Canberra Raiders dummy-half Tom Starling's court case will be proceeding into the new year, but despite the far-from-ideal distraction it will create until the matter is resolved, coach Ricky Stuart is still tipping Starling for a ‘breakout' NRL campaign.
Starling is currently facing court on two matters, but the delayed sentencing is in regards to a charge of intimidation after he was refused entry to a Central Coast pub in 2021.
Charges of threatening or causing injury and offensive behaviour were dismissed against Tom, but he still pleaded guilty to the intimidation charge.
The other matter – related to a brawl in a Kincumber venue in December 2020, is still ongoing.
Despite both matters being unresolved, Starling has received the full support of the club throughout, and Stuart believes that overcoming such intense scrutiny in recent months will only drive Starling to reach new heights in 2023.
“I envisage (2023) will be a breakout year for Tom, hopefully being able to put this behind him,” Stuart told the Canberra Times.
“He's really fit at the moment and, having this behind him soon, we'll see a really good year from Tom.
“Tom's had to cop a lot of adversity but we know the truth. That's why the club has supported Tom. He's a good person and a family man.”
“He's a mentally tough kid, but it's been a drag for Tom and it's gone on for a number of years to get to the truth, which is disappointing.
“I've let him have his time off to go to every court case and no one at the club has stood in his way. We've stood by Tom through the really difficult journey that he's had.
“But he's done a good job in trying to put it behind him.”
While the support of the club and coach is always valuable for players facing a court appearance, it is unlikely to have any weight in court.
Former Manly dummy-half Manase Fainu had a glowing character reference from then-coach Des Hasler as he pleaded not guilty to serious charges following a stabbing at a church in Wattle Grove. He was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison, with a non-parole period of just over four years.
The Raiders will kick off the new season with a trip to Townsville, facing the Cowboys on Saturday, March 4 at 5.30pm.