FORMER Grafton rugby league star and Newcastle Knights prop Danny Wicks is one of four people facing serious drug charges after simultaneous raids in Newcastle and Grafton yesterday morning.
Wicks appeared in the Newcastle Local Court yesterday to face eight counts of supplying and possessing illegal drugs, including ecstasy and amphetamines.
His lawyer, Mark Hanlon, said Wicks intended to plead not guilty to the charges.
Magistrate Sharon Holdsworth granted Wicks bail, despite police prosecutor Jillian Kelton submitting he was a ‘flight risk’.
“We believe the crown case is a strong one,” Ms Kelton told the court.
However, Mr Hanlon successfully argued his client’s high-profile in the community negated any chance of fleeing.
The magistrate imposed bail conditions including that Wicks surrender his passport and report daily to Charlestown Police Station.
He has also been ordered not to contact his three co-accused or former flatmate and Knights team-mate Chris Houston, who is expected to be called as witness in the case.
The matter was adjourned to the same court for mention on February 3.
However, late yesterday, he was still facing the prospect of a night behind bars after failing to come up with a $30,000 surety.
Outside court, Mr Hanlon said Wicks was holding up well and was delighted to have been granted bail.
“He’s got bail. We’re just waiting for the money. Hopefully, that should be here by this afternoon, but at this hour it may not be,” he told reporters.
“I hope to see him on Friday for more instructions and at this stage he is going to fight the charges.”
The charges followed police raids in Newcastle and three addresses in Grafton just before 7am yesterday.
As a result of those raids a second Newcastle person was charged with drug-related offences, as were two from Grafton.
Police said the arrests flowed from a joint operation targeting the supply of amphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy in the Clarence Valley.
The two Grafton people, a man aged 22 and a woman aged 25, were each charged with four drug-related offences and were granted police bail to appear in the Grafton Local Court on January 25.Their names have not been released.
Coffs Clarence Police Crime Commander Cameron Lindsay said 24 officers from the region had raided properties in Maud and Alice streets in Grafton and Peppermint Place, South Grafton.
He said the arrests were the result of a six-month police investigation codenamed Strike Force Welhan.
He said police wanted to hear from anyone with information about drug supply in the Clarence region.
Wicks, 24, was charged with six counts of supplying prohibited drugs and two counts of possessing a prohibited drug.
Wicks, a prop and second-rower who made his NRL debut for the St George-Illawarra Dragons in 2006, signed with Newcastle in 2007 and is contracted to the club until the end of 2012.
Newcastle chief executive Steve Burraston said the club’s suspension took effect immediately.
This appears to mean Wicks will not play for the club until the case has been decided by the courts, which could take more than a year.
“These allegations are of the most serious nature and we are treating them accordingly,” Mr Burraston said in a statement before Wicks’ court appearance.
“Everyone at the club is aware of our values and policies and is aware of how important they are to our relationship with all stakeholders.”
The swift action was necessary to protect the reputation of the club and its sponsors, he said.
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