'Read some books': Andrew Johns' scathing swipe at NRL 'knobheads'

Andrew Johns has given NRL players some pointed advice about staying out of trouble. Pic: Getty

Put down the phone. Read a book. Don't be knobheads.

That is Andrew Johns' tip for NRL players to mull over in self-isolation, saying it could help avoid off-field scandals like the recent Canterbury controversy.

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The rugby league Immortal was left shaking his head over the behaviour of Bulldogs players Jayden Okunbor and Corey Harawira-Naera who were this week deregistered by the NRL after it was revealed the pair had sex with teenage schoolgirls on a team trip to Port Macquarie in February.

Okunbor, 23, and Harawira-Naera, 24, were accused of contacting the girls on social media and inviting them to the team hotel for consensual sex after earlier visiting a high school for a promotional NRL visit.

Canterbury Bulldogs players Corey Harawira-Naera and Jayden Okunbor have been sacked from the club and de-registered from the NRL. Pic: Getty

Johns said players didn't need any more education from the NRL on how to conduct themselves but still offered some free, old school advice.

"How much education can you give them?" he told Wide World of Sports.

"I will give them some education - get your phones, put them in your bag and don't get them out.

"Don't look at social media. It's not real life.

"A little bit of old school (advice) - don't be knobheads, be smart.

"Go and buy a book, read some books, you might find you actually enjoy it."

While frustrated by the Bulldogs players' behaviour, Johns reckoned one of them may be seen in the NRL again.

"I don't know the whole story (but) Harawira-Naera I think will be back ... within a year or two (Harawira-Naera) will pop up," he said.

"Okunbor it's a different case ... he got the young girl from school.

"Okunbor I think, maybe (career over), I don't know."

Despite the controversy, Johns was not concerned about the Bulldogs' team culture with CEO Andrew Hill and coach Dean Pay at the helm.

"I have to say, the Bulldogs in all of this should be applauded with the way this was handled," he said.

"You can see Andrew Hill and Dean Pay have been trying to change the culture at the club."

Johns’ comments come as league chiefs work towards getting the season back on track, with new reports it could happen sooner than expected.

League chiefs hopeful of restarting season in June

The NRL is reportedly planning on having the 2020 season back up and running by June 1 - one month earlier than the mooted July 1 target.

The NRL have now shifted their attention to getting back on the field after a pay deal was brokered between them and the Rugby League Players Association on Thursday.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the NRL has assembled a special committee tasked with formulating a plan to get the competition back underway sooner rather than later.

‘Project Apollo’ is headed by rugby league legend Wayne Pearce and named after NASA’s famous mission to the moon.

“He is also a person that thinks outside the square,” ARL commission boss V’landys told the Telegraph.

“Some of the proposals the committee is going to put forward are going to be innovate and knowing that the requirement is to recommence as quickly as possible but in doing so, ensuring that the players’ safety comes first and the community is at no risk.

“The concepts they are coming up with including the word bubble will ensure the players and the communities safety will be accommodated. July 1 is more than achievable. There is a chance it will be earlier.”

Sydney Olympic Park has been suggested as the ideal location to keep the players in a ‘bubble’ environment, while an island resort off Queensland has also offered their services.

Did NRL suspend season too early?

Meanwhile, Michael Chammas of the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting the NRL has appointed a new infectious disease expert after their pandemic expert advised them to suspend the season ‘prematurely’.

“While no one at Rugby League Central will admit it publicly, privately there are some who believe the game pulled the pin prematurely and that if it had held on for another week - or had sought additional advice - it could have implemented strict isolation and testing measures around its teams that would have allowed the game to continue behind closed doors in a remote location,” Chammas wrote on Friday.

Chammas said the new appointment is a sign the NRL is keen to recommence as early as next month.

with Yahoo Sport staff