Last drinks: The tough conversation Gus Gould needs to have

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General manager of football Phil Gould is pictured here talking on the phone.
General manager of football Phil Gould has a big job to help restore the glory days to the Bulldogs. Pic: Getty

OPINION

Sponsorships are hard to come by in rugby league.

When you get a good one, you'll do just about everything to hold onto them.

Most sponsors are happy to sit at arm's length and let administrators administrate, coaches coach and players play.

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As long as their parking spot at the ground is secure, the corporate box doesn't run out of grog and there are no off-field dramas, the sponsor is not seen and heard too often.

Then there are the likes of Arthur Laundy, the billionaire pub baron whose hotel group is pumping millions into the Canterbury Bulldogs.

“I intend to become very involved,” Laundy declared when he was confirmed as the club's major sponsor last year.

And he's been true to his word.

In just over 12 months, Laundy has threatened to withdraw his sponsorship over a boardroom skirmish, labelled the Panthers 'selfish" for not releasing Matt Burton to the Dogs early and involved himself in player recruitment.        

How much influence should you allow a sponsor just because he's helping pay the bills?

Where does a sponsor's influence start and end?

The bosses at Canterbury might want to ask themselves this question after Laundy launched into the club for sacking Adam Elliott.

Laundy told the Daily Telegraph's Phil Rothfield: "I've told the club I'm extremely disappointed. I don't like kicking a person when they're down."

Canterbury won three games in 2021. It was one of the worse performances by a club in the NRL era.

Trent Barrett is fighting for his coaching life and knows he will be gone if the blue and whites don't at least threaten the top eight next year. 

They are desperately trying to turn their fortunes around, picking up some key player signings and appointing the astute Phil Gould as general manager.

The Dogs have identified discipline – on and off the field – as one of the key ingredients to the planned revival and are demanding buy-in from the players.

Seen here, Adam Elliott in action for Canterbury before his sacking by the Bulldogs.
Adam Elliott's sacking left Canterbury's major sponsor a little miffed. Pic: Getty

Elliott's impromptu rendezvous with Millie Boyle in cubicle three at the White Rhino is not what they’re looking for.

This was a third alcohol-related strike against Elliott and he simply had to go otherwise Canterbury's cultural re-build is founded on sand.

Some are calling it a "convenience sacking" to free up salary cap money, but why give your bosses the chance to give you the bullet when your rap sheet is so bad?

Laundy argued Elliott deserved a fourth chance, saying the forward's indiscretions were more stupid than criminal.

Gus might want to remind Laundy that while his financial support is appreciated, bagging the club publicly is not.  

Back on the prowl

Two days on from the bizarre Ivan Cleary press conference and it's still hard to fathom what the Penrith coach was getting at following the Panthers' loss to South Sydney.

Was it a genuine shot at Wayne Bennett? An attempt to deflect from Penrith's flat performance? A failure to engage brain before opening mouth moment? 

Whatever it was, you can bet it won't happen again.

The Panthers boss is filthy with himself for going down that road and won't get caught up in mind games again.

Pictured here, rival NRL coaches Ivan Cleary and Wayne Bennett speak to the media.
Rival coaches Ivan Cleary and Wayne Bennett continued to trade barbs after Saturday night's NRL finals match. Pic: AAP

Cleary will need to harness all his coaching smarts to keep Penrith on track from here.

They will be expected to bounce back and beat the Eels, setting up a preliminary final showdown with Melbourne.

It's not the way they wanted to do it but it may be what they needed.

The Panthers have been coasting for weeks, waiting for the finals to start.

When they did start, they couldn't push the go button and were subdued by a well-drilled and focused South Sydney.

Knowing their season is on the edge of oblivion could be the kick-start Penrith needed.  

Spreading the word     

A rugby league highlights reel featuring Australia's latest NFL star Jordan Mailata is attracting plenty of interest from Americans wanting to know more about the Philadelphia Eagles' left tackle.

The vision of Mailata steamrolling opposition players in the under-20s a few years ago has attracted close to two million views and only enhanced his reputation in the eyes of NFL fans.

The 24-year-old former Rabbitohs junior has signed a four-year deal worth a guaranteed $US40m – or around six times an NRL club's annual salary cap. 

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