By Adam Pengilly
3 February 2018 - Sydney Morning Herald
Canterbury League Club chairman George Peponis won't walk away from the Bulldogs upon his imminent election to the Australian Rugby League Commission, while an independent candidate for the hotly contested elections added another twist to the bitter power struggle at Belmore.
In a letter to football club members this week, Peponis, the New South Wales Rugby League chairman, has allayed fears he will scale back his involvement with the Bulldogs upon his expected ascent to an expanded ARLC.
In the letter co-signed by Peponis and also sent on behalf of current football club director and candidate Steve Mortimer, the Bulldogs figurehead endorsed chairman Ray Dib and his committee in the face of mounting opposition from the Lynne Anderson-led Reform ticket.
Peponis stressed he planned to juggle his role on the board of Canterbury League Club with potential ARLC duties.
Mortimer, who sensationally quit the Bulldogs football club board last year after questioning the club's direction under coach Des Hasler before later being reappointed when Hasler was sacked, pledged to see out his full term if re-elected.
"I can assure you, despite some commentary to the contrary, that there is no requirement - or personal desire - for me to resign as chairman of Canterbury League Club when, and if, I am elected as a commissioner of the Australian Rugby League Commission," Peponis wrote.
Peponis is expected to join his Queensland Rugby League counterpart Bruce Hatcher on a remodelled 10-person ARLC, which is likely to have former Queensland premier Peter Beattie as its chairman.
The endorsement of Dib and his ticket by two Bulldogs legends comes as an independent candidate and advocate for Belmore Sports Ground said he will preference members of Anderson's campaign after growing frustrated with attempts to work with the current directors over the future of the facility.
Luke Brailey, the patron of the Back To Belmore advocacy group and one of four independents running in the election, has asked his supporters to include five members of the Reform team in voting preferences.
"I have the utmost respect for Ray Dib and plenty of admiration for him and his profound contribution to the club," Brailey said. "This is not personal or aimed at any director in particular, but unfortunately the board that he leads has demonstrated an unwillingness to work collaboratively with Back To Belmore.
"What happens on the field is completely irrelevant [to our preferences]; we are judging them solely on how they engage with us as the peak body and advocate for Belmore Sports Ground. If they're looking after us and keeping us in the loop we have no reason to complain, so they've brought this upon themselves. The Reform team has given us an undertaking they will engage us and ... work collaboratively with us."
Anderson, her husband Chris, Steve Price, Paul Dunn and John Khoury are set to pick up any preferences from the Back To Belmore candidate, who has also asked voters to include incumbent Arthur Coorey, a Dib supporter, on their ballot papers.
"The only reason we give Arthur Coorey a leave pass is ... it was because of his political and corporate connections that the funding [for Belmore Sports Ground in the past] was forthcoming," Brailey said.
Eighteen candidates will contest the Bulldogs elections on February 11.