Tough initiation ... Canberra Raiders interim coach Andrew Dunemann. Photo: Getty Images
Sackings, AWOL stars, a doping confession and a record loss - it's easy to see why interim Canberra Raiders coach Andrew Dunemann rates this season the toughest he has been involved with in 20 years at the elite level.
Dunemann has challenged his players to put the off-field issues and coaching uncertainty behind them and get themselves up for Sunday night's swansong against the Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium.
It will be easier said than done after the Raiders crashed out of finals contention courtesy of a 50-16 flogging at the hands of the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland on Saturday night.
The Raiders have lurched from one drama to the next in the most tumultuous season in the club's 32-year history.
■ Josh Dugan's axing after a round one rooftop drinking session.
■ The 68-4 loss to the Melbourne Storm was the club's greatest losing margin.
■ The sacking of coach David Furner two weeks ago.
■ The continued absence of State of Origin star Blake Ferguson.
■ Last Thursday's bombshell that winger Sandor Earl had been issued an infraction notice for using and trafficking a peptide.
Dunemann - who made his first-grade debut in 1994 and played more than 250 games before entering the coaching ranks - wanted his players to forget about the drama and give everything they had to finish the year on a high.
''It's about pride,'' he said.
''Tossing up that bit of rubbish we tossed up last night isn't good enough.
''I've asked all the boys to clear everything out of their heads in the past week with what's been happening because it's been a major distraction for everyone.''
Dunemann said the two games he has been in charge of, both losses, had not deterred him from applying for the coaching position on a full-time basis.
''I just think it's a build-up with what's happened previously and I think some players are playing to 50 per cent of their capabilities,'' he said.
''Nothing changes my outlook on the squad we've got here.
''It's still a good squad. For me, it needs three to six months in the pre-season and come back refreshed. The break's going to do them great.''
Dunemann said the season had taken its toll, with the Raiders dominating the headlines for the wrong reasons from the start.
''There's been … incidents throughout the year from round one to where we are now,'' he said.
''I'm not painting a picture of feeling sorry for them, but everything that's happened doesn't happen in this club very often.
''Mentally, they are getting to the end of their tether. We just need to make sure we can get up for one more game.''
Dunemann said prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs was highly unlikely to be fit to face the Sharks after continuing to struggle with a leg injury.
Learoyd-Lahrs, who has been sidelined since the round eight win against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park, was a late withdrawal from the loss to the Warriors on Saturday night.