El Masri pleads not guilty to assault

Former NRL player Hazem El Masri has pleaded not guilty to two charges relating to the domestic assault of his wife, with his lawyer saying the victim is a "compulsive liar".

The 39-year-old appeared before Bankstown Local Court on Thursday, four days after being charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault.

The "hysterical and false" accusations were damaging the former Bulldogs star's reputation, El Masri's lawyer Chris Murphy told the court.

The plea comes after the former NRL role model was stood down from several ambassador roles.

The 39-year-old former White Ribbon ambassador, which campaigns to stop violence against women, was a unifying force during his distinguished rugby league career at the Bulldogs.

The high-profile Muslim winger, who played more than 300 NRL games including the 2004 premiership win and one Test for Australia, has been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault.

"The charges relate to an incident at the man's home at about 7.30pm on Monday involving his 25-year-old wife," police said on Tuesday.

El Masri, who retired from the NRL in 2009, has been granted conditional bail.

The Lebanese-born sportsman, who was held up as a positive role model for young Muslims in Sydney, split from his long-time wife Arwa, the mother of his three children, last year.

He recently remarried and the allegations relate to his new wife.

"White Ribbon is very disappointed to learn of the charges laid," White Ribbon Australia chief executive Libby Davies said.

Following the announcement of the charges, El Masri was stood down from his roles as an ambassador at the NRL and the Bulldogs.

"There is absolutely no place for domestic violence in our game, it is abhorrent, it is an area we feel very strongly about stamping out as best we can," departing NRL chief executive Dave Smith said.

"Fans don't want to read all this rubbish about the superstars getting themselves into trouble.

"People have to make good choices and if they don't, there are consequences."

El Masri grew up in Tripoli during the Lebanese civil war before moving to Australia with his family at the age of 11.

His rise to stardom in the NRL marked one of the most uplifting migrant tales.

Bulldogs chief executive Raelene Castle said the club remained committed to eliminating domestic violence.

"As with any police charge, Hazem will work through the process of the Australian legal system and his engagement as a Bulldogs ambassador is suspended until those proceedings are complete," she said.

El Masri's ex-wife has defended him, saying in a statement sent to the Seven Network that his respect for woman was "beyond reproach".

"To believe that he would ever strike a woman is incomprehensible," she said.


National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.