YouTube clip at heart of Bulldogs' defence

CHRIS BARRETT
Last updated 13:30 10/10/2012
James Graham
MICK TSIKAS/Fairfax Australia
DOG DAY: Suspended prop James Graham at the now-infamous Canterbury Bulldogs Mad Monday celebrations.

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A YouTube video featuring Bulldogs forward James Graham and an elderly lady dancing in a pub was a bizarre central feature of Canterbury's defence to the Australian Rugby League Commission over allegations of Mad Monday misconduct.

It was announced yesterday that the Bulldogs, including players, would give a total of $30,000 to a charity out of ''contrition toward their handling'' of the affair but there was no definitive resolution about who said what and to who at Belmore Sports Ground nine days ago.

As first reported by the Herald a Canterbury investigation determined that none of the obscene comments recorded and broadcast by Channel Nine was directed towards the network's reporter Jayne Azzopardi, who was positioned with a crew outside the training facility on the day after the grand final.

It was a conclusion vehemently disputed by Nine and Azzopardi, who reject the view that Bulldogs players made the comments as part of in-house ''sledging'' and are adamant they were aimed at her.

The ARLC fell somewhere in the middle, believing at least one and possibly two of the offensive remarks were directed at media, although not necessarily at Azzopardi, while a third phrase was almost certainly said between players. No players were officially identified as being involved but it can be revealed that:

❏ Canterbury, in their defence, produced a YouTube video well-known at the club showing Graham in a pub in England dancing playfully with an elderly lady, who at one point places her hand in the back of his pants. Nine had reported an unidentified player saying on Mad Monday: ''There are some ladies here to stick their heads in your pants''. The Bulldogs argued Graham, nicknamed ''Bupa'', was being teased by a teammate and what was actually said was: ''Hey Bupa, there are no old ladies here to stick their hands down your pants''.

❏ The Bulldogs believed the statement ''S--k me off you dumb dog'' was a continuation of that internal conversation, as another of Graham's nicknames is ''Dog'', owing to the way he rises to play the ball in games and;

❏ The third phrase broadcast - ''I want to punch you in the face'' - was, it is understood, uttered by front-rower Sam Kasiano as he sung a variation of the nursery rhyme I Love You by children's television character Barney.

Centre Josh Morris was seated nearby dressed in a Barney costume.

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An ARLC statement agreed some of the comments had not been directed at media but added that language was used that was ''unquestionably offensive, loud and left open to interpretation.'' The governing body also concluded that ''at least some'' players and guests acted in a threatening manner.

Azzopardi said last night there was no doubt the comments were intended for her. ''Initially the abuse was directed at our cameraman but when I arrived it became more vulgar and offensive and sexual and directed at me,'' she told Nine. ''I just don't think any woman should have to put up with that and I don't think any man should think it's OK to say those things.

''There was no one else there apart from two cameramen and myself. The windows were open ... We didn't hear anything else other than this abuse so it was clearly directed for us to hear.''

Club boss Todd Greenberg apologised to Azzopardi for her hearing the comments but said the parties had ''agreed to disagree'' over their target. The club sought an apology from Nine's David Gyngell and Jeff Brown over how the matter was reported.

''It is clear that there were a number of inaccuracies in the media reporting but the players are gutted and are deeply concerned that language used within the room has been interpreted as having been directed to the media,'' said Greenberg, who admitted the Bulldogs could have handled the incident better. "There was a lot of sledging going on between the players and they used language that was inappropriate.''

ARLC interim chief Shane Mattiske said: "Regardless of ... who the statements were directed towards the language used was offensive, threatening and open to interpretation by anyone in hearing range.

''Calling something 'Mad Monday' is almost an excuse to go over the top and it is time for clubs across all levels of the game to seriously review how end of year celebrations are planned."

- Sydney Morning Herald

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