Bulldogs board vow to defend club in Topine civil case

Scott Bailey and Jasper Bruce |

Jackson Topine (top) has reportedly begun legal action action NRL club Canterbury.
Jackson Topine (top) has reportedly begun legal action action NRL club Canterbury.

Canterbury’s board have vowed to “vigorously defend” themselves against a $4 million civil case from former player Jackson Topine, amid claims he suffered a psychiatric injury while at the NRL club.

The Bulldogs board met on Wednesday night, one day after Topine’s legal team submitted a statement of claims to the NSW Supreme Court against the Belmore outfit. 

At the heart of the issue remains a session last July when Topine claims he was forced to wrestle up to 35 teammates each in quick succession.

In the statement of claims seen by AAP,  Topine’s legal representatives say he was directed to do so by Bulldogs high-performance manager Travis Touma, as a result of being eight to 10 minutes late for a 90-minute wrestling session.

In the statement, Topine’s legal team say the punishment was “unlawful” and a breach of procedural fairness, amounting to corporal punishment.

Topine will also claim he suffered “psychiatric injury, deprivation of liberty, humiliation, indignity, physical exhaustion, physical discomfort, anxiety, embarrassment and fear” as a result of the session.

Topine has not added to his 16 NRL games since the incident and the statement of claims says he has “suffered ongoing incapacity to play the game”.

It also says the Bulldogs should not have stopped paying his wages last November, with the fallout impacting the 22-year-old’s ability to play elsewhere beyond this year.

The case is expected to be heard in the NSW Supreme Court in June with Topine pursuing up to $4 million in damages based on the average wage of players across a career span.

Canterbury moved to defend their handling of player welfare on Wednesday, while the club also stated they would deny some of Topine’s claims.

“The board unanimously agreed that it would vigorously defend the club and its employee Travis Touma against the claim lodged today by a former player,” chairman Adam Drussi said on Wednesday night. 

“The club will be making no further comments at this time.”

Topine’s legal team also claim he required assistance standing and walking afterwards, but Touma told teammates not to “congratulate or help him”.

The Rugby League Players’ Association are also monitoring the situation, while not directly involved in the civil case.

“We have engaged with Jackson and his management in relation to his wellbeing and contractual rights and entitlements, and they are aware of the support available from the RLPA,” an RLPA spokesman told AAP. 

“If there are alleged breaches of the CBA and NRL Rules, we would expect those to be investigated by the NRL in accordance with the CBA and NRL Rules. 

“To the best of our knowledge, there has been no formal investigation by the NRL into Jackson’s issue.”

It comes as Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson launched a defence of his long-time confidant in Touma on Wednesday.

Touma is one of the NRL’s most experienced head trainers, winning three premierships under Robinson at the Roosters before moving to South Sydney in 2022 and Canterbury in 2023.

He remains employed by the Bulldogs under Cameron Ciraldo this year.

“Travis is a very experienced trainer and a really outstanding person,” Robinson said on Wednesday.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson
Roosters coach Trent Robinson (pic) has spoken out in defence of trainer Travis Touma. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

“His care factor is as high as I’ve seen in any staff member at any club I’ve been involved with. 

“I can’t speak to the incident, but I know who Travis is and the quality of the person he is and the care that he has for his players.”