Harawira-Naera was not at that particular school visit and according to sources instead first made contact with the other schoolgirl when he saw her working in her part-time job at a local business.
A source also confirmed that one of the two Bulldogs players served with show-cause notices had a sexual rendezvous with another woman – a teacher from a different school who he engaged with on Tinder – while Canterbury were in Port Macquarie. But while Canterbury players are forbidden from having women in their hotel room under team rules, it is the players’ encounters with the school-age girls which are the focus of an NRL integrity unit investigation.
Bulldogs players attended the Altitude Nightclub after the 12-10 defeat to the Raiders on the Saturday night in Port Macquarie but the girls were not there.
The episode is a terrible look for a club fined $250,000, half of it suspended for two years, following a Mad Monday controversy in September 2018, but Anderson declared Canterbury had “acted swiftly and decisively and taken a strong stance”.
“We are not sweeping it under the carpet, we are owning it and facing up to it together as a club,” Anderson said. “We must respect the NRL process, one we triggered.”
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said on Wednesday night “our players have no greater social responsibility than promoting respect for women”.
“Part of being a first-grade player is being a role model,” Greenberg said. “Respect for women is a fundamental aspect of our training courses from rookies to elite players.
“That’s why we took immediate action in provisionally suspending both players allegedly involved in the matters under investigation.
“We didn’t hide behind the investigation. The Bulldogs and the NRL made the decision to proactively stand down the players to send a very clear message that allegations of this nature are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
“Conduct of this nature breaches every aspect of what we stand for as a game. Rest assured, if these breaches are sustained the players will face significant sanctions which will both meet community expectation and send a message to every single player in our game.”
It is unlikely Canterbury will be hit the suspended portion of their Mad Monday fine, with attention squarely on the conduct of the two players in Port Macquarie.
The Diocese of Lismore Catholic Schools Office said in a statement it was “aware of concerns regarding two of our secondary students” and was working with the school to “support them and their families”.
The scandal has cost the club a $2 million major sponsorship deal with family restaurant chain Rashays.
Sarah is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Chris Barrett is Sports Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.