BULLDOGS BOMBSHELL: Former Canterbury player Jackson Topine suing club for $4 million over assault claims

Staff Writers
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Jackson Topine, centre,  is suing Canterbury for $4 million.
Jackson Topine, centre, is suing Canterbury for $4 million. Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

A former Canterbury player with less than 20 NRL games under his belt claims he was subjected to corporal-style punishment by the Bulldogs in which he had to wrestle every member of the squad simply because he was late to a training session.

In his $4 million lawsuit Jackson Topine says that the punishment was akin to “assault” and by the end of the gruelling ordeal he needed help “standing and walking”, according to a statement of claim lodged with the NSW Supreme Court this week.

The explosive claims, published by The Australian, are alleged to have happened in July 2023 and orchestrated by a senior trainer at the club working under coach Cameron Ciraldo.

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Canterbury has denied any wrongdoing.

Topine, who had a bright rugby league future ahead after captaining NSW and Australia as a schoolboy, walked out on the club following the incident and has not played rugby league since.

The then 22-year-old claims the punishment was meted out because he was late for a wrestling session at a gym but believed he was not later because he did not need strapping so arrived in time for the wrestling session not the earlier strapping time.

At the end of the 90-minute training session, the senior trainer gathered the 30-plus members of the Bulldogs squad and told them they each had to wrestle Topine and were instructed not to “reduce intensity” and to “jump on him”.

Topine’s lawyer, Abdul Reslan told The Australian all workplaces needed to be safe including “within the contact sports domain”.

The suit claims Topine was detained while being humiliated.

“As a result of completing the performance of all wrestling matchups required under the wrestling direction, (Topine) required assistance in performing limited physical functions, including, standing and walking,” the claim says.

Canterbury told The Australian “that there are a number of allegations that we categorically deny.”

“We take player welfare very seriously and place the best interests and welfare of our players and staff as our number one priority.

“As we do take mental health concerns very seriously and given the appropriate sensitivities that should be ­applied in matters concerning mental health, the club will not be making any comment at this time on any of the ­individuals at the centre of the allegations.”

One of Topine’s teammates said: “It wasn’t wrestling, it was humiliation.”

While another said: “He was rooted. It was like flogging a dead horse.”

Jackson Topine had played only 16 games for Canterbury before he says he was ‘detained’ during a wrestling punishment for being late to training.
Jackson Topine had played only 16 games for Canterbury before he says he was ‘detained’ during a wrestling punishment for being late to training. Credit: Izhar Khan/Getty Images

Reports surfaced last year around player discontent at the Bulldogs over training methods, with former captain Raymond Faitala-Mariner raising them with management before later leaving the club.

At the time, Canterbury general manager Phil Gould backed the hardline stance of coaching staff under Cameron Ciraldo, without referring directly to the Topine incident given he was unnamed at the time.

“We’re the worst team in the competition right now and have been for some time,” Gould said on the Six Tackles With Gus podcast last August.

“The coach (Ciraldo) and the staff are certainly making no apologies for the intensity with which they train.”

Ciraldo also said last August that punishments had been dished out during his tenure, with the club desperate to turn things around after last playing finals in 2016.

“Nothing comes without hard work. We have one long day a week and if you get the last massage you’re probably leaving at 5.30pm,” Ciraldo said at the time.

“The days were longer at the place I was previously (at Penrith).

“One thing that won’t change is my attitude towards hard work and understanding that’s what’s going to get us to where we need to go.

“If there are people that don’t want to work hard and don’t want to tick every box to win NRL games then they don’t have to be here.”

Topine claims the injuries suffered from the wrestling punishment meant he was unable to continue playing and when the Bulldogs stopped paying him in 2023 they had breached his contract.

The lawsuit claims Topine suffered “psychiatric injury, deprivation of liberty, humiliation, indignity, physical exhaustion, physical discomfort, anxiety, embarrassment and fear” leading to the loss of his employment.


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