Bulldogs club captain 'left in the dark' amid brutal news of NRL clear-out

Raymond Faitala-Mariner and his manager have been left 'perplexed' after a crucial bit of news broke before they were informed by the Bulldogs.

Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo.
Raymond Faitala-Mariner has been caught off-guard by a report saying the Bulldogs will allow him to explore a switch to another club next season. Pictures: Getty Images

As the Canterbury Bulldogs' dismal NRL season nears an end, the club appears to be preparing for a large-scale overhaul of their playing list - but their decision to do so has left them somewhat at odds with club captain Raymond Faitala-Mariner. The 29-year-old was caught off-guard after it was reported that he had been given free reign to look for a new club, despite the Bulldogs signing him to a new three-year deal 12 months ago and later appointing him as captain.

Boasting just six wins from 19 games in Cameron Ciraldo's first season as head coach, the club has opted to pursue some high-profile acquisitions. The likes of Gold Coast Titans forward Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Brisbane Broncos prop Payne Haas are reportedly being targeted, while Faitala-Mariner is free to explore his options elsewhere.

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However that came as news to the Bulldogs skipper and his manager, Ernie Santone, who say they have thus far been left in the dark about their newfound freedom. Santone said the report, written by the Daily Telegraph Dean Ritchie and Phil Rothfield, had to have come from club sources, as neither he nor Faitala-Mariner had actually been informed that the club would be willing for him to explore alternative options.

In a follow-up report published on Tuesday, Santone said both of them were 'perplexed' by the news, given it has barely been a year since the extension with the Bulldogs had been signed. That extension would have seen him through to the end of the 2025 season, however his long-term future at the club now remains to be seen.

“I have spoken to Ray and he is in the dark just as much as I am at this stage,” Santone said. “I have had no official contact from Canterbury to say he has permission to leave or talk to other clubs so l am disappointed with all the talk coming out of the club.

“From my point of view, we signed a new three-year contract 12 months ago. So this is all coming from the club because there’s no reason why we would be looking anywhere else, that’s for sure.

“The fact I haven’t been told, one way or the other if it’s true or not, or if there is a denial, I’m a little perplexed by.”

Bulldogs desperate to lift NRL standards amid tiresome season

It comes as Rothfield, speaking about a recent conversation with Ciraldo, said the club was determined the lift the standards at the club after another disappointing campaign. The veteran NRL journalist said Ciraldo was determined to instil the same kind of professionalism he witnessed prior to leaving the Penrith Panthers, who have won the last two NRL premierships.

“I spoke to Cameron today and I think it’s a little culture problem and it’s not just on the football field,” Rothfield said. “Cameron’s come from the Panthers and they are as professional you can get in prep, they turn up, they arrive early and finish late.

Canterbury Bulldogs players converse on field.
The Bulldogs have won just six game so far this season under Cameron Ciraldo. (Photo by Izhar Khan/Getty Images)

“His head of sport science Travis Touma comes from the Roosters and Souths and (those teams) won three comps with Travis, so what Cameron is trying to do is lift Canterbury to how the Roosters did it and how Penrith do it. Most of the players are going along with it but some are struggling.

"They can’t cope with it. They are just not used to the intensity and the demands … I’m hearing that.”

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