Ciraldo defends Bulldogs welfare, character of trainer

Scott Bailey |

Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo (pic) has backed his club amid the Jackson Topine saga.
Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo (pic) has backed his club amid the Jackson Topine saga.

Cameron Ciraldo has launched an impassioned defence of Canterbury’s culture and the character of trainer Travis Touma, amid Jackson Topine’s civil suit against the club.

Topine commenced legal action against the Bulldogs in the NSW Supreme Court last week, citing psychiatric injury after a wrestling session last year.

In the statement of claim, Topine says he was ordered to wrestle up to 35 teammates in quick succession by Touma last July, as punishment for being late to a session.

Canterbury will deny at least some aspects of Topine’s claims, with the back-rower believed to be pursuing close to $4 million in damages.

Ciraldo would not speak specifically about the case on Tuesday for legal reasons, but was adamant the Bulldogs were a club that looked after their players.

“We do as much, if not more, than any other club,” Ciraldo said.

“The number of people that care about the welfare of our players. We do a lot of stuff around cultural activities and understanding each person’s culture.

“I’m very happy with where we’re heading.”

Ciraldo has spoken at length about changing the standards at Canterbury, who have not played in the finals since 2016.

The coach has made no secret of the fact that required players to be pushed, and believed NRL clubs should be viewed different to other workplaces.

“It’s it’s not for everyone, it’s a tough environment,” Ciraldo said.

“It’s a tough game and it’s just different. It’s hard to do and if it wasn’t hard, everyone would be be doing it.

“I’m very comfortable with what we’ve been able to do over 18 months and the people we have been able to bring in.”

Ciraldo also said he stood by Touma, who had landed at the centre of the affair.

Cameron Ciraldo and Travis Touma.
Cameron Ciraldo and Travis Touma watch a Bulldogs NSW Cup game at Belmore in 2023. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

“What we can’t control is reputations, but we can control the character. And Trav is of the highest character,” Ciraldo said.

“He cares about the people he works with. He’s a family man, he lives a very clean life.

“He’s helped develop better players and better people, and that’s why we wanted to bring him to the Bulldogs.

“He fits what we’re trying to do here. It’s not an easy job bringing change to a club and Trav has been a guy that has really helped me in that regard.”

Touma arrived at Canterbury last year from South Sydney, after helping the Sydney Roosters to three premierships last decade.

“It’s no hiding, he demands absolute excellence from all from his players,” Bulldogs half and former Rooster Drew Hutchison said on Tuesday.

“That’s the environment they want to be in. That’s the environment that breeds success.

“Knowing Travis personally, he has nothing but care and respect for everyone in the organisation.”

Meanwhile Ciraldo also refused to rule out a play for Souths half Lachlan Ilias, stating he only just learned he had been given permission to speak to rivals.

“Lachlan’s a really good player and we do have space in our roster to do that in the next few years,” Ciraldo said.

“But we’ve also got a big focus on developing the players we have got from within here.”