Cameron Ciraldo defends Bulldogs’ punishments after star left club because he was forced to wrestle 12 teammates – as coach reveals club’s other bizarre disciplinary measure
Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo says he is trying to ‘change behaviour’ and ‘raise standards’ at the embattled NRL club after a fringe first division club was revealed to have walked out after being chastised for being late to training.
The club launched an investigation into the treatment of the unnamed player who reportedly had to struggle with more than a dozen teammates for arriving late.
The Rugby League Players Association is also looking into the incident that took place five weeks ago, amid reports of player dissatisfaction with first-year coach Ciraldo.
On Wednesday, Ciraldo said it was a “sensitive issue” and “would not go into details” – but he was convinced player-imposed late penalties were part of the raising of standards needed by the Bulldogs.
Ciraldo denied there was any massive opposition from the squad, saying his job was to restore a culture that was “not right” after several mediocre seasons.
Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo remains adamant he is trying to ‘change behaviour’ and ‘raise standards’ at embattled NRL club
Ciraldo’s fight words follow revelations that a fringe first-class student walked out after being punished for being late to practice
“I don’t want to comment specifically, but at different times we’ve wanted to introduce some standards and if you’re late, obviously we have to do something,” he said.
“We are trying to raise standards. We want to have winning performance standards and a lot of that has to do with individual accountability and we have to live up to those standards.”
The fighting words come as a second player, returning Braidon Burns, expressed his own concerns about Ciraldo’s methods after a recent workout.
Supposedly looking for a chance in England’s Super League for 2024 and beyond, Burns was unable to complete a series of drills due to a hamstring injury – and along with his manager Allan Gainey later shared his thoughts on Ciraldo with general manager Phil Gould.
Ciraldo said physical punishment for lowering standards was one of many punishments and that he would continue to push the players as a way to “change” behavior.
“We’ve talked about sticking to standards in different ways,” he said.
“Some of that has been monetary fines, others have spun a wheel, and still others have tried to find ways to change behavior.
Utility back Braidon Burns (pictured left) expressed his own concerns about Ciraldo’s methods to football boss Phil Gould after a recent training session
“The reality is that we have to change behavior here. I think we’ve been doing that well all season and we’ll continue to find ways to turn behavior into winning behavior.”
Speaking of the Six tackles with Gus podcast, Gould stated that the player in question trained for a week after the wrestling incident – and then asked for a leave of absence.
“This is one of those situations where as a club we have to be very moderate in our response because there are some very sensitive issues at stake here,” he said.
“It’s just too sensitive to give details about what did or didn’t happen.
“We are certainly very aware of the mental health and well-being of the player involved, and there is a lot of sensitivity around that.
“We have been waiting for some reports from medical people that we now have in our possession. Our priority is the well-being of the player, it’s as simple as that. ‘
Despite a tough recruiting campaign, the Bulldogs will not play any 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 seen just seven wins following the appointment of Ciraldo and the arrival of acclaimed recruits Reed Mahoney and Viliame Kikau.
Ciraldo said curbing behavior amid complaints from players about long days at the club was key to turning a bad season into a successful one.
“Nothing goes without hard work, we have one long day a week and if you get the last massage you’ll probably leave at 5:30pm,” said Ciraldo.
“The days were longer where I was before (Penrith).
“No one has come to me and complained about long days, we have a Jersey Flegg group (under 21) who do weights at 5am, work 10am and come back to exercise at 5:30pm.
“We have a leadership group that we meet with every week and if there had been any unrest, those guys would have brought it up.”