Bulldogs drama overshadows NRL kick off

Scott Bailey and David Smith
Corey Harawira-Naera has been stood down from the Bulldogs opening round NRL clash with Parramata

The NRL's season kick off will be overshadowed by Canterbury's schoolgirl scandal with two Bulldogs players currently barred from training or playing for the club.

Corey Harawira-Naera and Jayden Okunbor's futures remain the subject of an NRL and club investigation for bringing two teenage schoolgirls to the team hotel in Port Macquarie last month.

School visits are one of the pillars of the NRL's community work, with thousands of hours committed to such projects every year.

Player education around school visits has previously been part of the NRL's program, with advice including not giving a student their phone number and not contacting them.

In another education session for rookies in recent years, players are taught to be wary of people who approach them via social media and to be careful of their ages.

The Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday obtained screen grabs of the messages between Okunbor and one of the girls on the winger's now deleted Instagram account.

The exchange begins with the girld asking Okunbor "Having a good stalk ?", to which he replies "Yeah had to have a good look, what are we doing tonight?".

"You" she responded before Okunbor asks: "we're (sic) you at the school today".

She replies with what is believed to be a photo of the pair, as well as another Bulldogs player, at the school earlier that day.

Thursday night's competition opener was meant to be a celebration for the NRL, and the 30-year anniversary of their famous Simply the Best campaign headed by American singer Tina Turner.

Instead, the Bulldogs incident is simply the worst possible scenario for the league.

Canterbury feature in the season opener against Parramatta at Bankwest Stadium, a match Harawira-Naera and Okunbor would have played had they been available.

The Bulldogs' captains' run press conference turned into crisis management on Wednesday, with CEO Andrew Hill facing questions over the incident.

"After the past few months, where our players have received some deserved recognition for their community and charity work this is a very disappointing situation," Hill said.

"I can confirm that the breaches do relate to players bringing young females of a consensual age back to the team hotel.

"While neither player is the subject of a current police investigation, these are very concerning matters that the club is treating seriously.

"The conduct not only breaches the club's code of conduct, it is not reflective of the standards and values we have tried to instil into our players," Hill said.

The incident has left the Bulldogs reeling after they lost a $2 million sponsorship deal with restaurant chain Rashays.

They are the only NRL club are without a major sponsor for 2020, and had been striving to rebuild their brand following the 2018 Mad Monday affair which saw Adam Elliott and Asipeli Fine plead guilty to wilful and obscene exposure.

The situation also leaves the Bulldogs in a hole on the field with the loss of Harawira-Naera, a New Zealand international second rower and the NRL's leading offloader in 2019.

"It's got its challenges, that's for sure," coach Dean Pay said.

"(But) there are opportunities for the other boys. We will be prepared, we will be ready.

"We've got a game to play. That's what we'll be ready for."