Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo says he is trying to ‘change behaviours’ and ‘drive standards’ at the battling NRL club after revelations a fringe first grader walked out after he was punished for being late to training.
The club launched an investigation into the treatment of the un-named player who was allegedly made to wrestle more than a dozen teammates for being late.
The Rugby League Players Association is also investigating the incident that happened five weeks ago amid reports about player discontent surrounding first-year coach Ciraldo.
On Wednesday, Ciraldo said it was a ‘sensitive issue’ and ‘wouldn’t go into the specifics’ – but was adamant player-driven punishments for being late were part of the lift in standards needed at the Bulldogs.
Ciraldo denied there was mass pushback from the playing group and said it was his job to fix a culture which ‘is not right’ after several mediocre seasons.
Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo remains adamant he is trying to ‘change behaviours’ and ‘drive standards’ at the battling NRL club
Ciraldo’s fighting words follow revelations a fringe first grader walked out after he was punished for being late to training
‘I don’t want to comment specifically, but at different times we have wanted to put some standards in place and obviously if you’re late we have to do something,’ he said.
‘We are trying to drive standards. We want to have winning performance standards and a lot of that is around individual responsibilities and we have to hold those standards.’
The fighting words comes as a second player, utility back Braidon Burns, expressed his own concerns Ciraldo’s methods following a recent training session.
Believed to be seeking an opportunity in the English Super League for 2024 and beyond, Burns could not complete a series of drills due to a hamstring injury – and along with his manager Allan Gainey, later relayed his thoughts on Ciraldo to general manager Phil Gould.
Ciraldo said physical punishment for a drop in standards was one of many penalties and he would continue to push the players as a way to ‘change’ behaviours.
‘We’ve gone through a range of different ways of talking about holding standards,’ he said.
‘Some of that has been monetary (fines), others have been spinning a wheel and others trying to find ways to change behaviours.
Utility back Braidon Burns (pictured left) expressed his own concerns about Ciraldo’s methods to football boss Phil Gould following a recent training session
‘The reality is we need to change behaviours here. I think we have done a good job of that throughout the season and we will continue to find ways to change behaviours to winning behaviours.’
Speaking on the Six Tackles with Gus podcast, Gould stated the player in question trained for a week following the wrestling incident – and then requested leave.
‘This is one of those [situations] where as a club, we need to be very measured in our response, because there are some very sensitive matters at stake here,’ he said.
‘It’s just too sensitive to be giving details about what did or didn’t occur.
‘We are certainly very mindful of the mental health and welfare of the player involved, and there is a lot of sensitivity around that.
‘We’ve been waiting on some reports from medical people which we now have in our possession. ‘Our priority is the welfare of the player, it’s as simple as that. ‘
Despite a heavy recruitment drive, the Bulldogs won’t play finals this year (pictured right, departing prop Tevita Pangai Junior)
It comes as the Bulldogs limp to the end of a disastrous season that has returned just seven wins following the appointment of Ciraldo and the arrival of highly touted recruits Reed Mahoney and Viliame Kikau.
Ciraldo said the clamp down on behaviours, amid player complaints of long days at the club, was key to turning a poor season into a successful one.
‘Nothing comes without hard work, we have one long day a week and if you get the last massage you’re probably leaving at 5.30pm,’ Ciraldo said.
‘The days were longer at the place I was previously [Penrith].
‘Nobody has come to me and complained about long days, we’ve got a Jersey Flegg (under 21s) group who do weights at 5am, work for 10 hours and come back and do field at 5.30pm.
‘We’ve got a leadership group that we meet with every week and you’d like to think if there was some unrest that those guys would have brought it up.’