NRL banned duo to make shock return


The National Rugby League (NRL) has been left reeling, as sacked Canterbury duo Corey Harawira-Naera and Jayden Okunbor have both had their life-time bans overturned on appeal. The Bulldogs stars will both be eligible to return to the NRL in 2020.

The Canterbury duo were banned from the game earlier this season for their involvement in a Port Macquarie school sex scandal. Okunbar had received an indefinite band from the game after being found guilty of acting inappropriately during the visit to Port Macquarie. Harawira-Naera received a two-year ban for code of conduct breaches.

The NRL appeals committee reduced both sentences with Okunbor receiving a 14-game ban and Harawira-Naera a 10-game ban. Both players also saw their fines reduced.

An investigation by the game’s governing body found that the pair took teenage schoolgirls back to the team hotel during a preseason trip. While both girls were above the age of consent, the NRL threw the book at both players. The appeals committee took exception to the heavy-handed punishment.

NRL acting CEO Andrew Abdo was upset following the hearing.

“The NRL took the action which it considered necessary given the serious breaches of the Code of Conduct – breaches the Appeals Committee also found to be serious, the independent appeals committee has taken a different view on what penalty the players should face and although we are disappointed, we respect the outcome.”

The Bulldogs lost a $1.4 million USD sponsor as a result, and remain with a front of jersey sponsor for the 2020 season.

Anchored to the bottom of the NRL table, the Bulldogs now face the difficult task of having to bring the pair back, with contracts keeping both players at the club beyond 2020.

The news comes on a difficult day for the club, with one player isolated due to COVID-19 concerns and reports that head coach Dean Pay has quit the club. Pay has endured a wretched season, with the club’s board refusing to guarantee his future beyond 2020. The club refused to confirm whether Pay would be coaching this weekend, with an announcement expected on Pay’s future this week.