Controversial recruit boosts NRL’s Raiders

The arrival of controversial recruit Corey Harawira-Naera has helped provide injury ravaged Canberra with the mid-season boost they need, coach Ricky Stuart says.

Harawira-Naera will make his Raiders debut off the bench in Saturday’s NRL clash with North Queensland in Townsville after only joining the team this week following his mid-season move from Canterbury.

The New Zealand international has not played since being deregistered over a pre-season scandal in Port Macquarie, which he successfully appealed.

Stuart will also welcome back John Bateman against the 12th-placed Cowboys for his first game of the season after the fiery England back-rower underwent two shoulder surgeries.

The coach said the pair were timely additions for the fifth-placed Raiders who still have nine key players sidelined in what the Canberra mentor believes is an unprecedented injury toll at the club.

“Corey and John are excited to be back. Halfway through the competition it gives you a boost when you have a couple of new faces,” he said.

“It’s nice to get more troops in because of the injuries that we have had.

“There’s no way in the world I thought we would have the injuries that we have had.

“I am very proud of the squad in their no-nonsense attitude with getting on with what has been a very difficult job … it’s kept us going.”

Stuart said new addition Harawira-Naera had not wasted any time fitting in.

“He hasn’t had a great deal of training so we will see how many minutes he gets out,” he said.

“But he’s fitted straight into the squad as a person and … the way he has handled the new environment around him – it’s been noticeable that he knows the game and is a quality athlete.”

Canberra have received a further boost with forwards Josh Papalii and Joseph Tapine receiving medical exemptions to fly into Townsville after refusing to have the flu vaccine earlier this year as per the Queensland government’s ‘no jab, no play’ policy.

Interim Cowboys coach Josh Hannay was not so thrilled to see Papalii back in contention.

“We expected Josh to play. No surprises there,” he said of the Raiders juggernaut.

“But I would certainly rather he wasn’t there.”

Hannay has been buoyed, though, by the return of pack leader Jordan McLean (calf) and utility John Asiata (knee) from long-term injuries after losing Josh McGuire (suspension) and rookie five-eighth Daejarn Asi (knee) this week.

“They are leaders and leadership is something we have probably lacked a bit of,” he said of McLean and Asiata.

“I have no doubt it will benefit us, particularly in the harder moments of the game, keeping everyone a bit calmer out there.”

Hannay remains hopeful captain Michael Morgan (shoulder) will be available next week.

STATS THAT MATTER

* Canberra have won three of their past four matches against North Queensland and the last two in Townsville

* North Queensland have lost seven of their last eight games and are ranked in the bottom three for points conceded (27.2 per game) and tries conceded (4.9pg). They also concede the most linebreaks (6pg).





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