Tension builds before Canterbury Bulldogs elections
The boardroom battle at Belmore has intensified after rival ticket candidate Chris Anderson publicly snubbed a handshake attempt from Canterbury Bulldogs chairman Ray Dib.
NRL.com has been told by several intrigued onlookers that Anderson, who is on the rival ticket alongside wife Lynne, ignored Dib's gesture in front of members at a public forum at Belmore Sportsground before Christmas.
It is understood John Ballesty, the former Canterbury Leagues club boss who is also running on the Anderson-led ticket, immediately apologised to Dib.
Lynne Anderson greeted Dib and showed no ill-feeling towards him when attending the members' forum.
"I very much hope the election, from both sides, is about the positive aspects that each party wants to bring to the table," Lynne told NRL.com.
"The Bulldogs have had an unfortunate last few seasons and the club's high standards weren't met during that time. This election is all about how we can get back on a positive. All the negative stuff is just shooting us in the foot."
In a further twist, former Canterbury board member Anthony Elias, who stood down in 2017 after missing out on the chief executive job now filled by Andrew Hill, is vying to return and will run as an independent.
The elections will be held in mid-February, right before the start of the season and has the potential to be a distraction for a team hellbent on righting the wrongs of a disastrous 2017 campaign under Des Hasler.
Dib and the current board, who made the controversial decision to punt the coach at the end of last season, appear to have the backing of the majority of the players.
In particular, new prop Aaron Woods, whose relationship with Dib was pivotal in luring the Australian forward from the Wests Tigers.
"I don't know the ins and outs of the club - I've been here for three days," Woods said.
"But one of the big factors why I came was Ray. I did all my meetings with Ray Dib and I got along with him like a house on fire. Everything he has said, he has backed up. I've got all the faith in Ray, but I don't know the other side. I've had no dealings with them.
"I'm new to the club, but if anyone is going to ask about Ray I think he's done a great job for myself. He's changed the club. Made a couple of tough decisions that had to be made and the club has moved forward since then."
Lynne Anderson hasn't been in contact with the players and believes it would be unfair on them to distract them from the task of becoming a premiership force once again.
"I would like to hope the players aren't being dragged into this," Anderson said.
"They have to focus on the pre-season and I know they will do everything they can to be getting back and making sure we have good results on the field. I can't imagine the players would be thinking about too much more than that.
"I made it clear that we won't be interfering with the players or the coach. I know how hard it is preparing for a season and we don't want to do anything to destabilise what they are doing.
Adding to the theatre of what is already shaping up as a tense battle for supremacy, Ben Anderson – the son of Lynne and Chris Anderson, is contracted to the club as the NSW Cup assistant coach.
Prior to the Anderson family launching the rival ticket, Dib - in consultation with new head coach Dean Pay and the football department - extended their son's contract for another two seasons.
In an interview with NRL.com earlier this week, Lynne Anderson confirmed coach Dean Pay and chief executive Andrew Hill would be retained if she was to win the election.
Woods, who started at the Bulldogs on Monday after a month-long break following Australia's World Cup triumph, fronted the media for the first time in new colours.
He said the coach had made a conscious effort to bring back the aggression to the Canterbury pack.
"It's a good thing. Even the style he wants us to play suits us front-rowers a lot more," Woods said.
"Especially with Deano, he's an ex-front-rower so to learn off him and to get guidance in how to play the role is really good. He wants to hurt players."