out by the complainant prevented him returning to his Manly home.

But the club expected him at training as normal at their Narrabeen base on Monday morning.

Stewart's lawyer Geoff Bellew believes he should be able to play despite the police investigation continuing.

"In my view there is nothing preventing him from playing contractually if he wishes to play," Bellew said in a statement.

The accusations have rattled rugby league just a week out from the start of the 2009 season and forced the NRL to dumped its $1.5 million advertising campaign, in which Stewart was one of the stars.

It also adds to an already-tumultuous period for world club champions Manly since their 2008 NRL grand final win.

Co-owners Max Delmege and Scott Penn have feuded over finances recently and backrower Anthony Watmough was involved in an incident at the launch party on Friday when he allegedly slapped a sponsor.

Club greats have been shocked by the latest controversy, with former player, coach and heavyweight administrator Ken Arthurson saying he was "completely taken aback" when he heard about the Stewart allegation.

"It's very upsetting," Arthurson told AAP.

"I was totally taken aback by the news because over the last few years the behaviour of the players at Manly has been absolutely exemplary.

"They've really set the benchmark for everybody and for this to come out of the blue like this it's astounded me totally and it's a bitter pill to swallow."

Arthurson said although he did not know Stewart too well, he knew him as "one of the nicest young men you'd meet".

He believed Stewart should be considered innocent until proven guilty and should be allowed to play on Saturday.

He also called on his former club to unite in troubled times.

"It is a crucial time and if ever there's a time for unity, now is the time," Arthurson said.

"And knowing the calibre of blokes they've got there, I think they'll do that.

"Over the years Manly's always been a club where on many occasions, its 'us against the rest' and because of that it's had the effect of binding them together and it's really been a great asset over the years."

Stewart was arrested and taken to Dee Why police station on Friday, where he refused to be interviewed and was released without charge pending further investigations.

The girl, reportedly a neighbour of Stewart's, was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital where she received treatment before being released.

Channel Nine has reportedly agreed to cut a new ad for the NRL which could be run as soon as Monday night, but NRL chief executive David Gallop would not comment on Sunday.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2022 AAP

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