The Bulldogs are currently in discussions with the representative of a player who has yet to return to the clubhouse after a punitive training task involving wrestling each teammate. The club underscores that the player’s welfare is their primary concern.
Phil Gould, the General Manager, spoke to the unnamed player’s spokesperson on Thursday. This meeting, assured by an anonymous source from the club, reinstated the Bulldogs‘ commitment to the player’s well-being. The player, whose identity has not been publicly shared due to mental health concerns, remains under contract at the club until next year.
Recently on the Six Tackles with Gus podcast, Gould emphasised the importance of “protecting the player” due to the sensitive nature of the situation. The Rugby League Players’ Association is also closely following the case.
Previous reports by this platform outlined the training punishment. The player was ordered to wrestle with roughly 20 teammates for up to half a minute each in the club’s wrestling room. This came at the end of an already gruelling session and was the penalty for late arrival at the training session.
One anonymous observer revealed that the unrelenting challenge, termed “shark bait”, left the player unable to lift his arms midway in self-defence due to utter exhaustion. Following this incident, the player’s demeanour reportedly shifted, and he had not returned to the club after a week.
Different accounts, however, attempted to downplay the harshness of the penalty. A member of the coaching staff argued that the wrestling session lasted barely over three minutes.
In his inaugural year as an NRL head coach, Cameron Ciraldo, currently under scrutiny, has upheld his attempts to raise the training standards and culture of the Bulldogs. The club did not qualify for the finals for the seventh consecutive year.
Backing Ciraldo, fellow coach Dylan Edwards shared his positive experience with him as a coach at Penrith’s lower grades and as assistant coach at Penrith, leading to successive NRL premierships. “I can’t speak highly enough of him. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Ciro”, Edwards said.
Ciraldo, when questioned about rumours of the Bulldogs‘ players struggling with his demanding training, justified that Penrith players were accustomed to longer training sessions than the current squad.
According to Roosters coach Trent Robinson, it’s common for NRL teams to employ various forms of penalties for players who disregard team protocols. These include fines and physical challenges. “It needs to be something that they learn a lesson, but can also grow from”.