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Penrith Panthers rookie Corey Harawira-Naera.

Penrith Panthers back-rower Corey Harawira-Naera's return to the starting line-up brings a bittersweet feeling after watching close mate James Fisher-Harris struck down by another injury setback.

‌The pair travelled across to the Panthers from New Zealand together and have built their careers to date off the back of each other's experiences – both on and off the field.

In his return from a shoulder complaint, Fisher-Harris suffered a hamstring strain on the weekend against the Warriors and faces a further stint on the sidelines.

After a breakout start to the year for Harawira-Naera, the 21-year-old's gain returning back into Anthony Griffin's starting 13 comes at the cost of watching his ex-housemate go down in pain for the third time this season.

"It is sad how it goes that way but I try to do a good job for him because he would be doing that if he was out there," Harawira-Naera said.

"I'm hoping he's not out for too long, it's hard to see one of your close mates keep getting injured.

"He's a bit quiet but its more his actions that you learn from. 

"His [New Zealand] debut last year was good to see especially being from back home in the bush and now making it and living the dream."

The Auckland-born rookie admitted both players had experienced some highs and lows since moving to Australia together back in 2013 that has now helped them develop into young adults after living away from home.

"You get money that you've never really had before and we were just spending it like nothing," he admitted.

"It was hard and ringing mum [back home] needing money put stress on them but we stuck with it and done the hard yards.

"We had to learn how to save and try not ring back as often we had so I'm glad we did and to see how far we've both come is good.

"Both of us owe our parents a lot especially with that move and transition from back home."

Repaying his family is the aim Harawira-Naera plans to achieve in the coming years with the Otaua Valley Warriors junior off-contract at season's end.

With speculation rival clubs Cronulla and Melbourne are circling the back-rower, Harawira-Naera said his priority was so stay at the foot of the mountains but money and opportunity will factor into his decision.

"It's a bit of both, I've got mum to look after back home," Harawira-Naera said.

"I've been here for four years and have got a bit of loyalty so have to weigh it up and make the right decision for me and my family. 

"A lot of the boys who have re-signed are young as well so I think they want us to stay together and hopefully I can be apart of it.

"I feel indebt to the club and loyal so hopefully we come to an agreement and it works out for the both of us."

Penrith blew the Knights off the paddock back in Round 4 – Harawira-Naera's first game in the NRL Telstra Premiership – and the side have already experienced a rollercoaster season with five-straight losses leading into last week.

Now with six games under his belt, the rookie feels at home in Griffin's line-up.

"In the first couple of games out there I felt out of place but the coaches and players have been persistent with me in helping me develop so it's helped me with my game," he said.

"[Newcastle] played well against Canberra on the weekend to get the win there and have been unlucky with a few of their games this year.

"I think it's a bit like us with inexperience and not knowing how to finish games and hold the ball.

"With two young teams on the weekend it's going to be pretty good to get amongst it."


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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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