Tom Starling will claim he never threw a punch having been slapped with seven charges after allegedly assaulting a police officer in a brawl that left the Canberra Raider bloodied and bruised.
Starling will return to Raiders headquarters facing an uncertain future after he was arrested on Saturday night for his part in an incident on the Central Coast.
The 22-year-old hooker was charged with five counts of assaulting an officer in the execution of duty, as well as affray and resisting or hindering an officer.
Starling emerged from Gosford Police Station on Sunday morning with cuts and bruises on his face, with the NRL integrity unit now working with NSW Police and the Raiders to investigate the incident.
The Raider was celebrating the 21st birthday of a family friend, the brother of Newcastle Knight Connor Watson, with a group including Watson and Kalyn Ponga.
Starling reportedly jumped a railing to come to his brother's aid during the night, following an altercation said to be caused by claims of a derogatory comment made towards their mother.
It is said the emerging rake was not trying to cause trouble, with the saga erupting as Raiders players prepare to assemble at the club's Braddon headquarters for pre-season training on Monday.
It is unclear whether Starling will be on deck, after he enjoyed a breakout season to earn a two-year contract extension with a side seen as a genuine premiership contender.
Starling was one of four men charged after police were allegedly assaulted during a brawl at a restaurant, which is believed to have occurred shortly after 10.45pm on Saturday night.
Police say they were called to the Shady Palms Bar Restaurant in Kincumber after security called for assistance in dealing with a patron who refused to leave the premises.
Officers were told upon arrival the patron had left, however security soon became involved in an altercation with another patron they say failed to leave the licensed premises.
The 19-year-old man was arrested. While he was being escorted from the venue, three other men - aged 20, 22 and 24 - allegedly became aggressive and assaulted police numerous times in an attempt to intervene.
All four men were arrested following assistance from the riot squad, with the remainder of the group charged with similar offences to Starling.
All four were granted conditional bail to appear at Gosford Local Court on January 21 next year.
A male senior constable sustained a cut on his hand during the incident, with the remainder of officers involved unscathed.
The 20-year-old man who was arrested was taken to Gosford Hospital for treatment on an arm laceration.
The Raiders confirmed on Sunday morning that the NRL had been notified, with a group of players potentially including exciting rising star Albert Hopoate, who has linked up with the club following this year's preliminary final exit, set to begin pre-season training on Monday.
"The Canberra Raiders have been made aware of an incident involving Tom Starling overnight," a statement read.
"The club has informed the NRL integrity unit. The club will not be making further comment."
Starling's indiscretion marks the second time in a calendar year a Raiders player has faced police charges following Curtis Scott's "wrongful" and "hard to stomach" arrest on January 27, which has left lawyer Sam Macedone seeking a six-figure pay out for his client.