After the 2021 season, Don Furner made it clear that there were three players most at risk for poaching by the expansion club, the Redcliffe Dolphins Corey Harawira-Naera, Corey Hosrburgh and Ryan Sutton. Today this was confirmed by the other side, with Harawira-Naera being identifed by the Australian’s Brent Read as a priority target for the club. It may be hard to keep him in Canberra.
Despite being identified a retention priority by Canberra last year there has been little movement on the contract situation for the Kiwi international. As I’ve said before, this contract purgatory has been driven by an uncertainty about his role, both in the short and long term.
Immediately, how he fits into the starting squad is unclear, though this may likely change over the next few weeks. He’s played his best football on the right edge as a damaging ball-runner with a devastating offload. But it’s not clear if he starts ahead of captain Elliott Whitehead or future star Hudson Young (though I think he does ahead of Whitehead eventually). A further complication is the likely emergence of young bucks like Harry Rushton and Brock Gardner.Me here
Read comes to a similar conclusion and suggests that a deal with Redcliffe is imminent.
I know the Dolphins are looking at Corey Harawira-Naera. I think it’s a matter of agreeing a figure… and if they can agree on a figure, don’t be surprised to see him move to Queensland at the end of the year.Read on Triple M
Unquestionably there is more certainty for him at the Dolphins. They’ve been focused on building an experienced pack, and with both Bromwiches and Mark Nicholls, there’s a spot for Corey on the right edge that would suit him, or in the middle (though that is less favourable to him) (Update: I forgot about Felise Kaufusi but in my mind Harawira-Naera will give them much more punch on that edge. Shouts to Sean Buchanen for reminding me). Putting him around the elder statesmen of New Zealand football would be a perfect spot for him personally, and he’d likely get more money there than the Milk could ever offer. In short, I’m not optimistic that he’ll stay in Canberra.
If this comes to fruition to challenge for Canberra is more short term than long. Young and Whitehead will hold on the edge this season with Harawira-Naera’s support (and Adam Elliott if needed), but there will be a need to look at who will be the solution in the longer term. Whitehead’s body began to show the miles on it last year, and while I’m not ready to write him off, the Raiders do need to prepare for life without him. A good hint as to who is being earmarked as his replacement will be seen in who starts on the edge in reserve grade this season. I’ll be paying close attention to Harry Rushton.
I’ll be curious as to what this means for the rest the so called “targets”. The rumours around Ryan Sutton leaving feel real (as we noted earlier in the year). It’s also hard to not see Corey Horsburgh going home, but as yet the Dolphins haven’t led anyone to believe they’re as keen as I would have assumed they would be. Adam Elliott is also off contract this year, and if he’s a success there should be space under the cap to keep him. It would also mean the Raiders are better placed to fend off movements against of any of their emerging players who are open to sign new contracts at the end of this year (like Harley Smith-Shields and Xavier Savage).
This is hardly a done deal. There’s been plenty of players put in Redcliffe’s basket only to see them sign a new deal at their home place. It’s not hard to think Read got this information from Harawira-Naera’s management. They would be keen to know his worth, and a rumour like this might just spur Raiders HQ into a bit of action. A reverse Raider Raise if you will (shouts to Jack Cronin).
But it’s hard not to see the benefits for Harawira-Naera at the Dolphins. A guaranteed spot, more job security, a support network of Kiwis, and an elite coach. It would be like Canberra but with different (not better!) weather. For now it’s a watching brief, but I’m not holding my breath. This may be Corey’s last season for the Raiders.
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