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Canberra land Harawira-Naera after Dogs nab Cotric

Canberra have signed Bulldogs back-rower Corey Harawira-Naera for the next two-and-a-half years in the latest tit-for-tat signing between the rival clubs.

Canterbury officially released Harawira-Naera on Thursday, with the Raiders confirming his signing on Friday until the end of 2022. 

The news comes a day after Trent Barrett was officially announced as Canterbury's new long-term coach, and Raiders star Nick Cotric was confirmed to join him in 2021. 

Canterbury made several attempts to keep Harawira-Naera at Belmore before he and the Bulldogs resolved to part ways.

With his NRL deregistration overturned last week and his 10-game suspension for a pre-season incident involving schoolgirls in Port Macquarie served, Harawira-Naera could potentially be available for Canberra as early as round 12.

Raiders international Nick Cotric.
Raiders international Nick Cotric. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

The Canberra Times has reported Harawira-Naera would not be available to play against the Bulldogs when the two sides clash in round 16 under the terms of a proposed release, and understands the Raiders have agreed to that scenario.

"Corey is a very talented player who’s played representative football for New Zealand and we’re looking forward to having him join the club for the next two and half years," Raiders CEO Don Furner said.

"He will join the squad for training once he’s been cleared by the Apollo committee and then its up to the coaching staff to work out when he may play his first game for the club."

Harawira-Naera had been pushing for an early exit since his contract was reactivated, with the 25-year-old former Panthers forward unhappy with Canterbury's support for his deregistration by the NRL.

Despite being a fan of incoming coach Trent Barrett – who weighed into the club's efforts to keep Harawira-Naera – he has opted for the nation's capital.

Done deal: Barrett to coach Bulldogs from 2021

Teammate Jayden Okunbor is suspended until round 15 but will remain at the Dogs.

Canterbury chair Lynne Anderson said both players "were extremely contrite and understanding of the harm they had caused and apologised unreservedly" as they discussed their futures with club officials.

"At the end of those conversations it became clear that while Jayden very much wanted to be given a second chance at Belmore, it was in the best interests of both parties if Corey was given a release to make a fresh start somewhere else," Anderson said.

"While we totally understand that the behaviour that took place was unacceptable, we also looked at the opportunity for a second chance and for the ability of the individuals to redeem themselves.

"Jayden is a local junior who has been with the club since the U14's all the way through to our NRL squad.

He has readily agreed to undergo further educational courses in this area and be part of a community program on his return to the club."

Canberra targeted Harawira-Naera as a long-term replacement for Wigan-bound John Bateman.

Bateman was named on an extended bench for the Raiders this week having returned to contact training following a lengthy lay-off due to shoulder surgery.

But Harawira-Naera's arrival still provides sorely needed reinforcement to a pack that will be missing Josh Hodgson, Sia Soliola, Corey Horsburgh and Emre Guler for all but the rest of this season.

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