Having just played a role off the bench in Canberra’s semi-final win over the Roosters, it was seeing their hard-fought win over the reigning premiers at the SCG earlier in the season that made Corey Harawira-Naera know he wanted to be in green.
“When I first heard that Canberra were keen, they played the Roosters that Thursday night and they beat them and I thought ‘wow it would be so good to be a part of that’,” he told Canberra Weekly.
Harawira-Naera said the team had their work cut out for them repeating that effort last Friday, but that their hunger to win got them home.
“I was getting nervous out there on the field, they were just shifting and shifting … they kept making metres, so I thought we did really well to hold them out.
“I think that’s what showed on the weekend, that we wanted it more and it showed on the scoreboard … the theme will be the same this week, to want it more.”
After having his contract with the Bulldogs de-registered at the start of the season due to his involvement in a schoolgirl sex scandal during the off-season, Harawira-Naera said he went through some dark times prior to arriving in Canberra.
“It was just a lot of drinking, I wasn’t really speaking to my family, I just felt like crap really like letting them down,” he said.
Upon the news his contract was re-instated in July, Harawira-Naera had to convince the Bulldogs he “needed a fresh start” for the sake of his mental health.
“Once I heard they were keen to get me down here I did everything I could and I’m glad I did.
“Sticky had a big part to play in that, he was keen to get me down here and I think with (John Bateman) making the decision he was going to head off, it made it easier for them to go harder because they need another back-rower for next year.”
Joining the Raiders squad in July and being in the side since round 12, Harawira-Naera has played an impact role off the bench, coming off the back fence, playing the ball quickly and generally bringing energy late in games.
“Coming off the bench, I’m enjoying it. Whatever Stick wants me to do, whether it’s five minutes at the end of the game, 10-minute stint come back off, whatever he wants I’m happy to do it,” he said.
“My first few games I was just going all out trying to do anything and everything but now I’m trying to pull myself back and fit into the structures, and I feel like the last two weeks I have.
“Every time I go out the coaches say keep your head, work with the guys next to you instead of trying to do it yourself and it definitely makes a difference.”
Talking to Harawira-Naera, the enthusiasm he brings on the field is directly apparent in the exuberance with which he talks footy.
“I’m pretty keen, I’m buzzing,” he said of their upcoming Storm clash.
“We’ve done a bit of video on their Parramatta game and it just looked like they were trying to knock the front door down straight in behind the ruck, so I know we’re going to have to be really tight this week and be working from markers because Smith likes to jump out both sides of the ruck.
“We’ve just got to be hungrier than them. We know we’re good enough to beat any team, but we’ve just got to have our attitude switched on … I can’t wait!”