How Seinfeld’s George Costanza is saving the Bulldogs

­The older you get the more you realise there are only two types of people in this world: those who consider life as one big Seinfeld episode — and those who do not.

Phil Gould is the former. He adores the US sitcom and regularly quotes from it. He identifies with George Costanza. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In many ways, rugby league — like Seinfeld — is a show about nothing.

Peter V’landys and his war of words with Eddie Jones — that’s a show! Selwyn Cobbo doesn’t think Kevin Walters can coach — that’s a show! Justin Pascoe’s arm tats — that’s a show!

Canterbury general manager of football Phil Gould.Credit:Getty

The revolution Gould has led at Canterbury, after being appointed general manager of football in July 2021 — now that’s a show.

The Summer of Gus continued at the weekend with confirmation he had secured Panthers star Stephen Crichton on a four-year deal. His grand plan of transforming the Bulldogs’ once-broken squad into a premiership threat is nearing completion.

He wrenched Viliame Kikau, the game’s most damaging backrower, out of Penrith, then hooker Reed Mahoney from Parramatta. Ryan Sutton was lured from Canberra. Matt Burton was eyeing the exit before Gould arrived but is now stitched-up until the end of 2027. Driftwood like Matt Dufty and Paul Vaughan has been allowed to float away.

Seinfeld character George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander.

The dramatic change at Belmore in just 18 months has left many in the game speechless. They are without speech. What makes it so remarkable is how mangled their salary cap was when Gould took over.

He confided as much to various people in the first few weeks of his tenure. Sure enough, those concerns leaked and made their way into the public domain. Gus blew up, denied it, said it was media trouble-making. He is the master of his domain.

I’ve seen this happen many times, not just with Gould but others. Nobody in football can keep a secret and, when the story gets out, they slam the speculative reports and wonder how this information has leaked, oblivious that it inadvertently started with them.

There’s still some salary cap juggling to do. Tevita Pangai jnr was signed before Gould arrived and his $925,000-a-year contract chews up a lot of space. So does that of Luke Thompson, who is in the final year of a deal worth – quite ridiculously – $800,000.

But things will free up from 2024 and that will allow Gould to pursue Mitchell Moses, who is coming off contract at the Eels.

Halfback is the missing piece of the Bulldogs puzzle. At Penrith, Gould vowed to never work again with Moses’ manager and cousin, Issac Moses, but if he can swallow some pride and get a deal done the Bulldogs will feature the competition’s most promising spines: Crichton, Burton, Moses, Mahoney. It’s a spine that has cachet up the yin-yang.

Stephen Crichton is the latest Panther signed to the Bulldogs.Credit:Sydney Morning Herald

Gould has also landed Penrith super-assistant-coach Cameron Ciraldo, who was weighing up a mega-deal from the Wests Tigers and whose preference was the Dragons but he landed at Belmore. Again, Gus got his guy.

Of course, Ciraldo has much to prove. The game is littered with Next Big Things. Adam O’Brien, having worked under Craig Bellamy and Trent Robinson, was considered a NBT but now needs a winning record in the first two months of the season to keep his job at Newcastle.

You suspect, however, it will be easier for Ciraldo under Gould. The pair worked hand in glove in 2018 at Penrith before and after Gould sacked Anthony Griffin. Ciraldo will tell anyone who will listen how much he learned during that period.

Whatever happens, Gould will continue to polarise as he fulfils his roles as football club supremo and influential talking head for Channel Nine, publisher of this masthead.

Like Costanza, he’s tricky to read because there are several Guses: Happy Gus. Sad Gus. Cyclone Gus. Bawdy Gus … You never know which one you’re getting.

He continually infuriates rival fans and media types with his contradictory public statements. Trent Barrett wasn’t being sacked – then he was sacked. Josh Reynolds wasn’t coming to the Bulldogs – then he was coming to the Bulldogs. Remember, kids: it’s not a lie if you believe it.

He’s cranky with this columnist for asking him for comment after he blasted V’landys, Andrew Abdo and Clint Newton in front of 450 people at the Leagues Club Australia National Conference on the Gold Coast last November because of their inability to sign off on the CBA and the salary cap. It was a legitimate story.

Like most powerbrokers, Gould doesn’t like it when he can’t control his own narrative. Yet he often disseminates whatever narrative he wants, on any subject, through various platforms for Nine or his often-bizarro Twitter account.

He mightn’t understand the media as much as he thinks he does – but he understands much more about rebuilding football clubs than his critics will ever give him credit for.

Some at Penrith have been quietly dismissing the role he played in their back-to-back premierships. It’s a nefarious rewriting of history. Without him, the Panthers would have folded.

As for criticism of him picking the eyes out of his former club, welcome to the reality of professional sport and a league operating under a salary cap. Are people really having this conversation? Of course, they are. Because it’s Costanza. I mean, Phil Gould.

In another life, the Bulldogs nurtured their own talent, prompting supporters in 2009 to wear “Bred not bought” t-shirts after the Roosters signed up Willie Mason, Mark O’Meley, Braith Anasta and Nate Myles.

Years of infighting and pandemic-like panic buying means the Bulldogs can no longer afford themselves the luxury of patience. Not right now, anyway.

Gould sat back and watched various administrators run Canterbury into the ground then resisted approaches to rescue them.

When he finally took the job, he indicated it could take as long as a decade to clean up the mess. He’s pretty much done it in his lunch break.

So, there you go. Gus is back, baby! He has hand – and didn’t the Bulldogs need it?

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