AAP Rugby

Bulldogs sacked by NRL over sex scandal

By AAP Newswire

Disgraced Canterbury players Jayden Okunbor and Corey Harawira-Naera have been deregistered by the NRL after it was revealed the pair had sex with teenage schoolgirls on a team trip to Port Macquarie in February.

Okunbor, 23, and Harawira-Naera, 24, were accused of contacting the girls on social media and inviting them to the team hotel for consensual sex after earlier visiting a high school for a promotional NRL visit.

Their behaviour was labelled 'inexcusable' in statements released by the NRL and the Bulldogs on Wednesday afternoon, with the club saying they supported the game's decision to cancel their contracts.

"The behaviour of both players was inexcusable and a very serious breach of the code of conduct,'" said NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg.

"The game will not tolerate such conduct and as such both players have had their registrations cancelled.

"This decision should send a very clear message to all players of our stance on such behaviour."

The pair were not under police investigation as both girls were above the legal age of consent.

The news broke before the Bulldogs' round one clash with Parramatta and both were stood down immediately, however the club is believed to have lost $2 million in sponsorship due to the scandal.

Okunbor and Harawira-Naera had until March 24 to show cause why they should not be punished for serious breaches of the NRL's code of conduct, however, headlines have since been dominated by the coronavirus shutdown.

In a joint statement penned by chair Lynne Anderson, chief executive Andrew Hill and coach Dean Pay, the Bulldogs said the pair showed a lack of respect and there is no excuse for abusing the privileged status the NRL affords players.

"The conduct of the two players, on the eve of our final trial match, demonstrated an unacceptable lack of respect for their teammates, their coach and club officials, our hosts in Port Macquarie and fans of the game everywhere," the statement read.

"An important part of the role of being a professional rugby league player is to promote the game and act as an ambassador for your club and the code.

"There can be no tolerance for any abuse of the privileged status the game affords its leading players.

"The consequences of this matter have been serious and far-reaching and protecting the welfare of the young women involved has been a priority for us since we were first alerted to this issue.

"They have, unfortunately, been the victims of some distasteful social media attacks which are not called for and need to stop.

"We have been in regular contact with them, their families and their school and we will continue to offer ongoing support moving forward."

The Bulldogs and the NRL said they were offering welfare support to both Harawira-Naera and Okunbor.