Russell Packer’s announced return to the NRL is in serious doubt, with the immigration department yet to decide whether to cancel his visa and send him back to New Zealand.
St George Illawarra on Wednesday said it had signed the controversial former Kiwis Test prop to a two-year deal after getting the green light from the NRL.
Packer was sentenced to two years in jail in January 2014 after being found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and was released in January this year.
He has been training full-time with the Dragons since August, the same time he began a university business degree.
But Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Thursday revealed his department was still considering Packer’s case, flagging the possibility he could be deported and unable to fulfil the new contract.
“No decision’s been made,” Dutton told Radio 2GB.
“So they’ll (the Dragons) have to answer questions about their approach.”
Dutton said that, generally, if a non-Australian citizen had broken the law – be it assault, theft or rape – they can “expect to have their visa cancelled and sent back to their country of origin”.
“We take into account considerations around Australian-born children, how long people have been here – all of that is available to weigh up against the severity of the crimes being committed.”
The NRL said its decision to give Packer the all-clear was made independent of the federal government and solely based on whether he was considered fit to return to first grade.
“Any determination by the federal government will be made separately and that’s a matter for them,” an NRL spokesman told AAP.
“We’re only in charge of our own business and our own competition.
“Given the time out he’s had and the way he’s responded to that, we think it’s appropriate he be allowed to return.”
The Dragons have been contacted for comment.