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89th AGM Concluded: New Chair Announced and New Life Members Inducted

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Football Club have quietened unrest, reconfirming the Board remain stable and united at the Club's 89th Annual General Meeting.

Chairman John Khoury, together with incumbent Chair Adam Driussi addressed Football Club Members at the Meeting earlier today announcing that a change in Chair would not deter the Board from progressing their strategic vision, but rather that they remain as committed, unified and supportive as ever to the success of the Club.

Chief Executive Aaron Warburton, Chief Operating Officer John White and General Manager of Football Phil Gould AM joined Khoury and Driussi to provide key business updates while David Gillespie (Bulldog #485) and Josh Reynolds (Bulldog #737) were honoured with Life Membership.

A Change in Chair: John Khoury to become Deputy Chair, while the Board have agreed Adam Driussi as the new Chairman

As John Khoury addressed recent rumours, he confirmed that he would be stepping into the role of Deputy Chair effective immediately while fellow Director of the Board Adam Driussi was announced as the Chair-elect.

John Khoury said he was incredibly proud of his achievements across all facets of the Club over the past four years and during his tenure.

"Over the last four years, we have appointed a new CEO in Aaron Warburton. Employed new office management, worked tirelessly on rebuilding our Club, particularly across our corporate program in sponsorship, community and at a grassroots level. 

"We have introduced a registration subsidy scheme alongside Canterbury League Club to help more families access and enjoy the great game of Rugby League in our area."

He continued, "We appointed Phil Gould. We returned our reserve grade a year earlier than originally planned and we expanded and increased our investment in our Pathways, Development Programs and our Bulldogs Academy in the male and female programs. We have become a Club of opportunity again for local and regional juniors."

Khoury went on to note the achievements of the Club in last year's NSWRL competitions, earning four grand finals, two Premierships and the Flowers Memorial Pennant for the most aggregate points in all competitions.

He made mention of the Club's NRLW submission and despite no official outcome yet determined, Khoury reinforced the Club's commitment to continued investment and growth in the women's game. 

"We have overhauled our Football program with the appointment of Cameron Ciraldo and successfully undergone a strong recruitment drive." 

A drive of which has seen the likes of stars, Matt Burton, Reed Mahoney, Viliame Kikau, Drew Hutchison and Stephen Crichton all join the Club in recent years. 

As he continued on his message of progress and accomplishment, Khoury said he was confident that the actions had brought our Club to a position of great stability and that now it was time for the Board to move forward with the second phase of their strategy plans.

"With that, I am proud knowing that the efforts of our team have brought us to a great position and afforded our Club great stability. Adam Driussi will take over as Chairman and I will step into the Deputy Chair role."

Khoury explained that Driussi's election was part of a succession plan designed to help progress our Club even further: "Adam is the CEO of a very big and successful business and he brings a lot of skills to the Board.

"When I asked Adam to join this Board, I did so knowing he was a future leader of this Club. Over the past few years, we have built a succession plan together and now it is time for me to lend my support to him."

Driussi was then invited to speak, offering a message of support and thanks to Khoury for his incredibly accomplished term. He reinforced that the Board were fully united on the decision and supportive of Khoury's ambitions to focus his efforts on areas of passion including the corporate and community programs, and the local junior league.

Khoury finished his address with a thanks to Members for all their support over his tenure: "I am truly proud to be a part of this great Club and to call myself a Bulldog alongside you all. I am not going anywhere, I remain as committed and supportive as ever to this great Club."

Commercially Strong: The key wins contributing to the Club's overarching vision of sustained excellence

CEO Aaron Warburton provided a comprehensive update on the Club's commercial achievements whilst outlining the path forward.

"Our off-field results are symbolic of the sharp trajectory the Club has taken over the past three seasons, whilst we’ve had to remain resilient as we build a football Club that will see a high-performing NRL team for decades to come," Warburton said.

"To build the foundation, we’ve invested heavily over the past three years in re-establishing the non-negotiables of our proud Club: Our workforce, processes and systems."

