The St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has implored the National Rugby League to allow former Kiwis prop Russell Packer to resume his playing career as soon as he is released from jail early next year.
Packer is due out of prison next month having after being found guilty of a drunken assault in Sydney last year when he stomped on his victim while he lay motionless on the ground.
There is increasing speculation the former Warriors prop has already agreed to a deal with the Dragons, but the NRL won't make any decision on when he can play again until a club applies to have a contract registered.
McGregor says he hopes the NRL doesn't add to Packer's punishment by preventing him from playing for a further period.
Amid speculation Packer won't be allowed to back in the game for another six months, McGregor's pleaded with the NRL to show some sympathy and not simply throw the New Zealand international into the same category as other off-field assault offenders.
McGregor says he won't know what mental or physical state Packer will be in to resume his playing career until he is released from prison.
"Only time will tell that," he says.
"The first and foremost thing is Russell and his family. To me, that's the most thing that needs to be fixed - what is best for that person and his family and then rugby league second."
"But I'll welcome him through the gate to coach him and mentor him, absolutely.
McGregor says he expects Packer to be open to an alcohol ban if need be.