CANBERRA have resigned themselves to losing the race for Luke Lewis's signature as Cronulla continue to firm as the favourite to snare the disgruntled Panther.
Canberra spoke with Lewis and submitted an official offer to his manager Greg Willett on the weekend, but club insiders privately believe he has already agreed to join the Sharks.
Willett indicated on Sunday he is keen to have a new deal for Lewis finalised by tomorrow, with Wests Tigers, Parramatta and Newcastle the other major contenders.
Lewis, who last week shocked the league world by asking Penrith for a release, is keen to join a club capable of winning a premiership next year.
The 28-year-old was wined and dined at the Sutherland home of Australian Test cricketer Shane Watson last week. He also forged strong friendships with Sharks stars Paul Gallen and Todd Carney during this year's Origin series.
The Knights are reportedly trying to convince Cronulla to release second rower Jeremy Smith from the final year of his contract. Should the New Zealand international move to Newcastle, it would free up space for Cronulla to accommodate Lewis with a lucrative three year deal.
Meanwhile, irate Raiders coach David Furner has blasted his side's mental strength, accusing them of failing to handle expectation after Sunday's shock home loss to Gold Coast.
''There were three or four guys who didn't turn up prepared, and I'm not sure why,'' Furner said.
''We seem like a side at the moment, we've shown this year and especially on the weekend, [that isn't] handling expectation.
''There just seems to be a pattern there when we are favourites, we don't handle that tag very well. We should have won that game and what it meant for the team and for everyone … it was not good enough.''
Furner was particularly unhappy with some of the performances of his leaders against the Titans, even launching an aggressive spray at captain David Shillington at half-time.
He hinted his team may have been guilty of believing its own positive press and let complacency set in - a claim prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs denied.
''I don't know if it's complacency, but we've certainly got to be better at responding to setbacks throughout games,'' he said. ''The good teams fight and turn the momentum around. Once things go against you that's when you have to roll up your sleeves and get in the grind.''
Furner is hopeful Josh Dugan will return from an ankle injury to help bolster his injury-ravaged squad against the Sharks.
If Dugan is passed fit, all eyes will be on whether he replaces the in-form Reece Robinson at his preferred fullback spot, or he's forced to play out of position.
■ Brisbane's hopes of a top-four NRL finish have been hit by a back-line crisis, with winger Dale Copley the latest player to be sidelined after fracturing his fibula.
The 20-year-old sustained the injury in the first-half of the third-placed Broncos' 10-8 win over the Warriors on Friday and is likely to miss a minimum four games. Copley is the third Brisbane player to break his leg this year and his injury is almost identical to the one suffered by centre Jack Reed last week.
Jharal Yow Yeh is also out for the season following the sickening compound fracture of his right lower leg against South Sydney in round four in Perth. ''It's very disappointing for us,'' Broncos' general manager of football operations Andrew Gee said.