Bulldogs deal left CHN with agonising decision
Departing Penrith back-rower Corey Harawira-Naera has opened up on his decision to step out of his comfort zone and join Canterbury on a four-year deal in 2019.
The 23-year-old shocked teammates and Penrith General Manager Phil Gould when he requested a release from the final year of his contract to link with the Belmore outfit next year.
Harawira-Naera was courted by Cronulla and the Wests Tigers last season, but remained loyal to the Panthers and extended his deal until the end of 2019.
He admitted the form of Viliame Kikau had played a part in the decision to leave the club and area, which includes the difficult family decision to move further away from his young son and former partner next year.
"I've been here for five years so I am attached to the place," Harawira-Naera said.
"The process happened quickly, I would've rather it at the end of the season to have time to think about it.
"But moving forward I knew that they locked in Viliame and Isaah Yeo in the back-row. I was coming off the bench and didn't mind the role but having an opportunity like that pop up, it's hard to turn down.
"I got a lot of advice from people at the club – Ciro (coach Cameron Ciraldo), (Welfare and Education Manager) Shane Elford and Gus (Gould) – he was surprised, a lot of people were. He (Gould) gave me good advice and he's been around for ages."
It's understood the deal from the Bulldogs was too good an offer to turn down and enables Harawira-Naera an opportunity to lock down a permanent starting role in the forward pack.
Bulldogs skipper Josh Jackson has been a key figure on the right edge but could be moved closer to the middle next season, while the emergence of goal-kicking forward Rhyse Martin and Raymond Faitala-Mariner will ensure competition for spots.
"I'm probably due for a change," Harawira-Naera said.
"Five years is a long time at one club, probably a little bit of complacency has crept in.
"I'm not saying it has completely happened, but it can, just rolling into work. I think it's a good change in a way and I'll be taking on a leadership role over there (Bulldogs) which is different for me."
Finishing his career at Penrith may still be a possibility for the back-rower, but for now he's looking at the prospect of a career-high preliminary finals clash should the Panthers topple Cronulla.
Harawira-Naera admitted the thought that last week's win over the Warriors could've been his last game at the club took its toll.
"There's a lot of mental going on in my head, even Ciro pulled me aside and said 'just play well, you don't want this to be your last game for the club'," he said.
"I guess he'll keep that theme for as long as we do go on. This is a massive week for us, it doesn't matter how they turn up, it's how we turn up.
"I don't know what it is but in the last three to five years Cronulla have been our bogey team. Every time we play them, we haven't got a win against them in a long time.
"It's a good time to do it and break the hoodoo."