Embattled Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo has been grilled amid claims of unrest at the club and reports a player out quit over a training punishment.
Ciraldo faced the media on Wednesday morning and what challenged on range of issues including the Bulldogs’ culture and his gruelling training session, which have reportedly alienated some players.
It comes a day after The Daily Telegraph reported an unnamed player walked out on the club after being forced to wrestle 12 teammates as punishment for turning up late.
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Questioned about the incident, Ciraldo said the issue was “sensitive” and he declined to comment on it, but wasn’t afraid to air some harsh truths around the current Bulldogs’ culture.
When asked by one reporter if there has been a cultural problem at the club, Ciraldo was honest and defended punishment methods that have been used at the Bulldogs this season, noting that no player has expressed concerns to him.
“There’s a lot of people doing a lot of hard work here and the players got better and better with training as the year goes on and some guys have exceeded expectations but to comment on every player’s attitude, I couldn’t comment on that,” Ciraldo said.
“We’ve been losing. The culture isn’t exactly right. The system is only one part of the result from the weekend. The main part of the result is the culture and that’s something we’ve worked really on.
“We’ve probably uncovered a lot more to that culture and reasons for where we are where we are and we’ll continue to work hard at that.
“At different times we wanted to put some standards in place and obviously if you are late, we have to do something about that.
“We are trying to drive standards. We want to have winning performance standards and a lot of that is around individual responsibilities.
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“We’ve gone through a range of different ways of talking about holding standards, some of it has been monetary related, some of it has been spinning a wheel and then some of it has been ways to change behaviours.
“The reality is, we need to change behaviours here and I think we’ve done a good job of that throughout the season and we’ll continue to find ways.”
“Every group goes through times where your standards are challenged and ours are being challenged at certain times but yeah, we are trying to create winning standards here.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reported earlier in the week that Bulldogs players had sent around a text message with concerns about the length of training sessions. Among the reported grievances was specifically around requirements on being available to train from 8am to 5.30pm.
Ciraldo admitted that “hard work” were part and parcel of being in the NRL and said there were longer days at his previous club of Penrith.
“It’s the NRL, nothing comes without hard work. It is what this club is built on and work ethic and that’s what drew me to this club and what we are trying to instill back into this place,” Ciraldo said.
“We have one long day a week and if you get the last massage, you are probably leaving at 5:30… The days are longer at the place I was at previously.
“We have a Jersey Flegg group coming in at 5am to do weights, go and work for 10 hours and then come back and train at 5:30 in the afternoon. That’s a long day and the way those guys are going about to business, they are future Bulldogs and players we can build the club around.”
Ciraldo was asked about his time at Penrith and how far the Bulldogs need to go to reach the culture of the 2021 and 2022 premiers.
“Yeah a lot further,” Ciraldo said.
“We need to continue with the process we are on and that’s holding winning standards. That didn’t happen overnight, it was a hard process but over there but the players bought in, they trusted in the process and got good rewards for it.”
The coach is in the first year of a five-year deal with the Bulldogs, and while it hasn’t been the ideal first season, Ciraldo doesn’t regret taking the job.
“No, I’m glad I’m here. I’m glad this isn’t happening in 12 months time. We need to go through this right now to know who is going to come on the journey moving forward and I’m glad we are doing it now,” he said.
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