Pokies, politics and a pen: Inside the dogfight for power at Canterbury
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Pokies, politics and a pen: Inside the dogfight for power at Canterbury

Among schooner glasses and plates of hot chips they gathered signatures, the bistro to one side, a phalanx of pokies the other, '80s hits the soundtrack to a plot to overthrow an NRL club chair.

Welcome to club politics Canterbury Bulldogs style in 2020, or just about any other year for that matter.

There is no shortage of drama behind the scenes at Canterbury.

There is no shortage of drama behind the scenes at Canterbury.Credit:Nick Moir

The NRL is littered with the rich and/or famous sitting at the helm of clubs as private owners or officials, billionaires James Packer and Nick Politis among them, not to mention a movie star, Russell Crowe. But while the influence of the humble club member isn’t what it was, at the Bulldogs it remains, like a Labor preselection ballot, all about the numbers.

For that reason a group pushing to unseat Canterbury chair Lynne Anderson and club directors Paul Dunn and John Ballesty set up with a clipboard around a couple of tables in front of the big screen at a sparsely occupied Revesby Workers Club on Sunday night.

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Cold calls had apparently been made to some of the 950-odd folk eligible to vote in a Bulldogs football club election, by virtue of having been paid up financial members for the previous three years.

The campaigning didn’t exactly result in a stampede up the escalators. Taking the mickey, a few cynical types on the Bulldogs' fan site contributed to a ‘Live from Revesby Workers’ thread, largely making gags about being unable to locate the petitioners.

Bulldogs chair Lynne Anderson has been in power since 2018.

Bulldogs chair Lynne Anderson has been in power since 2018.Credit:Wolter Peeters

As it turned out, a source connected to the bid to oust Anderson reported 37 people showed up. Not exactly one of the great insurgencies.

However, given the power afforded to the rank and file at Canterbury under the club’s constitution that was not entirely insignificant. For the opponents of Anderson and co to have their positions put to a vote at an emergency general meeting, only 95 signatures - or 10 per cent of eligible voters - need to be delivered to the club, as it stands.

The chair and the other two directors could then be rolled via an ordinary resolution if their removal is supported by 50 per cent of those who turn out, plus one. If everyone permitted to vote does so, be it in person or via a proxy as can be done at Canterbury, that would equate to about 475 people.

According to one influential figure around the Bulldogs, more than enough signatures have already been gathered away from those in the trenches at Revesby Workers to call an EGM right now. The way he tells it, an ultimatum will be issued to Anderson, Dunn and Ballesty calling for them to stand down, warning that if it goes to a vote “it will be a bloodbath”.

George Coorey remains on the league club board as a director despite being removed as president.

George Coorey remains on the league club board as a director despite being removed as president.Credit:Dean Sewell

Whether that transpires, and however many names end up being assembled, the dissatisfaction of supporters with Canterbury’s results and recruitment is real. Less than eight weeks ago, in fact, then Canterbury League Club president George Coorey approached Dunn, telling him he had quashed a members’ uprising that had Anderson principally in its sights.

Since then Coorey himself has been forced out as president of the league club after allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women, which were revealed by the Herald.

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Coorey, who denies the allegations, is said to be furious with Anderson, to whom the complaints by the women were first made, but a source close to the long-time club powerbroker maintained he was not pulling the strings in the effort to unseat her.

The other major factor behind the scenes is a split on the board itself, which goes a long way towards explaining why the agitators are angling for the removal of Anderson and only two other directors, not all seven, and why a rival ticket has not yet emerged publicly.

The takeout of it all is that whether the Bulldogs can avoid the wooden spoon in the final round this weekend or not, there is still plenty to play out off the field at Belmore this year.

Until recently, Parramatta was the (blue and) gold standard for dysfunction and nasty politics. That was before the state government stepped in after the salary cap scandal to clean it up.

At Canterbury, few can remember when the dogs of war weren't at war with one another.

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