The Canberra Raiders' week from hell hit a new and unexpected low on Sunday with star centre Blake Ferguson tangled in a bizarre off-field drama.
Ferguson was a no-show at Canberra Stadium for the second week in a row as the Raiders' finals dreams were put on the brink following a 36-22 loss to Manly.
Instead of watching from the stands, Ferguson spent a night out in Sydney with former Raiders' bad boy Todd Carney, adding fuel to speculation he will seek a release from the final two years of his Canberra contract.
Ferguson had previously been ruled out of the match against Manly with an injury.
But interim Canberra coach Andrew Dunemann made the stunning admission that Ferguson could have played and injury was not the reason behind his absence.
In the past week the Raiders have sacked coach David Furner, had the players accused of plotting Furner's demise, lost to Manly at home and are now dealing with another Ferguson drama.
Just moments after losing his first NRL game as a head coach, Dunemann confirmed Ferguson - a NSW State of Origin player - spent the weekend in Sydney.
Furner was the first coach in Raiders history to be sacked. Many believe his loyalty to Ferguson through a string of off-field incidents cost him his job and the support of the players.
But Ferguson didn't bother showing up to the Raiders' must-win clash with Manly and now the team's NRL finals hopes appear doomed.
In a day of high drama, speculation linked club legend Ricky Stuart to a $7 million offer to be Furner's replacement.
The Raiders and Stuart have dismissed the rumour.
The Raiders have established a four-man subcommittee to find a new coach.
The week of drama took its toll on the players as they slumped to a 14-point defeat at home, despite
a spirited second-half performance. While his teammates toiled away, Ferguson was photographed with Carney at the Clovelly Hotel on Saturday night.
Just when it was safe to end the bloodletting and get back to the business of playing football, Ferguson spiced up the Raiders' week.
The clash with Manly was supposed to be the start of restoring normality: no more speculation of a player revolt, no more conspiracy theories and no more talk about the next star player wanting a release.
Carney's Cronulla Sharks are the favourite to secure his signature if Ferguson, as widely expected, activates a release from the final two years of his contract with the Raiders.
Interim coach Dunemann said Ferguson had a prior commitment and chief executive Don Furner declined to divulge why Ferguson did not travel to Canberra on Sunday, only to say that it related to family matters.
''I spoke to him this morning, he told me why he couldn't make it and I passed it on to [Dunemann],'' Furner said.
''My understanding was he was injured.
''I didn't know he was available for selection.''
Ferguson missed last week's game with a quad injury, but Dunemann said he was fit to play.
''He had a prior commitment today, he let us know about that,'' Dunemann said.
''Everyone loves Fergo, but everyone knows he has to get off the field right, along with on the field.''
The other pressing issue is appointing a new coach.
Raiders great Mal Meninga, Don Furner, board member David Thom and club director Dr Allen Hawke are the subcommittee entrusted with conducting interviews and making the decision.
Dunemann is the front-runner, but former player Kevin Walters and premiership-winning coach Tim Sheens are also among the contenders.
Another club great, and current Parramatta coach, Stuart was floated as being offered an astounding $7 million, seven-year deal; claims that were rejected by the Raiders.