Police hand Bulldogs file to state prosecutor

Police hand Bulldogs file to state prosecutor, by Les Kennedy, Jacqueline Magnay and Stephen Gibbs - 2nd April 2004
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

A taped-shut cardboard box, 20cm deep by 40cm square, yesterday held the answers to the future credibility, lives and careers of at least six Bulldogs players and one young woman.

Hidden from public gaze within the box was a hefty brief of evidence stemming from the intense police investigation into allegations by the 20-year-old woman that she was sexually assaulted by players from the team during their pre-season stay at the Pacific Bay Resort at Coffs Harbour on February 22.

The box - containing statements from 24 players who were on the trip, records of interview with team support staff and club management and DNA swab analysis - arrived at the city offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions at 2.05pm yesterday.

The Strike Force McGuigon presentation to the DPP also took place as two other detectives reinterviewed five Bulldogs players at Orange Police Station yesterday. Police have spent most of this week reinterviewing all of the Bulldogs players and briefing club officials and their legal counsel, Jim Young and Mark Matulich.

Police say it could take up to two more weeks before they receive an opinion from the DPP as to whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute any player.

Bulldogs chairman George Peponis said these latest interviews, conducted in the midst of the club's country public relations initiative, had been flagged by the police.

Peponis said earlier this week he was "quietly confident" players would be cleared of the allegations levelled against them.

Last night, the Bulldogs' first-grade squad took part in an open forum, answering public questions at the Orange Ex-Servicemen's club. For the first time, coach Steve Folkes spoke out about the crisis that has enveloped the club.

"Of all the articles and radio and stuff written on us, I reckon probably five per cent is true and 95 per cent has been fabrication, innuendo, rumour and misinformation," he told the Central Western Daily newspaper.

"It's just been twisted because it sells newspapers or it increases ratings. We supposedly behaved like drunken louts in Coffs Harbour from anonymous sources yet the NRL investigated and the owner of the Plantation Hotel where we supposedly carried on like that gave us glowing references.

"I'm not saying we haven't done anything wrong, far from it, but the amount of adverse publicity we've received since Coffs Harbour has been disgraceful. We've had more front pages than the 9-11 disaster in New York. All this has come from an allegation which is at this point unproven yet the media have speculated wildly about everything and anything to do with it.

"They hide behind the word alleged, they hide behind the word anonymous source, they hide behind 'I'm only doing my job'. When the truth comes out at the end of all this, they're the ones that are going to have egg on their face."

Meanwhile, the woman at the centre of earlier Bulldogs sexual assault allegations in March 2003, Valerie Margaret Galloway, said she was planning to take legal action against the club and the NSW police for emotional distress. Her case was dropped by the DPP last year for lack of sufficient evidence but she maintains the case was bungled.

And in another blow for the club, no Bulldogs players were named in the Australia squad announced by the ARL yesterday. Test incumbent Willie Mason was dropped and Braith Anasta and Hazem El Masri were overlooked, as was Brent Sherwin, despite the season-ending injury to halfback Andrew Johns.


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