Canterbury Bulldogs‘ Raymond Faitala-Mariner has officially been authorised to enter negotiations with rival teams, following rumours about his future at the club. The move comes less than a year after Faitala-Mariner was named club captain. Despite a contract running until the end of 2025, it’s been publicly speculated since July that Faitala-Mariner may be on his way out, with recent meetings between him and club boss, Phil Gould ramping up discussions.
Should he fail to find another club, Faitala-Mariner will stay at Belmore, but there are strong suggestions the 30-year-old may have played his final game for Canterbery. “After discussions with Canterbury officials, Ray has been given permission to look elsewhere,” announced Faitala-Mariner’s manager, Ernesto Santone.
In January, Faitala-Mariner became club captain, while on-field duties were assigned to co-captains Reed Mahoney and Matt Burton. Despite these moves, Canterbury’s disappointing season that saw them finish 15th and concede an average of 32 points per game, has forced the club to rethink its player roster.
There are strong indications that several other contracted players will soon receive similar permission to negotiate with rival teams, as the drive to reshuffle continues. Early reports suggest Polynesian players have expressed concerns to Faitala-Mariner regarding the club’s culture and training regimen.
Not one to shy away from issues, the Bulldogs are assertive about strengthening their resolve. Phil Gould and coach Cameron Ciraldo intend to build a robust edge, unapologetic about the club’s performance and training policies. One instance that drew attention was a player who was penalised for tardiness and engaged in wrestling sessions with each of his teammates. This episode was deemed “brutal” by an onlooker.
Faitala-Mariner, a centurion for the Bulldogs who primarily plays in the back row, was moved to prop to counter the injury woes among the club’s middling forwards. Injuries and a bout of pneumonia, which resulted in a five-day hospital stay, restricted him to only 14 appearances this year.
Faitala-Mariner’s commitment to Canterbury was unwavering, even through this hardship. “Ray spoke about how much he loved the club when he was appointed captain at the start of the year,” Santone said. “He’s been a staunch supporter of the club through all the injuries and ups and downs, even playing out of position.” Santone added, “His work ethic is unquestionable, returning to training promptly after battling pneumonia.”
Faitala-Mariner himself talked about his health issues. “It started off like a ’flu,” he told NRL.com after contracting pneumonia. “There was this one training session where it was really cold. Despite being ill, I trained anyway, which adversely worsened my condition. The subsequent tests revealed that I had pneumonia. I was in hospital for a week, bedridden for around four weeks … prior to this, I had misinterpreted pneumonia as an elderly disease. A conversation with the doctor confirmed that it can happen to anyone.”