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'Ruined it for myself': CHN ready to grab long-awaited chance

Bulldogs forward and Kiwi test debutant Corey Harawira-Naera still blames himself for missing out on a Test debut last year due to injury and is taking nothing for granted this time around.

The then-Panthers back-rower was rewarded for two outstanding seasons at Penrith with selection for New Zealand's England tour at the end of 2018 but had to pull out with a groin injury.

Harawira-Naera was devastated and unsure if he'd missed his only chance; 12 months later and beaming with pride, the 24-year-old told the experience had taught him some lessons about how important preparation, rehab and one-percenters can be.

"I had a few opportunities that I probably didn't look after myself as good as I could have and ruined it for myself," Harawira-Naera said.

"I learned a lesson from then for this time around. I had a run on the weekend [in the World Cup 9s] which was fun and good but this is why we play now, this is the serious stuff.

"It's been a long time coming. As soon as you start playing you want to play Kiwis straight away."

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Pressed on whether he could really blame himself for injuries, the Northland product was adamant.

"It was just niggles but I guess I didn't manage them as best I could have," he added.

"You learn that as you go along, you learn off more experienced guys about looking after your body and rehabbing and being really prepared."

The proud Kiwi said he gets chills thinking about the anthem being sung and then living out a boyhood dream – performing the haka in the famous black jersey.

"I'm just really grateful and soaking it all up," he said.

"I'm looking forward to doing the haka, that's something that sticks out to me, the anthem as well, it will give me chills.

"We used to do the haka as kids as they were doing it on TV, turning it up full volume.

"It's always been on my bucket list to be able to put on the black jersey and do the haka and represent not just my culture but our country as a whole.

"We want to try and pave the way for the young kids to jump on the back of it and choose New Zealand over other teams if they can, and just create an environment that's inclusive and it doesn't matter what your background is. If you're willing to work hard and train hard and put your best foot forward you can get a run."

Harawira-Naera has been named in jersey 17 to face the Kangaroos in Wollongong on Friday night, with the final line-up to be confirmed an hour before kick-off with matches back in New Zealand against Great Britain to follow.

Getting on the field for even one game out of the wider squad of 22 would be a dream come true, Harawira-Naera said.

"I'm just hoping for one game out of the whole tour," he said.

"It's something I was really looking forward to seeing as I wasn't able to go around last year. I looked after myself and now I'm here and here to do a job."

With most of the World Cup 9s squad in Michael Maguire's Test squad and many of those – Harawira-Naera included – not having played any footy since round 25, the nines was a good chance to get some miles in the legs.

"There was a few of us [who hadn't played], that first game was good to blow the cobwebs out," he said.

"The second day we rolled the subs to keep everyone fresh and it paid off because if we played longer minutes we wouldn't have been in good nick by the final so we played a bit smarter on the second day.

"Just for the body's sake, we hadn't played for nearly two months so to get to go out and get the lungs working again. It was a good experience.

"Even though we lost the final I still felt like we played well. With a young squad, a lot of boys hadn't played any kind of rep before so it was good we gelled pretty quickly."

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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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