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The Bulldogs' short memories – among other things – on show at Mad Monday

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5th September, 2018
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If those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, Canterbury may as well change their team name to the Goldfish.

How did no one at this club realise that, when it comes to Mad Monday, they have perhaps the largest target on their back of any team in the NRL?

As a result, while they didn’t really hurt anyone, and there is an argument that splashing photos of the Dogs’ players nude, passed out and vomiting in the street was grubby journalism, how else did they think such actions were going to play out?

Where were the leaders on Monday? Did no one stand up and say, “Fellas, remember all those other times our proud club has been dragged through the mud in the past? Maybe put your dick away.”

Really, you’d think someone would only need to read the first part of that particular riot act – how do grown men think it’s a good idea to get totally nude in a pub (which, just for the record, is shorthand for ‘public house’ – it may have been a private event but it was in a place that is, by definition, public).

But that first aspect is what must be most disappointing for anyone who has been at the organisation for 15 or more years.

In 2004, the Bulldogs’ salary cap issues from 2002 were well and truly put in the shade when six players were alleged to have raped a 20-year-old woman during a pre-season trip to Coffs Harbour.

Nothing came of the incident in a legal sense, with a local cop saying in 2015, “The evidence indicated the woman had fabricated this complaint of gang rape and was fully supporting the evidence provided by the Bulldogs players.”

But the club was still left with reputational damage – one that was to stick around for years to come.

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And while the incident occurred when much of the playing group were still children, it could not have been forgotten by long-standing employees of the so-called ‘family club.’

The next incident that should have really stuck in the minds of people at the club – and could not have served as a more apt warning for the idiocy that unfolded on Monday past – involved a Bulldogs player, too much to drink in a bar, semi-nudity, and a member of the public with a phone (AKA any member of the public, because everyone’s got a phone).

In 2007, then-Canterbury star Sonny Bill Williams was photographed in a seriously compromising situation in the Clovelly Hotel men’s bathroom, with Candice Falzon.

Sure, it happened more than a decade ago, but the fact cricket fans in South Africa wore masks of SBW to bait Falzon’s now-husband, David Warner, in this year’s series was a pretty fair reminder of the incident.

And, again, Williams was a Bulldog at the time – the club’s biggest star. Maybe none of the current crop of players were there in 2007, but did no one at head office think about that particular incident when Mad Monday was bring organised?

Perhaps not, perhaps bringing up incidents from the noughties is simply me showing my age.

But is it too much to expect someone to remember a particularly problematic Mad Monday from 2012? On that end-of-season booze-up, Canterbury players were alleged to have yelled vile abuse at Nine reporter Jayne Azzopardi.

While the culprits were never identified – and there were suggestions the whole thing was just a misunderstanding – the NRL handed the club a $30,000 fine over the incident and the playing group all chipped in to cover it.

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That the Bulldogs had not invited the media to that particular celebration, which was held behind closed doors at Belmore, is all the more reason why the club should understand that they’re going to be targeted when they are out in public.

And, again, they couldn’t have been more public! Photos of players passed out and spewing on the footpath shows that a lot of the supposedly offending snaps were totally fair game – again, it’s 2018, everyone’s got a phone and if you’re making a show of yourself in public, it’s going to be captured.

And if you’ve got a public profile, that captured footage is likely to end up in the papers.

And if you play for the Canterbury Bulldogs, you should know that better than anyone – because it’s happened to players at your club multiple times!

Seriously, are we really accosting the Tele for publishing these photos? How about if you don’t want to be subject to gutter journalism, stay out of the gutter – literally, in the case of one barfing Bulldog!

There’s a final addendum to this whole saga, which is the idea that Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.

In 2008, the Bulldogs were reeling from the salary cap saga, the Coffs Harbour incident, Sonny Bill’s toilet tryst, as well as the star’s midnight departure from Belmore to join a French rugby union club.

Canterbury appointed a new CEO that year, and early in his tenure, he went to cancer charity Camp Quality with a proposition – millions of dollars worth of free advertising through the club.

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The charity’s CEO, Simon Rowntree, gave the following response: “Thanks, but no thanks.”

“It was right then that the reality hit home that I was in charge of an organisation that needed some significant repairs to its brand,” the then-CEO told the Daily Telegraph at the end of the 2008 season.

“Camp Quality was just like anyone else. They had formed an opinion from outside looking in…

“Once you talk to members and sponsors, you realise people are still concerned about the salary cap stuff and the off-field incidents. The club has had 73 years of great tradition, but the past seven or eight have tarnished our image.”

As I’m sure you’ve worked out, that particular CEO is now the boss of the whole game, Todd Greenberg.

And while he swears he supports the Kangaroos and not any particular club, he’s still seen as a Canterbury man.

That his request – given to all clubs – for Mad Monday celebrations to stay out of the papers went unheeded must have him seething.

That the club that ended up giving him a mountain of extra work to do is the same club he slogged away at for years trying to fix their off-field image must be all the more frustrating.

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But apparently learning to pull their heads in is a new trick beyond these old Dogs.