NRL boss Andrew Abdo speaks out after major Phil Gould rebuke

Andrew Abdo has cautioned Canterbury Bulldogs general manager Phil Gould over his provocative statements in the media.

Andrew Abdo and Phil Gould.
NRL boss Andrew Abdo says a warning to Phil Gould over his outspoken media commentary was not an attempt to 'silence' him. Pictures: Getty Images

NRL boss Andrew Abdo insists the league is not attempting to silence criticism, after Canterbury Bulldogs general manager Phil Gould was officially warned about his commentary of the game last week. There had been growing discontent among NRL rivals over Gould's conduct, in which he has frequently criticised both league and referee decisions publicly in his dual role as a high-profile media personality for Channel 9.

Opposition clubs had reportedly begun keeping records of Gould's often provocative comments in the media weighing in on refereeing calls, judiciary matters and other disputes relating to the Bulldogs. Gould memorably labelled the NRL's addition of an independent doctor to the Bunker as an 'abomination', despite the move being made to protect players.

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Earlier in the season he slammed the NRL on Channel 9 program 100% Footy after the Bulldogs were forced to included a $200,000 payment to Josh Jackson under the 2023 salary cap, after Jackson retired from the NRL with a year to run on his contract late in 2022. He also criticised the officiating in Canterbury's loss to South Sydney on Good Friday, slamming the decision to sin-bon Jacob Preston for a hip drop tackle.

Gould was formally warned against commenting on matters still subject to decisions by Abdo last week - but has since kept up his criticism, declaring referee Grant Atkins was too 'emotional' after being sworn at by Bulldogs gun Josh Reynolds last weekend.

"My conversation with the Bulldogs was just around registered club officials not breaching the rules," Abdo said. "If there's a matter that's live, for example either a matter that relates to the match review or the judiciary or an integrity matter, the rules don't permit players or officials accredited under those rules to talk openly about it.

"That's what the conversation was about. This is definitely not about silencing anyone in the media. It's important everyone have their opinions.

"You guys (the media) do a great job for us, telling the stories to the fans. This is not about not wanting criticism, this is just about the rules that the NRL has for everyone accredited in the game.

"There's a reason why club officials aren't able to comment when a matter is live because we don't want the perception of that influencing the decision-makers."

NRL rivals upset over Phil Gould 'double standard'

It was reported in mid-April that there was growing discontent among rival NRL clubs about Gould's often outspoken commentary, with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that clubs were questioning why the Bulldogs GM was not being pulled up about some of his commentary.

In his article, SMH reporter Michael Chammas said rival NRL clubs were gearing up to present a swathe of Gould-related evidence to the league should one of their officials be penalised for making comments of their own. The SMH is part of the Channel 9 stable which also employs Gould, with Chammas openly admitting Gould's commentary was a valuable asset to the company.

Phil Gould is seen speaking with reporters.
Phil Gould has come under fire from rival NRL clubs over his outspoken commentary. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

“Rival clubs have been recording the comments, and screenshotting social media posts with the aim of presenting it to the NRL if they try to fine one of their coaches for comments they deem inappropriate,” Chammas wrote.

“The NRL is aware of the angst among the clubs and pressure is mounting on NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo and ARLC chairman Peter V’landys to intervene.”

In the meantime, Gould has turned his attention to the Newcastle Knights after it was revealed the club had approved an overseas holiday for players during the NRL bye, despite having lost their last three games. Newcastle's players were reportedly given nine days off, which has raised eyebrows considering the club sits in 14th on the ladder and has lost the last three games on the spin.

It's understood club Kalyn Ponga stayed in the Hunter to continue training after returning recently from his latest concussion. However, the timing of the Bali trip - coming off the back of Newcastle's chastening 43-12 loss to the Eels in round nine - has left Gould and other league identities questioning the club's decision.

“It might turn out to be the best thing, getting over there with some warm weather and sun on their backs. It might be the answer, I don’t know. And if they come back (and win) they will say it is the answer," he said on the Six Tackles with Gus podcast. “But there’s three byes this year, you do it three times I guarantee it’s not going to help you."

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