NRL News: Bulldogs board to ‘vigorously defend’ Topine $4m wrestling claim, Trindall ban won’t derail Sharks


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.

Jackson Topine. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

“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.

“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.”

Trindall ban won’t derail Sharks, says Hynes

Nicho Hynes insists Cronulla’s season will not be derailed by Braydon Trindall’s driving charges, as the Sharks prepare for time without their in-form five-eighth.

Trindall remained absent from Cronulla training on Wednesday, after he allegedly failed drug and alcohol tests while driving on an expired licence on Monday.

The 24-year-old continues to await the results of a secondary sample of his drug test, after cocaine is believed to have been found in his system.

Cronulla players have reached out to Trindall, who allegedly returned a breath-analysis reading of more than double the legal limit at 0.124.

Trindall is due to face court on May 17, but at this stage there is no timeline set on his NRL return.

Sitting first on the ladder, the drama has hit the Sharks when they need it least.

Daniel Atkinson will start in an NRL match for the first time against Canberra, with the 23-year-old only having previously played as a bench utility.

But Hynes, who also spent time training with Atkinson at their former club in Melbourne, was adamant it would not stunt the Sharks’ surge.

“We work so hard to get our club culture to where it is. You want to build a next-man-up mentality at every club, and certainly at this club,” Hynes said. 

“It takes a whole squad to win a premiership or be up there with the top teams in the competition, and to do that you have to create a good culture. 

“You have to have a whole 30-man squad buying in. I feel like we’ve got that squad. We’re buying into what Fitzy (coach Craig Fitzgibbon) believes in. 

“It’s transitioning down to our leaders and into the team. We’ve worked really hard to get to this position, and it’s just going to build character.”

Hynes said he would take on more leadership on the field without Trindall, and try to free up Atkinson to play his own game as much as possible.

But he said his thoughts remained with Trindall, who Hynes believed had given up alcohol at the start of his first season as a first-choice starting half.

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“He’s worked extremely hard this off-season, and the first seven rounds we played in,” Hynes said.

“I think he stayed off the alcohol and stopped partying and doing those young things for a good while there.

“Tricky is a really good guy. He knows how to have a good time but when to rein it in as well. 

“He’s usually looking after himself in that capacity. He’s hurting at the moment, and we all are for him too.”

Cronulla captain Cameron McInnes said the club would fight through the adversity, but claimed everyone had to wear Trindall’s charges.

“All of our actions reflect on each other,” McInnes said. “That’s our mindset as a team. If one of us slips up, there’s always something big or small we could have done. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case the other night. Sometimes it’s out of your control.”

with AAP

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