Bulldogs: Sorry, but you owe us an apology
CHRIS BARRETT AND GLENN JACKSON
The Canterbury Bulldogs will seek an apology from Channel Nine over the Mad Monday fiasco, it has been claimed by major sponsor Gary Johnston.
In a remarkable turn of events, the Jaycar Electronics boss claimed last night that the Bullldogs had uncovered no evidence that any players abused the network's reporter Jayne Azzopardi with obscene comments captured by a Nine camera and microphone while she was stationed outside Belmore Sports Ground following their grand final defeat to Melbourne.
Johnston was criticised heavily last week for his defence of the Bulldogs in the Herald and then on radio 2GB, and yesterday he responded to critics who had contacted him with an email explaining his position. In it he claims Canterbury will ask for an apology from Nine.
The email came as it was revealed that Bulldogs officials held talks with ARL Commission interim chief executive Shane Mattiske yesterday.
Club chief executive Todd Greenberg, chairman Ray Dib and coach Des Hasler met Mattiske at Rugby League Central. While the Bulldogs had prepared an interim report, it had also been agreed officials would meet Mattiske yesterday.
It is believed the Bulldogs provided additional information. Mattiske returned to work officially yesterday after being on annual leave.
The Bulldogs are yet to confirm publicly who made the remarks.
There has been speculation that at least one official was suspected, but the club has refused to comment on who the culprit or culprits were or if they have been identified.
''I think Channel Nine should definitely apologise for what they've done, as far as inflaming a lot of aggravation over what was very little evidence that there was any abusive conversation to the Channel Nine people,'' Johnston said when contacted last night.
''It could have been [directed to] someone inside the building, in fact that's the more likely explanation. ''Channel Nine were secretly recording that conversation without the knowledge of the people inside the building so it was Channel Nine's conceit that assumed that they were talking to [her]. They had no evidence that that conversation was directed to someone on the outside of the building.
''They were stupid for going there in the first place when they weren't invited. Channel Nine are trying to drive something that wasn't there.''
In the letter Johnston writes: ''Canterbury are approaching Channel 9 to seek an apology for the way that Channel 9 has 'conveniently' interpreted this matter. I for one will be surprised if the Dogs get a reply'.''
Johnston also wrote that he was made aware of an audit compiled by a security expert who, he said, had examined, ''ALL of the Channel 9 footage and footage of internal video from the Belmore complex''. He said this had uncovered no evidence of players or staff inside Belmore directing abuse to anyone outside and that the story had been aired with ''nothing to back up Channel 9's assertion that conversation was directed to them''.
Johnston went on to describe apologies made last week by Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg and chairman Ray Dib - who delivered flowers to Azzopardi at Nine - as a ''kneejerk'' reaction.
Among the comments broadcast by Channel 9 were:
❏ ''S--- me off you dumb dog''; and
❏ ''I want to go and punch you in the face.''
Johnston said he was disappointed that his email had been leaked but stood by the information within it.
Nine news director Darren Wick last night told the Sydney Morning Herald: ''Anything that Gary Johnston says is not helpful to the process that we're going through. I have a great deal of faith in Todd Greenberg and the Bulldogs management to resolve this issue.''
Greenberg did not return calls.
- Sydney Morning Herald