NRL sensationally overturns players' schoolgirl sex bans

Australian Associated Press
·2-min read
Corey Harawira-Neara is pictured playing for the Canterbury Bulldogs, prior to his ban in March 2020.
Banned Canterbury Bulldogs player Corey Harawira-Neara could play in a matter of weeks, after he and Jayden Okunbor successfully appealed their NRL bans for their involvement in a schoolgirl sex scandal. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

Canterbury forward Corey Harawira-Naera could play as soon as round 11 after he and Jayden Okunbor successfully appealed their NRL sacking.

Okunbor and Harawira-Naera were de-registered earlier this year following a schoolgirl sex scandal in Port Macquarie in March.

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The league on Monday announced an alternative sanction, with Okunbor banned for 14 games and Harawira-Naera ruled out for 10.

Both suspensions have been backdated to round one, meaning New Zealand international Corey Harawira-Naera could run out for the Bulldogs against Newcastle on July 26.

Okunbor has another five games to serve of his sanction.

He has also been fined $22,500 and ordered to undergo a counselling or community service, while Harawira-Naera has been hit for $15,000.

"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," NRL acting chief executive Andrew Abdo said.

"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."

Bulldogs unclear on re-signing banned duo

The Bulldogs were made aware of the decision on Monday, however it is unclear whether the club will formally reinstate both players.

"We are now working with the NRL to determine how this process will be implemented and will await further advice from the NRL on the next stage," the club said in a statement.

The development comes three months after the Bulldogs acted swiftly in cutting the pair for breaking club protocols while on an away trip.

Jayden Okunbor is pictured playing for the Canterbury Bulldogs.
Jayden Okunbor will also have his NRL eligibility re-instated, after he and Corey Harawira-Naera successfully appealed their bans. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

The scandal also resulted in the club losing a reported $2 million major sponsorship deal with restaurant chain Rashays following the incident.

The club remains without a major sponsor.

"The conduct of the two players, on the eve of our final trial match, demonstrated an unacceptable lack of respect for their teammates, their coach and club officials, our hosts in Port Macquarie and fans of the game everywhere," the club said at the time.