Off the Wall

The news that the distinguished Sydney barrister, Geoff Bellew, has handled his last case before the NRL Judiciary on behalf of players from across the game marks the end of a remarkable era.

Yesterday Geoff was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, ending his more than 20 years of service to the game as a player advocate.

He will remain a fan (and perhaps a future Judiciary Chairman?) but clubs and players who have relied on his representation before the NRL judiciary will have to find another advocate.

Geoff Bellew's record before the judiciary is extraordinary - in a system that frankly hardly favours players he has won something like 75 per cent of the cases he argued.

He represented many of the games finest players, such as Wally Lewis, Andrew Johns and Johnathan Thurston. And he won most of the key cases - where players risked missing Origin and finals matches unless they could have a charge dismissed or downgraded.

Geoff Bellew also served on the boards of the North Sydney Bears and Manly Sea Eagles, a fact which makes it even more remarkable that he was able to so successfully represent players from many NRL clubs.

His approach to judiciary representation was always totally professional, even when getting off a player from another club (or state) might disadvantage his club, or state!

He was born into rugby league as the son of the distinguished administrator, the late Tom Bellew.

Tom Bellew was a friend of mine, and I had the privilege of inviting Tom to PNG when he was the Chairman of the NSWRL and I was Secretary of the Port Moresby Rugby League. He was a fine administrator, qualities he passed on to his son, who I was privileged to get to know through Tom.

Geoff Bellew has served the game with distinction.

I am sure clubs, players and fans will join me in congratulating Geoff on his elevation to the Supreme Court.

It probably won't be until there is critical case next season that the full impact of his loss will be fully appreciated!