NRL: Kiwi Corey Harawira-Naera caught in Cleary crossfire

  • 15/05/2018
Corey Harawira-Naera
Corey Harawira-Naera in action for Penrith. Photo credit: Photosport

Penrith second-rower Corey Harawira-Naera knows the awkward dynamics of the Cleary household better than most.

So much so, the former Junior Kiwi found himself in the crosshairs of the strange situation just a week after his NRL debut last year.

Unsigned by the Panthers, Harawira-Naera visited Ivan Cleary about a possible move to the Wests Tigers for 2018, only to bump into his own teammate Nathan Cleary.

"I was hoping not to see him, because I knew it would be a bit awkward," Harawira-Naera said. "He had a dig at me when I got back to training the next day and tried to get the boys to get onto me about it."

Thursday's clash between the two teams is more than just the headline of coach Ivan against returning son Nathan.

Five players in the Penrith squad made their debut under coach Cleary. Another five have played under him previously.

Countless others have also felt his influence as part of the club's highly-heralded junior system, while he was the coach of the NRL team from 2012-15.

And Auckland-born Harawira-Naera could have been running out for the Tigers under Ivan, rather than with Nathan at Penrith on Thursday night.

"My first year I came over, he was head coach for the top grade, but the next year was when he left," the 22-year-old said. "I learnt a lot from him, even from that.

"We had a lot of opposed sessions against the first grade side that year. Ivan is a pretty calm coach - everyone has their own demeanours.

"I wanted to stay [at Penrith] the whole time, but they were the next closest club who was interested, as well as having Ivan and Elijah Taylor there as well.

"He [Taylor] was a bit of a mentor for me when I first came over - he took us out for feeds here and there. I was leaning towards him if I was going anywhere."

As it turned out, Harawira-Naera re-signed with Penrith months later, but he's still admired the work Cleary has done from afar this year.

"He's a real good people-person and I think that showed in the way the boys play," he said. "He has that kind of touch with all sorts of players with different backgrounds.

"He had a bit of success over at the Warriors and even when he came here, the boys went well. I can't wait to play him this weekend."