Hazem El Masri opens up on domestic violence saga
NRL legend Hazem El Masri has opened up on his struggle with domestic violence accusations.
The former Bulldogs winger was charged with assaulting ex-wife Douah El-Cherif during an argument in 2015. He was cleared of all charges months later in March 2016.
The "preposterous" saga sent the 41-year-old's life down the most uncomfortable path he's faced.
"It's the toughest thing I've been through in my life," he said on Tuesday night's On The Couch with Sterlo. "I've been through salary cap dramas and Coffs Harbour (Bulldogs alleged sexual assault case in 2004), but this was a personal attack on myself.
"The years I've built on respect and hard work ... I thought, for some people, it went all down the drain straight away.
"I walked down to a police station with a consensual recording that I knew about and she knew about and they still didn't want to hear it. That upset me a lot.
"From the NRL perspective, they handed things very poorly. I was isolated and left alone there for a bit."
El Masri credited his close family and friends for helping him get through the incredibly tough few months.
"Thank God I had my closest family and friends there, they believed in me and sent overwhelming messages," he said.
"I just had to bide my time for six months to get a result which all along I knew. It was tough, tough for my family and tough for my kids - they went through hell."
El Masri, widely regarded as the greatest goalkicker ever seen on a rugby league field, scored the most points (2418) by any player in NRL history. His final goal tally came to 891 upon his final match for the 'Dogs in 2009. Countless of those were matchwinners, but there's one in particular that the 41-year-old holds firm to his heart.
Playing in only his 35th match as Canterbury's number-one goalkicker, El Masri pulled off the impossible. With strong winds forcing the ball to do somersaults through the air, the young Lebanese-born kicker slotted in one of the all-time classic conversions to pull his side back to victory after being 19-nil down against the Newcastle Knights.
"It was only my second year of taking over the kicking, people forget that," El Masri said "I put in a lot of hard work for two years, so to be faced with a moment like that - with the amount of pressure and wind - it really rejuvenated everything I was doing and I wanted to have more of that.
"We had won 15 games straight, it kept the winning streak alive. Newcastle threw everything at us."