'Like talking to your dad': Ciraldo denies Gould rift

Cameron Ciraldo has laughed off claims of a divide between he and Phil Gould, comparing his relationship with the Canterbury football boss to that of a father and son.

The Bulldogs coach said it was only natural the pair could clash on matters such as team selection but that "healthy disagreements" were part of any trusting relationship.

Reports this week that NRL tycoon Gould had been controlling selection decisions followed similar accusations made during Trent Barrett's time leading Canterbury from 2021 until 2022.

Like Barrett, Ciraldo was a young coach poached from Penrith's staff to help lead a turnaround at the success-starved Bulldogs.

Ciraldo said he expected Gould to have an opinion on football matters, and that those conversations could morph into healthy debate.

Phil Gould.
Bulldogs football boss Phil Gould paces the sideline during an NRL game.

"Me and Gus have robust conversations nearly every day," Ciraldo said.

"We agree on some things, we disagree on a lot of things but that's the relationship we have that's been built over 10 or 12 years.

"What's good about it is we can have those disagreements then talk two hours later and get on with it.

"We've got a good relationship. I wouldn't have come here if we didn't.

"If we're going to agree on everything, then what's the point of us being here? It's healthy disagreements, like in any trusting relationship."

Claims that Gould had been picking the team followed a handful of changes to the 'Dogs' 17 for Friday's clash against the Sydney Roosters.

Samuel Hughes will start in the front row for the first time in his young career, replacing the benched Liam Knight, while Kitione Kautoga earns a club debut from the interchange.

Josh Curran and Blake Wilson also join the starting side as injury replacements for Jacob Preston and Josh Addo-Carr.

Ciraldo said he always had the final say on selection.

"If (Gould) was doing it, I'd make him have the tough conversations with the blokes we're dropping," Ciraldo quipped.

"Talking to Gus is like talking to your dad. Sometimes he's got a point and you walk away and go, 'He makes sense there'.

"Sometimes I disagree and he trusts me and the way we're going."

Drew Hutchison will face his former club for the first time since joining Canterbury in pursuit of a full-time spot in the halves this season.

Drew Hutchison.
Drew Hutchison takes on the Titans' line during Canterbury's win at Belmore.

The Bulldogs' new halfback developed a reputation as a utility during five years at Moore Park.

Both Ciraldo and Roosters coach Trent Robinson insisted Hutchison was an out-and-out playmaker, despite Canterbury's mixed start to the year in attack.

"He's a genuine half," Robinson said.

"You can see he's running their system so it's good to have intimate knowledge of him."

Former Gold Coast playmaker Toby Sexton is waiting in the wings but Ciraldo is comfortable Hutchison is their best choice at No.7 for the time being.

"Drew's our halfback right now and we're backing him," Ciraldo said.

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