The NRL has stood Dylan Brown down after he was charged with five counts of sexual touching but his Parramatta teammates insist the legal matter will not derail their already hot-and-cold season.
Brown faced court for the first time on Wednesday following an incident alleged to have occurred at the Golden Sheaf Hotel in Sydney's eastern suburbs about 11.40pm on Saturday night.
The Eels five-eighth will return to court on June 28 and if convicted, could spend up to five years in prison.
Per its 'no-fault stand-down policy', the NRL automatically suspends players charged with an offence that carries a maximum prison term of 11 years or more.
But NRL CEO Andrew Abdo is able to intervene for lesser sentences and has typically exercised this discretionary power when players are charged with offences against women.
The NRL spent three days deliberating whether to stand Brown down before announcing its decision on Wednesday afternoon.
"The NRL has today advised the Parramatta Eels that Dylan Brown is subject to a No-Fault Stand Down Condition under the NRL Rules," a statement read.
"New South Wales Police charged Dylan Brown with several counts of sexually touch without consent following an incident at Double Bay on Saturday 3 June 2023.
"The NRL decision should in no way be interpreted as a view on the innocence or guilt of the player."
As part of the policy, Brown will be unavailable for selection until he receives clearance from the NRL but can continue to train with his teammates. The Eels have accepted the NRL's decision.
"Out of respect for the legal process now under way, the club will not be making any further comment at this time," a club statement read.
Parramatta came into last weekend's bye on the back of two consecutive wins but nevertheless remain in 12th position - a far-cry from the top-four finish that helped them secure a grand final berth last year.
Given Brown's on-field form, Eels second-rower Shaun Lane conceded his absence could take a toll on the club, who released back-up playmaker Jake Arthur to join Manly late last month.
But Lane denied the distraction would be the hammer blow to Parramatta's slow-starting season.
"(Brown) has come into some good form in recent times. He's a key part of our team," Lane said.
"(But) it's not going to do anything to affect our attitude approaching games. We're just focusing on footy."
After being named in the extended squad to face Canterbury on Monday, recruit Daejarn Asi is set to make his club debut alongside Mitchell Moses in the halves.
Asi has been lining up at five-eighth for the Eels' NSW Cup side for the past two weeks, having played eight games in the halves for the Warriors last season.
"We've got full confidence with him," Lane said.
Captain Clint Gutherson said Parramatta were eager to move on and zero in on the Bulldogs clash.
"We've got a big three or four week period that we've really got to nail and that's what we're focused on as a team," he said.
The Eels would suffer more disruption in the halves if Moses was called up to replace the injured Nathan Cleary in the second State of Origin match.
Coach Brad Fittler is set to choose between Moses, Cronulla captain Nicho Hynes and Brisbane veteran Adam Reynolds for the must-win game on June 21 in Brisbane.
Teams will be named on Tuesday and if Moses is selected, Gutherson is likely to start in the halves for the first time since 2018.