Canterbury Leagues Club chairman George Peponis has leapt to the defence of Bulldogs football club chairman Ray Dib at a members forum at Belmore RSL on Thursday night, firing a subtle shot at certain members of the rebel ticket.
Backed by eight players from the NRL squad, including newly appointed captain Josh Jackson, Aaron Woods, David Klemmer and Moses Mbye, as well as coach Dean Pay, he made a heartfelt plea to members leading into Sunday’s elections.
Peponis took a swipe at club greats Chris Anderson, Paul Dunn and Steve Price in his speech, questioning the rebel ticket's passion and commitment to the Bulldogs.
“We’re united. Why would you want to destabilise that,?” Peponis said.
“We are so united. There’s so much to look forward to in the future. I think Ray, Arthur (board member Arthur Coorey) and this board have done tremendous things but people have forgotten what they have done. All they are thinking about is what has happened the last 12 months. You have to look at what has happened the last five or six years. It’s the whole picture. Don’t look down a narrow corridor, look at the whole picture.
“No one on this board has played for three clubs against the Bulldogs. No one on this board has ever been a CEO of another club wanting to beat the Bulldogs. No one on this board has ever coached three NRL clubs to play against and defeat the Bulldogs.”
Peponis, who is also the chairman of the NSWRL board which includes Dib as a director, didn’t name any individuals directly. However, there was anecdote he used that was believed to be a shot at Price for leaving the Bulldogs to accept a lucrative deal with the Warriors in 2005.
“Steve Mortimer and myself … do you think we didn’t get opportunities to play at other clubs?” Peponis said.
“You think we didn’t get offers? After the ’78 Kangaroo tour we were sitting at the hotel in Leeds and Bob Fulton rang … and offered me $30,000 to go and play for the Roosters in 1979. Thank God I didn’t.
“I signed for the Dogs for $15,000. Half of what I was offered to go to the Roosters. I don’t know if any players these days would take halves to stay at any club. But that’s what it meant to be a Bulldog.”
Peponis reflected on a period at the club over the past couple of decades in which they moved from ground to ground and used various training facilities.
He credited Dib and his board for bringing the club back to their spiritual home at Belmore.
“If it wasn’t for Ray, Arthur (Coorey) and their board we wouldn’t be back at Belmore now. They deserve the credit for bringing the Bulldogs back to Belmore. They knocked on doors. They kicked down doors and they didn’t take no for an answer.
“They persevered … it allowed the Bulldogs to come back to Belmore, the heartland of the Bulldogs. This is where the Bulldogs started. This is where they should be, this is where they will be forever.”
Peponis conceded the current board has made several blunders over the past year, admitting he has expressed his concern openly with them.
However, he believes the changes made over the off-season has the club back on track.
“It’s pleasing to hear Ray admits that this board has made some errors and have made some mistakes,” Peponis said.
“I was the first person to tell him that about 12 to 18 months ago in no uncertain terms. I’m also very pleased to hear they’ve made some changes and those changes for the better and we’ll reap the benefits of that over the next 12 to 18 to 24 months.”