Kiwi league officials have dismissed allegations that Sam Kasiano was at the forefront of the Bulldogs notorious Mad Monday celebrations, labelling the claims "pure speculation".
The hulking prop has been identified by some Australia media outlets as one of the principal sources of the r-rated verbal abuse that was allegedly directed at a Sydney reporter during the players' raucous celebrations, hours after their Grand Final loss to the Storm.
The Bulldogs hierarchy claim that the comments were directed at various team-mates, including Josh Morris and James Graham, though Channel Nine remains adamant that the abuse was aimed at their cameraman and reporter.
The Kiwis have closed ranks around Kasiano, who is notoriously media shy anyway.
Coach Stephen Kearney was unavailable to comment but High Performance manager Tony Kemp said there had been no discussion of the issue within the camp.
"It's speculation - I take it with a pinch of salt coming out of that newspaper," said Kemp.
"We haven't [even] mentioned it to him. We're not here for the Bulldogs - we're here [to win] this test match on Saturday night."
Kemp appeared frustrated with the storyline, wondering why the media haven't focussed on the Bulldogs' stellar year and large representation in Townsville.
"New Zealand rugby league is in such a good place at the moment," said Kemp. "And there is great news around Sam and the five Bulldogs - it's the most international players the Bulldogs have ever had. I haven't seen a story about that, no one is writing that for the first time in their history the Bulldogs have six players in an international. You have your little hiccups [but] what Dessie [Hasler] and the CEO have done to get the players up to [that level] - that to me is the real positive."
Kemp also confirmed that Kasiano would be completely off limits to the media before the test on Saturday.
"Sammy is the shyest bloke you will ever meet," said Kemp. "We can't get boo out of him ourselves and he is very shy in front of the media. With it being his first game for the Kiwis and the amount of media surrounding him, Sam has asked us if he can just concentrate on the game and the whole high performance team respect that. You see that all the time, when guys are making their debuts you see people protected. [Anyway] if we put him up he probably wouldn't say anything."
Kemp compared Kasiano's shyness with a young Manu Vatuvei when he first came in the Kiwis as an 18-year-old back in 2005. Kasiano's verbal reticence is not confined to media microphones - he apparently took two attempts before he was able to address the team, one of the traditional initiations for new players.