New Zealand international Corey Harawira-Naera has offered a philosophical take on the schoolgirl sex scandal that threatened to derail his NRL career.
Harawira-Naera and former Bulldogs teammate Jayden Okunbor were stood down by the club and deregistered by the NRL after bringing schoolgirls back to the hotel they were staying at, during the club's pre-season camp in Port Macquarie.
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The pair engaged in consensual sex with the women - who were both of legal age - but had their contracts ripped up after former NRL CEO Todd Greenberg called it a “very serious” breach of the league’s code of conduct".
However, both players won an appeal to have their contracts reinstated in July, with Harawira-Naera since joining the Canberra Raiders after looking for a fresh start.
Reflecting on the saga, the 25-year-old Test forward told NRL.com that the unfortunate incident was the "wake-up call" he needed to re-evaluate his life.
“I was getting in a bit of trouble in Sydney and getting away from that was really important,” Harawira-Naera said.
“My career has come crashing down pretty quickly and I’m not proud of it, but everything happens for a reason. Some won’t agree with me there but I needed this wake-up call.
“I’m glad I got caught out and have learned my lesson. I’m glad it happened earlier rather than later.
“A lot of people didn’t agree with my apology and said it was scripted, but I felt like I needed to say something but it’s allowed for me to move on and focus on my footy.
“I’ve just got to grow up, I’m 25 now and have to focus on why I came over to Australia in the first place.
“It wasn’t for a holiday or to get in trouble and stuff it up for all my family who have done a lot to get me here.”
Kiwi star loving life at Raiders
Harawira-Naera's exit from the Bulldogs came amid reports he was frustrated with how the club handled the incident.
The scandal ultimately cost the Bulldogs a $2 million sponsorship deal with restaurant chain Rashays, whose owner labelled the saga "disgusting".
Harawira-Naera celebrated his first win at home for his new club in last weekend's 36-8 win for Canberra over Brisbane.
The Kiwi star says his Raiders teammates have welcomed him to the club with open arms.
"The boys have been really welcoming. I spoke to them when I first got down here and they've been good and ask me if I need any help or advice with our attack or defensive structures.
"I think the Raiders also play a style of footy that will really suit me. I feel like that's going to be the best thing for me in the long run. Down here you can just focus on footy.
"It's a pretty good team to come into and hopefully I can really get in and amongst it and get to the finals."
Harawira-Naera's Raiders come up against the Bulldogs in round 16 but the terms of his release mean he won't be able to feature against his former club.