Ex-St Helens star misses out on huge honour

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have announced their our newly appointed Leadership Group, which includes two Game Day On-Field Captains and one Club Captain.

The new leadership structure, which consists of a group of six players was announced by Head Coach Cameron Ciraldo this week.

Among the newly appointed leaders, Ray Faitala-Mariner has been honoured as the new Club Captain and been tasked to lead the charge on Club culture alongside teammates Josh Addo-Carr, Viliame Kikau and Max King. As for the Game Day On-Field Captaincy, Ciraldo announced that the skippers post will be shared between newly appointed Co-Captains Reed Mahoney and Matt Burton.

Mahoney, who played junior reps for the Bulldogs and has just returned to the Club in 2023, said he was still trying to process the news:

“I’ve never really been involved in a leadership group before. Cam touched on it when I came that he wanted me to come and give my presence when I turn up, and I took that on board. It took me a while to sort of feel comfortable in that, but I just based everything around my actions and training hard.

“That’s what’s got me to where I am today – working hard,” he said.

Gladly accepting the honour of his new role, there’s no looking back for Reed.

“I am just super excited to be a leader within this Group, and this Club – it’s so powerful. When the Club is going this strong, you don’t want to be a part of any other club. I’m really looking forward to what the Club has in store for the future,” he said.

“We’re all in it together. We’ve got another month or so to go before the season and there’s plenty of work to be done, but it’s been really good, and I am really excited for what’s ahead of us. It’s super exciting for me and I’m just really looking forward to it.”

For Burton, his appointment comes just weeks after signing a new agreement that will see him play on in the blue and white for the long-term future (five years). While it didn’t come as a surprise to his teammates, Matt said the news had caught him off guard:

“I never thought I would have got the opportunity to Captain the side and it’s obviously a really big honour,” he said.

“I am really looking forward to it and it’s great that I’ll have Reed there beside me. It’s new to both of us so it’s going to be a big challenge, but we’re both really looking forward to leading the side.”

While both Reed and Matt are new to the Captaincy role, they don’t need to look far for leadership guidance. With a number of alumni, including ex-Canterbury Skippers Andrew Ryan, Terry Lamb and most recently, Josh Jackson still around the Club and working closely with the team.

“It’s good to have those guys around just to mentor us and you know, if you ever need anything they are always there. It’s good to have them around, I’ve been asking them a few questions here and there, but our main focus right now is getting it right in the pre-season so that when the season comes around, we’re raring to go.

“There’s a whole new vibe around the Club. There’s obviously a lot of new staff and a few new faces around the team but it’s been a great feel around the Club so far and I’m just looking forward to the season.”

The Leadership Group will work directly with Andrew ‘Bobcat’ Ryan in terms of Leadership & Culture development:

“The new structure of leadership came mostly from the staff but as far as the Leadership Group goes, it was all player voted as well,” he said.

“These are players that all lead in their own way naturally. It was a no-brainer to have someone like Ray as the Club Captain with his experience and presence around the Club, just being the person that he is. And now these two guys, Burto [Burton] and Reed in their game day roles, they’ve just been leaders in their own way at training and are both equally in their own right, the right people for the job.”

Now to lead the charge alongside Bobcat, Ray Faitala-Mariner said he knew when Josh Jackson announced his retirement that it was time for him to step up.

“When Jacko [Josh Jackson] retired and obviously being one of the older ones at the Club, I felt like a few boys needed to step up – there are big shoes to fill for Josh Jackson – so I thought I will be one of those boys to step up.

“I knew we had a young crew coming through and because I really love the Club and what they’ve done for me, I thought the best way to give back is to be a leader in my own way and be true to myself.”

Ray had a tough season in 2022, suffering a few setbacks as a result of injury. But despite being sidelined for most of the season, he persevered to get back on the field and reached a 100-game milestone in September.

This seasons Club Captaincy came as a total surprise to the resilient and loyal Bulldog:

“I wasn’t expecting it all. It’s surreal only because I just got back from my injury but that was a blessing by disguise in a way. It’s helped me to build patience, character, and resilience, and it’s helped me to be more grateful and just appreciate the little things.

“Now that I’ve been given this responsibility, I feel that hardship that I went through has kind of shaped my heart and prepared my heart for this role – even though it’s out of my comfort zone, I know my heart is in the right place because of the hardship and suffering that I went through.”

When it comes to helping the Club cultivate culture in 2023, Ray is looking to put some wise words into action:

“My Dad has always said to me, ‘lead from the back’ meaning to always humble yourself and just serve.

“The culture here is mad. It’s mad because it didn’t just come from the coaches, from the staff, it came from the players. It was cool how Ciro [Ciraldo] gave us the ownership and responsibility to come up with our own purpose and our own values, and because it’s come from us it’s now up to us to live up to that standard and to apply that culture in everything that we do.

“It’s good and all the boys are buying into it. The big thing is togetherness, and to achieve that we need to stay connected and trust one another.”

Many tipped former St Helens star and England international Luke Thompson to feature in this leadership group so it is a bit of a surprise to see him left out.

That said, questions seem to be constantly raised about his future at the Bulldogs, even this off-season.

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