Dylan Walker is set to be back in the NRL as early as Manly’s game against Cronulla next Sunday after he was today found not guilty of assaulting his fiancée.
Manly chief executive Lyall Gorman told NRL.com the club would begin discussions with the governing body to ensure the centre is back in the side after being stood down for the first two months of the season.
Walker was on Friday found not guilty in Manly Local Court on domestic violence assault charges.
The NRL released a statement on Friday afternoon that the "no fault stand down sanction imposed on Manly player Dylan Walker has expired following the completion of his court case".
The NRL said it would now review the court documents before making its final determination on the matter.
"The first thing is it must be a great relief for Dylan and his family," Gorman said.
"It’s been a challenging and stressful time. The game in that area is under a great miscroscope so we’re pleased for Dylan and his family this has come to an end with a positive outcome.
"We will now liaise with the NRL to see when we can get him back. Everyone wants him back on the field as soon as possible. We will go through the process now with the NRL.
"There are protocols in place and we will work with Integrity Unit. It’s only just happened but we’re hoping to get him back on the field as soon as he possibly can."
The 24-year-old former NSW representative denied allegations he injured his partner, Alexandra Ivkovic, during an argument at their home in Dee Why last December.
Walker has played 57 NRL games for Manly after a 62-match stint with South Sydney.
Magistrate Michelle Goodwin, after hearing from nine witnesses over two days of hearings in Manly Local Court, said she was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Walker had assaulted his partner.
She did continue an apprehended violence order, which will be reviewed on July 23, which allows the couple to cohabitate but Walker cannot intimidate or harass Ivkovic.
Walker played an NRL trial against the Sharks in February but has not played any of the opening eight rounds of the Telstra Premiership.
The Sea Eagles play their round nine match on Friday night against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
It will now be up to the NRL to decide if Walker is eligible to play in round 10 against the Sharks at PointsBet Stadium.
The police prosecution case largely revolved around witnesses - neighbours Lauren O'Sullivan and Craig Monika - who lived across the road from Walker and Ms Ivkovic in Dee Why.
Ms O'Sullivan had maintained she saw Walker grab his partner's ponytail and "yank it very hard" causing Ivkovic to fall over on the driveway. She was holding the couple's then four-month-old son at the time. The baby was not hurt.
Ms Ivkovic had taken her child outside to calm down after she and Walker had argued inside their home over him playing video games, while she cooked dinner.
Walker followed her outside and tried to convince her to come back and talk to him. He maintained he grabbed her shoulder to turn her around, but she slipped and fell over. Ms Ivkovic received grazes to her shoulder and ankle.
Under cross-examination on Friday by police prosecutor Craig Pullen, Walker denied pulling Ms Ivkovic's hair, or pushing her to the ground, or assaulting her in any way.
"Not I did not," he said in answer to all three questions.
But he could not recall specific details of the incident on their driveway that afternoon, forcing Mr Pullen to accuse him of "making this up as you go along".
Walker did admit swearing at Ms Ivkovic and also at one of neighbours, who came to help.
At an earlier hearing, Ms Ivkovic recanted her story to police saying she had been upset and over-tired and after rethinking what had happened, she realised she'd over-reacted by calling the emergency number.
Walker's manager Wayne Beavis, Ms Ivkovic's mother Sanja Inkovic, and a social worker who deals with domestic violence cases, Athina Shelston, also gave evidence on Friday.
Ms Shelston said half her case work centred on child protection and women in violent or aggressive relationships.
She said in about 10% of cases she finds women change their story.
"Sometimes it's because their partners asked them to or sometimes it's because they see the consequences," she said. "I don't think that is the case here."
Ms Shelston said she interviewed Ms Ivkovic on her own about 10 days after the incident to ensure her and her son's well-being. She also asked Ms Ivkovic directly if she felt safe with Walker.
"She said 'Yes'," she said.
Rugby League Players Association CEO Ian Prendergast said the body would help facilitate Walker's return.
"The RLPA will be in contact with all parties and seek to ensure that a timely process is followed which allows for Dylan’s reintroduction into the game," he said.
"This has obviously been a difficult time for Dylan and his family in terms of their welfare, so hopefully returning to play will help them all move on with their lives.
"This highlights one of the key challenges with the new stand down policy and outlines one of the reasons why we do not support the rule change."