Sam Kasiano now at centre of controversy
Bashful Bulldog and Kiwi-in-waiting Sam Kasiano had another reason to maintain his low profile in the lead-up to Saturday's one-off test with the Kangaroos after he was exposed as a focal point of the club's abusive post-NRL grand final drinking spree.
Australian media reports yesterday identified Kasiano as responsible for unsavoury statements allegedly directed to a female television journalist covering the Bulldogs' ‘Mad Monday' festivities at their Sydney training headquarters 10 days ago, hours after they were beaten by the Melbourne Storm.
Club officials denied the abusive comments were directed to Channel Nine reporter Jayne Azzopardi but said their players would contribute A$30,000 (NZ$37,500) to charity, an act of "contrition" after the club's handling of the affair.
Kaisano, the NRL's prop of the year, was blamed for comments the club insists were misinterpreted by Azzopardi and a cameraman who accompanied her to within ear shot of a group of players.
One phrase broadcast by the network - "I want to punch you in the face" - was, it is understood, uttered by Kasiano as he sung a variation of the nursery rhyme I Love You by children's television character Barney towards centre Josh Morris who was seated nearby dressed as the purple dinosaur.
In defending the club before an Australian Rugby League Commission probe, Bulldogs officials insist the first comment was directed to prop James Graham, who stars in a YouTube clip popular at the club which includes footage of an elderly woman pushing her hand down his pants while he is inside a pub in his native North of England.
Channel Nine and Azzopardi yesterday scoffed at the Bulldogs defence that the comments were part of in-house "sledging" and are adamant they were aimed at 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."
The ARLC agreed with the Bulldogs that some of the comments had not been directed at media, but said the language used was "unquestionably offensive, loud and left open to interpretation".
It also concluded "at least some" players and guests acted in a threatening manner.
Club boss Todd Greenberg apologised to Azzopardi for her hearing the comments but said the parties had "agreed to disagree" over their target.
Kasiano, who is notoriously shy when confronted with media commitments before or after games has been off limits despite being one of three debutants named by coach Stephen Kearney on Tuesday - a reward for the 22-year-old's decision to pledge allegiance to New Zealand over Queensland.
Kasiano, Sam Perrett, Krisnan Inu, Greg Eastwood and Frank Pritchard make up the Bulldogs contingent in the tour party which assembled in Cairns on Sunday.
Interchange forward Eastwood sidestepped inquiries with a firm: "I can't comment on that" when asked if the club was likely to have the traditional wind-down at the end of next season.
Meanwhile, the Kiwis relocated to Townsville yesterday with their only concern being the health of New Zealand Warriors skipper Simon Mannering.
He has been affected by a stomach bug that forced him to pull out of training on Tuesday and he remained at the hotel during yesterday's workout before the team flew south. Medical staff were confident he would be able to start tomorrow.