Raymond Faitala-Mariner has lifted the lid on his Bulldogs exit, insisting the decision to leave the club was entirely his. After months of speculation, the prop was released from the final two years of his contract with the Bulldogs, signing a two-year deal with the Dragons.
His exit came after tumultuous six months at Belmore. Faitala-Mariner was appointed club captain at the start of last season but found himself on the outer after a confrontation with coach Cameron Ciraldo. Several Polynesian players are understood to have approached Faitala-Mariner with their concerns about the club’s culture and the former Dogs captain took those concerns to the coach.
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The Dogs forward took some time away from the club, but after a meeting with the general manager of football Phil Gould, Faitala-Mariner returned to training later that month. But Faitala-Mariner found himself on the outer and ended up being released from the club in January.
After Gould took over as general manager he promised to make big changes and with Faitala-Mariner's exit, the entire top 30 squad from 2021 is no longer at the club. Gould threw out the entire roster in just three years and it is hard to dispute that the current squad isn't better than the team of just a few years ago.
But the 30-year-old told The Sydney Morning Herald that he was not pushed out of the club, he just needed a change. "They weren’t pushing me out the door at all," Faitala-Mariner said.
"It was just this opportunity that arose. I thought about it, spoke to my partner, to my family and parents, (and) they said maybe a change was what I needed. I took their advice and I’m glad I did. Now that I was in camp with the Dragons this week, I can see why the change was needed."
Faitala-Mariner joined the Bulldogs in mid-2016 from the Warriors and went on to play 102 games for the club spanning seven-and-a-half seasons. However, Faitala-Mariner only managed two games in 2021, 13 games in 2022 and 14 games in 2023.
Faitala-Mariner was the last of the 2021 Bulldogs squad
His exit means no player from the 2021 Bulldogs squad remains at the club as a result of several cleanouts but Faitala-Mariner says he has no hard feelings about how things played out at his former club. "I’ve heard that a few times and the boys text me saying, ‘You’re gone! You were the last man standing!'" he said.
"That’s footy. The club has a vision and they have to do what they need to do to get what they want. If that’s the direction they’re going in, then I’m all for it. I’ve got nothing but respect and love for that club.
"Where I am at in my career, a change was needed for me to hopefully take my game to the next level. It does sadden me to leave the club that I really love; Belmore is my second home. It was very hard to say goodbye and leave, but I have to look at the opportunity for myself and my future. That’s what I did, I put myself and my family first. One thing I do wish we had when I was there is a bit of success. Hopefully, they do well this year and in the years to come."
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