Cameron Ciraldo responds after ugly new claims emerge about Phil Gould at Bulldogs

Fresh reports have emerged about the Bulldogs supremo's growing influence over the coach.

Cameron Ciraldo has brushed off suggestions he's losing his power at the Bulldogs, amid reports of Canterbury supremo Phil Gould's growing influence on the team. Ciraldo's side have lost three of their opening four matches and sit in a lowly 14th on the NRL ladder, with their sole victory coming against the winless Titans.

The Bulldogs brought in a raft of new faces this season in what has become a common theme under Gould's tenure as GM of Football at the club. So far, the new recruits have failed to have the desired effect at the success-starved Dogs, with a lack of firepower in the halves and middle forwards frequently cited by critics as the biggest concerns.

Pictured left to right are Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo and club supremo Phil Gould.
Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo has brushed off reports he's losing control of the footy side to club supremo Phil Gould. Pic: Getty

Canterbury were the worst defensive side in the NRL in 2023 and despite their lack of wins so far in 2024, Ciraldo looks to have tightened them up in that area considerably this year. Even still, reports have emerged this week that Gould has been spotted exerting more and more influence at Canterbury training, with the situation being compared to what happened with former Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett before he was ultimately axed.

Barrett's time as Bulldogs coach only lasted from 2021 until 2022, and like Ciraldo he was a former assistant at the Panthers before being poached by Gould to lead the Dogs. Speaking on NRL 360 on Wednesday night, co-host Paul Kent said he'd heard talk that Gould had "already started to move in and take over" and that Ciraldo was "losing his power at the club".

Cameron Ciraldo brushes off claims about Phil Gould

There's mounting claims that Gould is now picking the Bulldogs team for Ciraldo following a handful of changes to the 17-man squad for Friday night's clash with the Roosters. But Ciraldo scoffed at any such suggestion and said while he and Gould often disagreed on footy matters, their relationship was a "healthy" one that had been fostered through years of working alongside one another.

On the left is Cameron Ciraldo and former Canterbury coach Trent Barrett on the right.
Cameron Ciraldo's NRL coaching tenure at the Bulldogs has been compared to that of former Canterbury coach Trent Barrett. Pic: Getty

"Me and Gus have robust conversations nearly every day," Ciraldo said. "We agree on some things, we disagree on a lot of things but that's the relationship we have that's been built over 10 or 12 years," he said in reference to their previous time together at the Panthers.

"What's good about it is we can have those disagreements then talk two hours later and get on with it. We've got a good relationship. I wouldn't have come here if we didn't. If we're going to agree on everything, then what's the point of us being here? It's healthy disagreements, like in any trusting relationship."


Bulldogs make number of changes for Roosters clash

Some of the changes to the Bulldogs' 17 for the match against the Roosters are injury-enforced ones, with Jacob Preston (broken jaw) and Josh Addo-Carr (concussion) replaced in the run-on side by Josh Curran and Blake Wilson. Prop Liam Knight has been benched with Sam Hughes handed his first start, while Kitione Kautoga earns a club debut from the interchange. Ciraldo is adamant that the final say on team selection rests with him.

"If (Gould) was doing it, I'd make him have the tough conversations with the blokes we're dropping," Ciraldo quipped. "Talking to Gus is like talking to your dad. Sometimes he's got a point and you walk away and go, 'He makes sense there'. Sometimes I disagree and he trusts me and the way we're going."

One of the major talking points around the Bulldogs so far this season has been their halves combination, with questions around former Roosters utility Drew Hutchison's credentials as a No.7. But both Ciraldo and Roosters coach Trent Robinson have insisted that Hutchison has the game to be described as a "genuine" halfback.

The Dogs also have former Gold Coast playmaker Toby Sexton waiting in the wings but Ciraldo is comfortable with Hutchison for the time being as his first-choice No.7. "Drew's our halfback right now and we're backing him," the Bulldogs coach said.

with AAP