The investment has seen the Club's Membership base soar past 22,000 Members in 2023 - a rise of over 31%, the Club's digital audience grow by over 40%, partnerships revenue increase by over 51%, as well as Merchandise sales hit a record high and driving over 153% in revenue in 2023 compared to sales in 2021.

While Warburton praised Members and fans for their unwavering support, he outlined the ambitious plans to see the Club on track to achieve over 30,000 Members within the next two years. 

2025 will see the Club celebrating some momentous occasions including the Club's 90th anniversary, the construction commencement of a new Centre of Excellence in Belmore Sports Ground and what the Club hopes will be the inaugural year of the women's team in the NRLW (pending a licence is granted by then).

In the interim, Members and fans will enjoy more NRL games to be played in Belmore than in the past two decades with five NRL fixtures to take place in 2024 (two pre-season trials including a double-header, and two Premiership matches in Rounds 3 and 20).

The Club will once again return to Bundaberg for their final home match of the season, while an additional home game will be played in Sydney for local fans following the Club's negotiation efforts to get out of hosting a home game in Magic Round.

While the current contract with Venues NSW will see the Bulldogs play the majority of their home games at Accor Stadium, an enhanced stadia match day strategy is set to prioritise experience. Attendees at Accor Stadium will also have access to the most expansive range of food options in Stadia within the country, with franchises such as El Jannah, Al Aseel, Five Guys Burgers and Sushi Hub plus more now available.

With Members at the heart of the Club's decision-making, Members were delighted to hear a 2004 Premiership-winning team hommage jersey will be unveiled within the coming weeks. A secondary special/limited-edition jersey that relates to a charity partnership will also be announced in season, with details to be confirmed a little later into the year.

Football Update: Gus Gould commends the work that's been done in the shadows.

General Manager of Football, Phil Gould AM addressed the congregation, crediting the Board for affording the football department trust and stability to enact a long-term strategy and focus on developing the next crop of NRL stars.

"This Board in particular made a very brave decision a couple of years ago to embark on a long-term journey," Gould said.

Despite the results of recent years, Gould said the Board had trusted his long-term vision and embraced knowing things might need to get worse before they got better: "Just when you think you're buried, you've really been planted and the seeds that we planted a couple of years ago, the first leaf is just starting to break through the surface," he said of Thursday's Pre-Season Challenge win over the Melbourne Storm, 24-12.

Match Highlights: Pre-season Challenge v Storm

"The future of the Bulldogs is in the building. It's here now, our next-best NRL team is actually in the building. It mightn't be in our top 30 at the moment. Not all those top 30 players will survive the long-term and nor should they. But it's certainly in our pathways."

"This Club is in a completely different place internally to what it was two years ago. The culture, the camaraderie, the work ethic, the professionalism, is outstanding. It really is. Now it will take some time before that's reflected where people on the outside can see it but I'm telling you we are winning in the shadows the whole time.

"You can't do that and you can't embark on such a long-term strategy without the strength of a really solid board."

Two New Life Members: David Gillespie and Josh Reynolds receive full support

David Gillespie and Josh Reynolds have received the honour of becoming a Life Member of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. Both received full support as Members agreed they were fitting recipients of the honour.

Alumni Phil Young addressed the Meeting to propose Gillespie - affectionately known as 'cement': "I don't believe there has been anyone who has come here and been tougher than 'Cement'," he said.

Gillespie: I will always call this club home

Gillespie played 183 games for the Bulldogs and was a part of a feared forward pack in the 1980s, while Josh Reynolds has always been a true fan-favourite in Belmore.

Josh Reynolds final send-off

Gould, who proposed Reynold's Life Membership, quoted stats before calling on the congregation to consider how they felt when he said the name "Josh Reynolds".

Former Canterbury skipper James Graham was also due to be awarded Life Membership but was an apology for the event due to work commitments and requested his nomination be deferred so that he may be present for the honour.

Both Gillespie and Reynolds said it was a great honour to receive Life Membership.

Acknowledgement of Country

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs respect and honour the Darug and Eora nations, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.