Twist in NRL schoolgirl sex scandal

Exiled Bulldogs star Jayden Okunbor will reportedly fight to save his career at an NRL appeals hearing.

The Daily Telegraph exclusively reported Okunbor has exercised his right to appeal his deregistration from the NRL after he was kicked out of rugby league for an indefinite period last week.

The 23-year-old winger and former teammate Corey Harawira-Naera were deregistered by the NRL after it was revealed the pair had sex with teenage schoolgirls on a team trip to Port Macquarie in February.

An NRL integrity unit investigation found there were grounds for the pair to be banned from the game after they were accused of contacting the girls on social media and inviting them to the team hotel for consensual sex.

The Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield first reported Okunbor’s decision to appeal his deregistration on Twitter.

“Disgraced Bulldogs star Jayden Okunbor is appealing his indefinite NRL deregistration,” Rothfield reported.

The report claims the appeal will be heard by former High Court judge Ian Callinan, chair of the NRL Appeals committee.

It is unclear if former Panthers star Harawira-Naera, will also appeal his ban.

According to The Sunday Telegraph, at least one rival NRL club has already made “enquries” about signing Harawira-Naera for the 2021 NRL season.

The Kiwi international is also banned indefinitely, but the report claims he is expected to be cleared to return to the NRL after serving a 12-month ban.

Jayden Okunbor remains exiled.Source:Getty Images

The behaviour of Okunbor and Harawira-Naera was labelled “inexcusable” in statements released by the NRL and the Bulldogs last week, 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.

Corey Harawira-Naera will reportedly be allowed back in 2021.Source:News Corp Australia

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.

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