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Naden joins Bulldogs as latest poached Panther

Penrith have lost rising star Brent Naden as the latest Panther targeted for Trent Barrett's Belmore rebuild.

A two-year deal for Naden to link once more with Barrett at Canterbury has been announced by the Bulldogs, with the 25-year-old centre starting at the club next season.

Naden has fallen down the back-line pecking order at Penrith but remained a retention target as the Bulldogs and Wests Tigers both pursued him this season.

"Adding someone of Brent's ability to our backline is tremendous news for our members and fans, as we build towards the future," Canterbury CEO Aaron Warburton said.

"Brent is a proven try scorer, with a phenomenal strike rate in his NRL career so far, and we believe that he will be part of a great backline for next season and beyond.

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"He has an excellent relationship with Trent Barrett and the potential to continue to improve.

"We look forward to what Brent will bring to the Bulldogs, and are pleased that we have added another vital piece to the squad that we are putting together to take this club forward."

Salary cap pressure and competition for back-line spots between Paul Momirovski, Stephen Crichton, Matt Burton and Dylan Edwards have been a factor in Naden seeking a fresh start at the Bulldogs.

Naden joins fellow ex-Panthers Jack Hetherington and key signing Burton next season and comes after the Bulldogs also targeted Spencer Leniu and Charlie Staines late last year.

The rolling brawl over first an early release and then a contract back-flip for Burton hit new heights over the weekend, prompting both Barrett and the Dubbo-raised prodigy to insist he will honour his Canterbury commitment next season.

Naden is yet to play first grade this year after being demoted to reserve grade for the opening month after testing positive to cocaine use in the hours after last year's grand final.

He was then hit with an on-field suspension in an early outing for Penrith's NSW Cup team, before returning at fullback and centre over the past three weeks.

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Panthers hooker Api Koroisau was blindsided by Naden's next move when told on Tuesday.

"No, really? That's torture," Koroisau said.

"I love Nado, he's worked extremely hard to get where he is today and you see him put in the work.

"I hope it's not true [and] if it's true congrats to him. I'd love to still have him here. I can see why so many [clubs] wanted him. He's an incredible player.

"I guess it's rugby league, it's a business now and you've got to take those opportunities when they come."

Koroisau confirmed he will make a return to the field in Saturday afternoon's clash against former club Manly after a six-week lay-off with a wrist injury.

The 28-year-old was close to a return last round but was struck down with a stomach bug during the week.

"I've been itching to go, when you're watching the boys win games and play well you just want to be a part of it," he said.

"Mitch has played amazing, just to see his growth over the last year-and-a-half he's been incredible. I had my doubts whether I'd get back in the team."

The Panthers will travel to Bathurst on Thursday, where they will host a junior league clinic in the afternoon before preparing for their clash with the Sea Eagles.

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The competition front-runners demolished Manly 46-6 earlier this month but Des Hasler's side has won three games since to coincide with Tom Trbojevic's stunning return from injury.

"There's no real secret to stopping Tom Trbojevic, it's got to be a team effort," the former Manly hooker said.

"Leading into this week that changes our perception of how we play them from the first time around.

"They are playing like they are a top-eight team. They are playing good all over the park, their defence is great. You pretty much just wipe out their [first] five weeks."

 

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