Canterbury back-rower Corey Harawira-Naera could be available for Dean Pay's beleaguered squad as early as next week after he and Jayden Okunbor had their contracts reinstated by the NRL.
The two Bulldogs players had their registrations cancelled by the governing body on April 1 over their involvement in a pre-season incident involving schoolgirls they had met during a clinic at a local high school in Port Macquarie.
At the time Canterbury said they fully supported the pair's de-registration by the NRL, and that "our united view as a club is that a firm line must be drawn in the sand to uphold the standards and values that define our club," adding that "this type of behaviour will simply not be tolerated."
The NRL Appeals Committee revised the pair's sanctions on Monday, allowing both players to resume their playing commitments once their revised suspensions have been served.
Harawira-Naera has served all but one game of his 10-match suspension, which also included a $15,000 fine for the New Zealand Test back-rower's "serious breach of the league's code of conduct".
As a result, he will potentially be available for selection for round 11 when the Bulldogs play Newcastle, pending the NRL's biosecurity advice and whether Canterbury add him to the club's 50-person bubble.
Okunbor still has a month to serve on a 14-game ban, with his punishment also including a $22,500 fine and a course of counselling or community service.
The towering winger would be available for round 15 at the earliest.
With their contracts reinstated by head office, as it stands Harawira-Naera is tied to the Bulldogs until the end of 2022 while Okunbor was signed until the end of 2021.
Harawira-Naera, especially, has attracted interest from rival NRL clubs in recent months, though Canterbury indicated via a statement that "we are now working with the NRL to determine how this process will be implemented" in regards to bringing Harawira-Naera and Okunbor back to the club.
NRL acting CEO Andrew Abdo expressed his disappointment at the reduced punishments.
"The NRL took the action which it considered necessary given the serious breaches of the Code of Conduct – breaches the Appeals Committee also found to be serious," Abdo said.
"The independent appeals committee has taken a different view on what penalty the players should face and although we are disappointed, we respect the outcome."
The news came on the busiest of days at Belmore, with rookie winger Jake Averillo placed in isolation after being inadvertently drawn into a COVID-19 drama.
Uncertainty continues to swirl around Pay's coaching future as well after he said it "would be good for everybody" if the Bulldogs board provided clarity on his post following the club's ninth loss from 10 starts in 2020.