Sidelined St George Illawarra Dragons player Jack de Belin will face trial a month earlier than planned after a judge on Wednesday agreed to move the star forward's case to the start of the 2020 legal year.
De Belin and co-accused, Shellharbour Sharks player Callan Sinclair, were told in August that their joint trial over the alleged rape of a woman inside a Wollongong unit last December would begin on March 2 next year.
At the time, Wollongong District Court acting judge Paul Conlon was critical of suggestions the case may not be able to proceed until May because of the unavailability of both Crown and defence barristers.
Judge Conlon said it was important to have the trial begin as early as possible for all parties concerned.
"Both Mr Sinclair and Mr de Belin shouldn't be required to wait any longer than is absolutely necessary to get this trial on - the same for the prosecution witnesses I would have thought," he said in setting the original March date.
However, in court on Wednesday, Judge Conlon revealed he had recently been advised that Sinclair had appointed a new barrister who was able to begin the trial on February 3 - the first day of the new legal year in Wollongong.
Both Mr Sinclair and Mr de Belin shouldn't be required to wait any longer than is absolutely necessary to get this trial on
Judge Conlon confirmed the new start date, reiterating his desire to see the case go to trial as soon as possible.
The new date also means the estimated two-week trial will now avoid coinciding with the start of the 2020 NRL season, which usually kicks off mid-March.
Meanwhile, de Belin and Sinclair were not required to attend court on Wednesday for the brief mention, which was a last-minute addition to the case list.
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Police documents aired during previous court proceedings say the alleged victim met de Belin and Sinclair at Mr Crown nightclub on the evening of December 8 before accompanying them back to an apartment in Gipps Street where the two men allegedly raped her.
Both de Belin and Sinclair have both been charged with five sexual assault offences including a charge of aggravated sexual assault in company causing actual bodily harm, which carries a potential life sentence if convicted.
The duo deny the allegations and have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Both remain on conditional bail.