Culture is crucial to Raiders, says Shillington
Edrick Lee will debut for the Raiders tonight. Photo: Colleen Petch
Canberra skipper David Shillington has declared the playing group is ''100 per cent'' behind coach David Furner's decision to dump star backs Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson for tonight's crunch game against Souths for alcohol breaches.
Shillington, who confirmed he will back up at ANZ Stadium after featuring in Queensland's Origin I win, said there is no room for players not willing to comply with the team's commitment and professionalism standards.
The front-rower, the first Raiders player to comment publicly on the issue, writes in his Friday Footy column today that the club won't achieve a winning culture until all players ''tick all the right boxes''.
''All the great clubs going around at the moment have fantastic cultures and that's set by the senior players. The younger players have to get in line or they're not suited,'' Shillington wrote.
''Over the next week or two we'll have a chat as a senior group, and the playing group in general, in terms of our standards and the culture we want to have around the place.
''It's important to us and you have to fit into that, and if you don't obviously we can't have you as part of the team.''
Dugan was stood down for drinking while recovering from a minor abdominal injury, while Ferguson turned up to training still under the influence of alcohol last Friday.
It comes after the Raiders were placed on an alcohol ban for three weeks after their round six win over the Warriors.
Shillington insists the off-field standards expected of the players aren't harsh, and there's no excuse for breaching them.
''We all support Furnsey 100 per cent,'' Shillington writes.
''It's not a big ask what he's asking of us. It's not like he's putting any crazy strict rules around the place and it's pretty simple stuff.
''You can't hold people's hands and say 'you're not going to have a beer are you?' The best you can do is spell out the standards and lead by example. You need people to want to buy into it, not force them into it. That's what creates a team culture and you can't do a lot outside of that.
''I don't think they need to be hung out to dry, hopefully lesson learned and move on next week.''
Dugan and Ferguson's absence robs the Raiders of much of their attacking flair and couldn't come at a worse time as the Raiders (4-6) look to take advantage of the Origin period.
Furner can't remember a younger back line during his long playing and coaching career at the Raiders, and is hopeful the enthusiasm of youth will help the Raiders pull off an ambush.
''It's a good opportunity for Edrick [Lee, debutant winger] who's been playing with a lot of confidence in the [under] 20s,'' Furner said.
''The step up is going to be faster and a little more physical, but certainly with his size and strength he'll be able to handle that.''
Furner is hopeful Reece Robinson will get more involved after failing to have a major influence since Dugan's return from a shoulder injury three weeks ago.
Robinson was superb when deputising in the No.1 jersey for Dugan earlier this season.
''At fullback the ball finds you, sometimes you can be on the wing and lose those opportunities,'' Furner said.
''I know Reecey has handled that position quite well and he's going to see a lot of footy. Souths are a team that completes quite highly.''
Five-eighth Josh McCrone has been stand-in captain in Shillington's absence this week, and will assume more of the kicking duties with Dugan missing.
''I may have to do a lot more kicking, but I think Sammy [Williams] and I are up to it,'' McCrone said.
Josh Papalii has overcome nerve damage in his arm and will play.
NRL Round 12: Rabbitohs v Raiders at ANZ Stadium, 7.30pm. TV time: Live on WIN.