NRL News: Ciraldo defends trainer over Topine’s $4m wrestling lawsuit, DCE backs judiciary reform for cleanskins


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 kicked off 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.”

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

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

“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.”

DCE wants greater dispensation for cleanskins

Daly Cherry-Evans says he will back any push for cleanskins to receive greater dispensation at the NRL judiciary after narrowly avoiding the first ban of his career.

Cherry-Evans successfully downgraded his grade-two dangerous throw charge at the judiciary on Tuesday night, turning a three-match ban into a $750 fine.

It means the Manly halfback will be free to face Canberra on Friday night, while he also remains in contention for a maiden Dally M Medal.

But Sea Eagles players were left miffed this week as to why Cherry-Evans’ record was not taken into account when it came to any potential ban. Cherry-Evans had been charged only once previously in 2018 during his 357 matches for Manly, Queensland and Australia, and never banned.

Under NRL rules players will receive a discount on fines for grade-one offences if they have not committed an offence in the previous three years. But that dispensation does not carry across into calculating suspensions for grade-two or grade-three offences, such as Cherry-Evans’ initial charge.

Haumole Olakau’atu was put on report and sent to the sin bin for this dangerous tackle on Shaun Lane.

???? Watch #NRLManlyEels on ch.502 or stream on Kayo:

— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 26, 2024

It meant in the eyes of the judicial code Cherry-Evans’ history was equal to that of Taane Milne, who last week copped his fifth charge in 20 months.

Judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew reminded panel members on Tuesday they were judging solely on Cherry-Evans’ dangerous throw charge, and his clean record should have no impact on the result.

But the Manly captain said he would support any change to the system to take into account a clean record over a long period of time. “I’m sure when the time is right the NRL will look at it, but I would definitely be an advocate for it,” Cherry-Evans said after his hearing.

“It didn’t really concern me about having a blemish on the record (now), it was more around fighting for what we thought was a fair grading.

“We genuinely felt like there was a fair case to come here and get it downgraded, and that proved to be the case.”

Cherry-Evans’ comments come after teammates Tom Trbojevic, Jake Trbojevic and Luke Brooks all made similar arguments on Monday.

The NRL has previously placed more emphasis on a player’s history when considering suspensions, but that was deemed as too confusing by critics.

Manly second-rower Haumole Olakau’atu will still miss two matches for his role in the same two-man tackle on Lane, during Manly’s win last Friday night.

In the 83-minute hearing, Cherry-Evans and his legal team successfully argued it was Olakau’atu who lifted Lane up and put the Eels forward in a dangerous position.

Cherry-Evans did concede he contributed to the situation, but only by trying to knock Lane off balance with the same tackle technique used throughout his career.

The No.7’s lawyer, Nick Ghabar, then claimed Cherry-Evans would have needed “superhuman strength” to stop the tackle from going pear-shaped.

“I genuinely don’t believe I could have helped mitigate the risk of what was happening in that tackle,” Cherry-Evans told the panel.

with AAP

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