Rugby league great Hazem El Masri has revealed how he was “down and out” before being cleared of domestic violence charges against his ex-wife.
Opening up after a harrowing five months, El Masri says the allegations took a huge emotional toll “because my life was on hold the whole time”.
“This has probably been the toughest thing in my whole entire life,” the NRL’s highest-ever pointscorer told The Project on Channel Ten.
Tougher to deal with, he says, than coping with Canterbury’s infamous 2002 salary-cap scandal or rape allegations that engulfed the club 14 years ago.
“This in particular has probably been the toughest out of all them because it’s more personal,” he said.
El Masri was also stood down as an ambassador for White Ribbon, the campaign to stamp out domestic violence against women, in the wake of the allegations and remains disillusioned by the NRL’s failure to contact him more than a week after police dropped all charges in Bankstown Local Court.
“I really don’t know where they’re coming from,” he said.
“When you’ve spent 20 years doing all the good work and when the truth does come out, there’s still no contact.”
The former Bulldogs premiership winner and NSW State of Origin winger’s world was turned upside down last October when his second wife, Douah El-Cherif, claimed he’d assaulted her.
But he used a video recording of the alleged incident to clear his name.
“I’d run out of options,” El Masri said.
“I actually went up there just to get the keys, but before that I made sure that I got my phone and just said: ‘So you know, I’m actually recording this’.
“It wasn’t actually a secret and I actually had my phone right out and I put it into my pocket and the rest was history.
“I’ve done that numerous times. I needed to have evidence and to back up what I’m saying.
“I had to guard myself because I was going through tough times and I seeked (sic) a lot of help, and I’m talking a lot on how to just deal with it and how to improve it.”
El Masri, 39, thanked his first wife – of 13 years – Arwa Abousamra for her unwavering support during his ordeal.
“It meant a lot,” he said.
“It takes a lot of courage to come out and say the truth especially in a moment where I was pretty much down and out.”