Corey Harawira-Naera had every right to put his feet up and rest after concussion ruled him out of last night's NRL match.
The NRL finals are looming and he’s played every game in the top grade this year; with HIA protocol forbidding him to take the field until today the Panthers gave him the option to reset the body and take a week off.
Instead, he insisted on playing with the Intrust Super Premiership team.
The Panthers, of course, were more than happy to accommodate given how high they prioritise success through all grades, but the decision typifies the ‘club first’ attitude that any sporting organisation, let alone Rugby League, would love to have.
“I didn’t know I could get a run, when I got told I jumped at it straight away,” Harawira-Naera tells NSWRL.com.au.
“They gave me the option, but I’d rather play than get a week off to be honest; I don’t like rest, the body seizes up a bit.
“I failed [the concussion test] about three times, but they ended up giving me clearance on Wednesday and I got my three days, so obviously I couldn’t play on Friday night.
“I haven’t played too many minutes lately, so it was good to get some big minutes out.”
James Maloney stated earlier in the week that the reason Penrith have been successful throughout the grades is the continuity in coaching philosophies.
The ISP side has been flying; they secured the minor premiership by six competition points and have now booked a spot in the Preliminary Final.
Harawira-Naera hasn’t played a single game in the Intrust Super Premiership this year, yet those similar philosophies made the transition seamless.
“I didn’t have to come in or blow up or talk too much,” Harawira-Naera says.
“Everyone knew their role and all I had to do was my role and that made it a lot easier.
“The boys have been playing well all year.”
He played on the right edge in what turned out to be a brutal Qualifying Final against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
28-18 was the final score, but the Bulldogs almost stole it at the death when they scored back-to-back tries and has one hundred per cent of possession for a 10 minute period.
They forced three consecutive dropouts, but the Panthers kept turning them away, something Harawira-Naera was proud to be a part of.
“That’s what wins you games,” he says.
“They got a bit of momentum and got a few tries there and it was up to us to stop them.
“There’s no real superstars or standouts everyone has been just doing their job, ‘Marto’ [Liam Martin] has been killing it all year, ‘Kaido’ [Kaide Ellis] too, the list just keeps going on.
“All you’ve got to do is your job and then you never have to do anymore than you have to; it’s pleasing to get the win today for the boys and we’ll see how we go in the next few weeks.”
For Harawira-Naera, it was pleasing to play with the talent that’s at the base of the NRL’s doorstep.
Liam Martin and Kaide Ellis are two of many, but he is also extremely impressed with fullback Caleb Aikens and rising star William ‘Billy’ Burns.
“Caleb is knocking on the door again for another NRL game I reckon, he’s safe as days and he’s gaining confidence with every game,” Harawira-Naera says.
“He’s another reason why they’re sitting at the top of the table, he’s been so consistent this year and his metres are really good.
“[Burns] is a gangly ‘fella’ isn’t he? He’s been playing really well and he’s still under-20s age.
“I heard he got a hat-trick this year, I think he’s having a laugh, but he’s got a bit of weight to put on.
“He’s killing it now so it’s going to be good to see him once he fills out a bit more.”
With the Panthers in the NRL finals, that will be Harawira-Naera’s major focus moving forward.
A win against the Storm last night was perhaps the kick they needed to get themselves into gear, but that performance was no surprise to any Panthers’ insider.
“Whatever team they would have put out the boys trained that well that I knew that they were going to be in it,” Harawira-Naera says.
“The goal was to get that performance, the performance was always going to be there, but we got the win too so the boys are over the moon.”