Furner's head not on the block
Coach David Furner at Raiders training this week. Photo: Colleen Petch
Raiders chairman John McIntyre says he stands by the club's decision to extend coach David Furner's contract so far in advance, again declaring Furner's job safe until the end of the 2014 NRL season.
Despite assurances from their respective boards, public pressure is certain to intensify on the loser of tomorrow's face-off between Furner and Parramatta Eels coach Stephen Kearney at Canberra Stadium.
Both coaches are now burdened by an inferior winning percentage to the past seven NRL coaches sacked since 2009, when Furner took charge at the Raiders.
Furner will present to the Raiders board at Canberra Stadium just hours prior to tomorrow's game, but McIntyre said it was a standard board meeting and there was no agenda to discuss the coach's future.
McIntyre said any speculation that Furner's job was in jeopardy was ''absolute rubbish'', adamant that Furner ''will see the contract out''.
Furner's original four-year contract would have expired at the end of this season, but the Raiders upgraded and extended his deal to 2014 after just two years into the role. It followed Canberra's resounding charge to the 2010 NRL finals when they won nine of their final 11 matches.
The Raiders, cursed by injuries to key players such as Terry Campese, have since won just nine of 33 games. Furner's winning ratio now stands at 38.6 per cent.
McIntyre said the club had ''responded to the NRL market'' by deciding to re-sign Furner early. But McIntyre, who appointed Canberra's first three coaches - Don Furner snr, Wayne Bennett and Tim Sheens - stood by both his record and David Furner's.
''I appointed [Canberra's first] three coaches, all three coaches coached Australia at some time down the track afterwards. I know what I'm talking about and I can be arrogant as that because my record speaks for itself,'' McIntyre said.
''My view is the bulk of [Raiders] fans are no more frustrated than I am.
''There's no more pressure than the pressure [Furner] has got on himself about his own desire to achieve. He's a highly competitive individual.
''Suggestions that one other individual off the field is going to make that group of athletes perform any better is a fallacy.''
Rival NRL clubs have not shown the same loyalty in recent seasons. The Bulldogs sacked coach Kevin Moore despite a winning ratio of 53 per cent, while Brisbane's Ivan Henjak (52.9 per cent), Penrith's Matthew Elliott (44.1 per cent), Parramatta's Daniel Anderson (48.1 per cent), Roosters' Brad Fittler (43.1 per cent), Souths' Jason Taylor (42.5 per cent) and Cronulla's Ricky Stuart (41.8 per cent) have all been cut loose by their respective clubs in the previous three seasons.
The Eels' board has also continued to declare faith in Kearney, who has a winning return of just 21.1 per cent in his first two seasons at Parramatta - seven wins in 33 matches. Kearney and his players were forced to address fans at the club's annual general meeting during the week.
Furner's task has undoubtedly been complicated by a crippling injury toll, especially to key positions at fullback, in the halves and at hooker - known as the spine.
The Canberra Times has looked at statistics of Furner's 83 matches in charge of the Raiders, revealing he has been able to retain the same spine for a maximum of five consecutive games - in 2010, Furner's most successful season.
''Whenever he's had all of his key personnel available for him check his record at that time,'' McIntyre said.
''It's something we've all got to live with. How many games did Newcastle win without Andrew Johns? How many games do the Brisbane Lions win without Jonathan Brown. How many races did Kingston Town win without Malcolm Johnston on board?''.