Bulldogs players have been spotted enjoying the sun and sand of Queensland during their NRL bye round. This comes shortly after club boss Phil Gould had publicly criticised Newcastle players for doing the same thing. The Bulldogs were given a week off as part of the bye round for NRL clubs ahead of the first State of Origin clash. Players such as Jake Averillo and Kyle Flanagan shared images of themselves basking in the sunshine on Hamilton Island and at Port Douglas in far north Queensland, as well as making the most of their downtime.
The sight of Bulldogs players enjoying their break would be a contentious issue for Newcastle officials, especially after Gould’s recent comments criticising the Knights for not taking the bye round seriously. He had suggested that Newcastle players replicate his approach, which involved using the off week to refresh, analyse weaknesses and find ways to improve their game. Gould had made it clear that, in his opinion, the break was not meant for the players to engage in other activities or go outdoors.
Gould had notably called out Newcastle Centre Bradman Best for his social media updates showcasing his time in Bali, where he was indulging in downtime afforded by the bye round. However, Best hit back at Gould, stating that he had gone to Bali to “shut off and disconnect” and relax, and that his approach was different from the “off-season p***-up trip” that the media had labeled the trip. Best had defended himself and his teammates, and said that he was more upset at the media for attacking the entire team based on his personal trip.
The Bulldogs‘ Chief Executive, Aaron Warburton, has defended the players and stated that he was comfortable with how his team had managed their time over the bye round. He said the coaching team and the playing group had spent the first few days of the week similar to any regular week, reviewing their performance and reconnecting. He further added that the extended weekend had allowed the players to refresh themselves, both mentally and physically, and that they would be back at work on Monday, preparing for the match against the Roosters on Sunday.
There is no insinuation that the Bulldogs players have done anything wrong, and Warburton seems satisfied that they have utilised the time off productively. Nonetheless, the sight of Bulldogs players soaking up the sun in Queensland during the bye round could spark a new debate within the sport about whether players should be permitted to engage in other non-sporting activities during their break.