Benji Marshall concedes Russell Packer “wasn’t a great person” before he spent 12 months in jail for assault.
However, Marshall believes his St George Illawarra teammate is sufficiently rehabilitated as to deserve another shot in the NRL.
Packer’s return to football has been cleared by the league ahead of the 2016 season but the Immigration Department is yet to say whether he will be deported due to his conviction.
Marshall is one of number of NRL stars who have signed an online petition to keep Packer in Australia and in the NRL.
“It’s pretty sad to see someone potentially be deported,” he said on Friday.
“That’s what we have a justice system for. He did his time in jail.
“I knew Russell before he come to the Dragons and before that incident and he wasn’t a great person.
“I know him now and after serving his time I think he’s come to the realisation he needs to be a better person and even more than that, he wants to be a better father and better husband and I’ve seen those changes.”
Speaking at a Dragons corporate day at southern Sydney’s Coast Golf club Marshall said Packer’s sentence was a wake-up call for the 26-year-old.
The former Kiwi international was released at the start of last year but banned from the NRL for the 2015 season.
“It’s about proving it to his family and himself he can be a better person and from my point of view I don’t condone anything of that violence, what he did in the past, it’s not something that I’m a fan of but he served his time,” Marshall said.
“If he does get deported he’s going to go back a much better person anyway and if he does stay with us I can tell you right now he’s a way better person.”
“There’s been a lot of self-programs improving his character, not touching alcohol – there’s a lot of things he’s had to change in his lifestyle and I think it’s all contributed.”