Australian rugby league shutdown doesn't stop sex scandal news

NRL logo (Twitter)
NRL logo (Twitter)

Australian rugby league may be shut down due to Covid-19 but that didn't spare the scandal-plagued sport more bad news as two Canterbury Bulldogs players were sacked over an escapade with "young females".

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New Zealand Test forward Corey Harawira-Naera, 24, and winger Jayden Okunbor, 23, were suspended in early March after taking the women back to their team hotel on a pre-season trip.

Australian media said they met the women, described by the club as "young females of a consensual age", while visiting a school in the New South Wales beachside town of Port Macquarie.

The Bulldogs announced the pair had been deregistered by the National Rugby League (NRL) on Wednesday and subsequently had their club contracts cancelled.

"The club fully supports the determination made by the NRL in defence of the reputation of our game and the conduct of the majority of players who represent their respective clubs in the right way," the team said in a statement.

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

Rugby league in Australia has long been dogged by scandal and the NRL has been working hard to improve its image.

The build-up to the 2019 season was overshadowed when Panthers' playmaker Tyrone May was suspended after being charged for allegedly filming and sharing images of sexual acts with two separate women without their knowledge.

It followed Bulldogs star Dylan Napa being fined 10 percent of his 2019 salary for appearing in several sex tapes.

After those incidents, the NRL introduced new rules where players charged with serious criminal offences are automatically suspended instead of being able to play while awaiting the outcome of their court cases.

The crackdown has been controversial within the sport, and the Bulldogs statement acknowledged that not everyone would be happy with the latest punishments.

"We know and accept that there will be conflicting views about the penalties handed out to these two players. 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," it said.

Like other team sports in Australia, the rugby league season was closed down last month due to the coronavirus pandemic, and is not currently due to resume until 1 July.

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