NSW Origin prospect Joel Thompson has openly thrown his support behind St George Illawarra teammate Russell Packer amid rumours the former New Zealand international is facing deportation.
Thompson has formed a close friendship with Packer and is confident the 112kg prop isn’t going anywhere.
“As a friend and as a player, I know what he does off the field and know what type of person that he is and it’d be a massive shame to see him go,” Thompson said.
“I haven’t really thought about it because I only heard about it today and I wasn’t really on the social media, but it would be a massive loss.
“He’s just a genuine good guy. I’m looking forward to ripping into the season with him and running out into battle with him.”
Signed by the Dragons in October, Packer received a two-year prison term in 2013 after pleading guilty to assault charges.
The 26-year-old was released from jail in January, linking with the Illawarra Cutters and earning a spot in the NSW Cup Team of the Year.
He was cleared by the NRL to join the Dragons and hoped his troubles were over.
But 2UE radio’s John Gibbs tweeted he had reliable information Packer would be deported.
Packer didn’t appear concerned as he sweated through the first day of pre-season training with his St George Illawarra teammates on Friday morning at WIN Stadium.
“I did a few training sessions with him in the off-season and he’s a great mentor for the young guys and was dragging a lot of them through.
“Just talking to him, he’s a great guy to have around the club. I honestly haven’t had a conversation with him about [deportation] it and it hasn’t been brought up here.”
Packer’s legal advisers are believed to be investigating the matter, while the NRL is said to be leaving the possibility of deportation in the hands of the Australian government.
A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said a decision on Packer’s visa had not yet been made on Friday.
In October, Dutton said, 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.”
Packer, a former Kiwi-international, played 110 matches for the Warriors before the assault conviction.