Brian Smith. Photo: Getty Images
Veteran NRL coach Brian Smith fears the Canberra Raiders have set a dangerous precedent by sacking David Furner, insisting clubs should react to player power only in ''extreme circumstances''.
Canberra senior players took to the club's website on Wednesday to deny reports players approached members of the board to demand Furner's dismissal.
Fairfax Media understands discord between Furner and several players had been growing for some time. Smith said the players needed to take more responsibility for their performances.
Smith was similarly sacked by the Sydney Roosters at the end of last season with one year remaining on his contract.
''I wonder what would have happened had the Raiders board said to those players, 'Why don't you blokes pull your heads in and get your fingers out? I don't care if you don't do it for the coach, you've got a lot sponsors, fans and each other to do it for. Get yourselves out there, do what you're supposed to do and we'll have another talk at the end of the season.'''
Smith described the timing of Furner's sacking three weeks before finals as ''scary'', and said getting rid of the coach was the easy option.
''Not just Canberra but in general, I think it's a thing that clubs should take a lot more care with before they do that [sack a coach], particularly in this situation with a few weeks to go in the season,'' he said. ''It's a scary thing to do, sack a coach at this point in time.
''They're making it hard for themselves in the future is what I'm saying, [although] there might be a short-term result.
''I think boards should be really, really reluctant to do that, only in extreme circumstances.''
He said Furner's replacement would immediately need to exert his authority over the players.
''They [players] must have some balls because he's obviously got strong family links in the place, he's a virtual playing legend there,'' Smith said. ''If they've managed to get someone like that turned over, heaven help the next bloke if he crosses a few of those players. It's a bit tempting, I think, to find a way of overcoming what you don't like by not having to pull your finger out and have a bit more of a crack.''
Smith said he would not actively pursue the Raiders job, which he described as one of the best positions in the NRL.
''I see that club as being a prime job in the NRL. The history of success the club's had, the current player group and the development program, it would be a plum job for whoever gets it.''
Former NRL coach Phil Gould said it was becoming tougher for coaches to stick to their beliefs and keep their players happy. ''Players and managers become very opinionated these days, they're very judgmental about the people that manage and coach them,'' he said on Fairfax's Phil Gould Show. ''It's hard for young coaches in that environment to play the coach, and play the popularity card to keep the troops happy.''