CESSNOCK Goannas’ hopes of having former NRL player Paul Carter on the field next year suffered a blow on Wednesday when he failed to appear for a sentence hearing in Sydney.
The 25-year-old was due to be sentenced by Magistrate Susan McIntyre at Downing Centre Local Court for supplying a small quantity of cocaine to former Sydney Roosters teammate Shaun Kenny-Dowall at the Ivy nightclub on May 5.
However, Carter’s solicitor Daniel Grippi told the court Carter is overseas at a rehabilitation centre, a situation the magistrate described as "extraordinary" before ordering an update on January 10.
Carter initially pleaded not guilty to supplying a prohibited drug but it emerged in October he had changed his plea to guilty.
His lawyer, Daniel Grippi, on Wednesday told the court his client was "suffering from significant stress and anxiety".
Grippi said he emailed the court last week after becoming aware of Carter's travel. However, that didn't sit well with magistrate Susan McIntyre.
"It's not your decision to make," she said. "He's gone off overseas and we're just supposed to stand around here waiting for him? It is just unacceptable ... absolutely unacceptable."
The defence sought an adjournment until February 20 but the magistrate ordered the matter return to court on January 10. Carter was excused from appearing if he is legally represented.
"What I am proposing, having vented my spleen about this matter, is that we have an update well prior to the amended sentence (date)," McIntyre said. "It's my view that he should be present today."
The magistrate asked for the update to include Carter's whereabouts and details of his participation in rehabilitation. She told Grippi to treat the situation as "a lesson".
Carter was previously sacked by Gold Coast and South Sydney for code of conduct breaches related to alcohol. In June, the Roosters released Carter and he joined the Coffs Harbour Comets in group 2, playing just two games in July.
Cessnock announced the signing of Carter two weeks ago, but Country Rugby League operations manager Bert Lowrie said this week that the forward had been deregistered by his board “based on his history” and “will remain that until he makes an application to be registered”.
Lowrie also said Coffs Harbour had denied Cessnock’s request for a clearance but Goannas president Darrell Wilkinson said his club would pay the small amount of money Carter owed “once the Country Rugby League clear him”.
“We are still pursuing him hard,” Wilkinson said on Monday. “He has signed with us and he has the court case on Wednesday and I think everyone is just waiting to see how that goes.
“At the end of the day, the ball is in Paul’s court. For the CRL and ourselves, he’s got to keep his nose clean and if he manages to do that up until we kick off in April, I can’t see the CRL being able to hold him back.”
“We’re excited and we would be shattered if Country Rugby League put a hold on this.”
However, Carter’s no-show in court on Wednesday is sure to delay and damage any moves Cessnock make to clear the way for the star recruit to play in the Newcastle Rugby League in 2018.