Canterbury winger Josh Addo-Carr has defended rookie coach Cameron Ciraldo and the culture at the club after weeks of turmoil and negative headlines around the embattled NRL side. Concerns over overly strict training methods from Ciraldo were placed under the microscope after a fringe Bulldogs squad member took mental-health leave after being made to wrestle a long line of teammates as punishment for arriving late to training.
Ciraldo has made no apologies for his tough approach to training and has been praised by Bulldogs general manager of football Phil Gould for his high levels of discipline. Widespread reports also emerged that Bulldogs players were divided over the wrestling punishment, training loads and the length of the club's work days, sparking an angry response from club great Willie Mason, who labelled dissenting players "soft as s**t" on his podcast.
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Ciraldo says he is keen to fix a culture that "is not right" at the club, which is set to undergo another player shake-up ahead of the 2024 season. Mason said Ciraldo was going to "weed out" the players who didn't aim up for him, with the Bulldogs coach indicating he was only keen on retaining players who wanted to adapt to his demands.
Josh Addo-Carr throws support behind coach Cameron Ciraldo
Addo-Carr - who joined the club ahead of the 2022 season - admitted they fell short of expectations after finishing 15th in Ciraldo's rookie season as head coach. However, the 28-year-old threw his support behind the former Panthers assistant and the methods and culture he's trying to instil at Belmore.
“We are working hard behind the scenes on and off the field. Our mental game, our performances on the training paddock and obviously our results on the weekend," Addo-Carr told fox sports.com.au. “But we are in good hands with Cam, Gus and all the coaching staff that are involved. We definitely work our backsides off and that’s it.”
The Kangaroos World Cup-winning winger took aim at critics for judging the besieged club from the outside looking in, but says what they don't see is how connected the players are within the squad. Addo-Carr said as one of the club's big-money signings and senior players that it's up to him to be a driving force for the standards set at the club and that Ciraldo has been central to that.
“Standards, professionalism, how we prepare. I’ve really taken that on board from him (Ciraldo),” Addo-Carr added. “He’s been driving that (mentality), Cam is doing a wonderful job. People don’t see that from the outside but all the players and staff do, and he’s an even better bloke.”
Phil Gould backs hard-edged approach from Cameron Ciraldo
Addo-Carr's comments come after Gould also defended his rookie coach amid accusations against Ciraldo that his training methods were too demanding and divisive within the playing group. "Cameron Ciraldo has at all times defended his coaching style and the type of training that we're doing at the Bulldogs, and we all support that wholeheartedly," Gould said.
"It's a club that's prided itself on hard work and hard (work) ethic. We want to instil those values and instil that training and work ethic and it gets hard for some and it gets too hard for others.
"The ones that come out the other side are the ones you want to build your club around and it's as simple as that. They all work extremely hard (and) it's good to know now that the public understands how hard they work because at times when you watch us play, you wonder whether or not they did."
The Bulldogs' squad with have a new look about it in 2024 with Stephen Crichton, Blake Taaffe, Jaeman Salmon and Bronson Xerri all set to join and Gould suggesting more will follow them through the door at Belmore. Names such as Kurt Mann, Drew Hutchison, Jake Turpin and Poasa Faamausili have also been linked with a move to Canterbury for next season.
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