Panthers boss Phil Gould has stressed that the club had no knowledge of a reported $50,000 deal between star player Bryce Cartwright and a Sydney woman that resulted in the woman having an abortion.
The club has moved to distance itself from the story, which broke in The Sunday Telegraph yesterday and alleged that Cartwright had paid the woman to terminate the pregnancy.
Gould addressed the media at Panthers headquarters today.
“We can well understand at this stage a lot of people out there in the public and in the media have probably formulated their emotions and their opinion on the manner in which the story has been reported to date,” he said.
“We’ve had our own investigation in the last 24 hours about the Bryce Cartwright situation. Out of respect to both parties, particularly the young lady in question, we do not want to go down the road of a public debate about the facts of the case.
“We have had our own investigation about what’s transpired here… to satisfy ourselves that everything has been done above board.”
Gould said the NRL has not contacted the club about the incident. He stressed that the club has a strong female presence and took matters of education and welfare seriously.
“Panthers re-affirms that we have the highest standards of education and welfare here for our players,” he said.
“A part of that education process is obviously the respect of women…. we have the utmost respect for women in the workplace. Our players are taught that and we are very vigilant about that education process.”
Gould denied that the woman had contacted the club and not received a response, and said she was welcome to make contact at any stage.
“She has never called us, she has never written to us and never laid a complaint. The first we knew about these allegations were on the weekend,” Gould said.
“If at any time she feels the need or wants to come and discuss the matter she can call me and come and see me at any time. If that’s going to help her in the process and we can help her in any way, we have got great respect and want to make sure she’s OK.”
Gould confirmed he had “a couple” of discussions with Cartwright over the weekend. He said he was satisfied that Cartwright had acted in a respectful and supportive manner in regards to the situation.
“I’m satisfied in this respect that Bryce has done as well as any young man could in the same situation,” he said.
Gould said he felt for the woman and anyone else in such a position, but stressed it was a private matter and the club was not involved.
“We’re giving Bryce all the support we can give him,” Gould said.
“I know a lot of people go through this in their lives and it’s not the first time it has happened to a young couple. It’s a huge decision and very emotional.
“From Bryce’s perspective he thought the matter was settled some time ago so what happened on the weekend hit him like a bolt of lightning.”
It is unknown if Cartwright will play against the Wests Tigers this weekend.
Gould said that Lou Zivanovic, the former Panthers player and now successful businessman who reportedly was involved in arranging the $50,000 deal between Cartwright and the woman, was not around the playing group on a regular basis.
“Lou’s not around our players. He doesn’t have an official role at the club at all,” he said.
The woman at the centre of the allegations, who chose to remain anonymous but has since been named on social media, told the Telegraph yesterday that she felt bullied by Cartwright and Zivanovic.
“I felt I had no other option than to get rid of the baby, the pressure was relentless,” she said.
“I was bullied by Bryce and Lou. They showed no compassion towards the baby and me.”