NRL star Jack de Belin began crying as his sister described her empathetic and compassionate “best friend” to a NSW court.
Erica de Belin, who gave evidence via video link from England, told the Wollongong District Court her brother was a “walking enigma” in that he is a “100 kg rugby league player” who does yoga, meditates, and practices daily gratitude.
She recalled a story of de Belin helping an old woman with arthritis by mowing her lawn, and waiting around her work so they could ride their bicycles home together to ensure she was safe.
“I think anybody who has spent any time with him knows how good a person he is,” she said.
De Belin’s lip was quivering during much of her evidence before he broke down and loud sniffles could be heard throughout the courtroom.
The 29-year-old, and his friend Callan Sinclair, 23, have pleaded not guilty to five charges of aggravated sexual assault in the bedroom of a North Wollongong unit in December.
The jury has previously heard the woman’s account that the former NSW State of Origin player undressed her and forced himself on top of her, before Sinclair and he swapped positions multiple times.
She said she was constantly saying “no” with tears streaming down her face.
But the men deny raping the woman and say the group sex was consensual.
Brian Johnston, the former chief executive of de Belin’s club St George Illawarra, told similar stories of the talented footballer who was always willing to welcome new players from complex backgrounds.
“Jack had a natural ability to relax people in his company,” he said.
He said de Belin showed people warmth, compassion, and was always encouraging, “even if competing for a similar position”.
Johnston said he never received any reports of misbehaviour or incidents apart from this case, and noted that in nine years of playing professional league de Belin had never been sent off the field.
“One of the role models within our organisation,’ he said.
The trial continues.