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Raiders irate over 'soft' treatment of Ferguson

Unhappy: Raiders Test front-rower David Shillington has expressed his discontent by quitting the club's leadership group.

Unhappy: Raiders Test front-rower David Shillington has expressed his discontent by quitting the club's leadership group. Photo: Jay Cronan

Sick and tired senior players want Blake Ferguson sacked from Canberra, with Test front-rower David Shillington quitting the club's leadership group over the leniency shown by coach David Furner to the banned NSW State of Origin winger.

In a development indicative of tension behind the scenes in the national capital, it can be revealed senior players are unhappy they continue to be overruled in their efforts to come down hard on the wayward winger, and previously, their problematic former fullback Josh Dugan.

The final straw for fed-up Australian prop Shillington came when the 23-year-old was not sacked after police charged him with the indecent assault of a woman at a Cronulla nightclub last month. Ferguson, who was out with Dugan on the evening of the alleged offence, was to enter NSW Origin camp with his former club teammate the next day but subsequently had his registration suspended by the NRL.

Causing a fuss: Canberra Raiders centre Blake Ferguson.

Causing a fuss: Canberra Raiders centre Blake Ferguson. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

He is due to face Waverley Local Court next Tuesday, the day before the third and deciding match of the Origin series in Sydney. While Ferguson has been sidelined by administrators since the incident, the issue of his future remains a bone of contention in Canberra. Shillington's standing down from the senior player group followed that of another former member of thatunit, Shaun Berrigan. According to club sources, the leadership group – which after Shillington's withdrawal comprises captain Terry Campese, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Dane Tilse, Brett White, Shaun Fensom, Josh McCrone and new member Jarrod Croker – wanted Ferguson's contract torn up after he and Dugan missed a recovery session in March and posted a photograph online that showed them drinking.

Instead, only NSW fullback Dugan was sacked – he later signed with St George Illawarra  – with Ferguson suspended for one match, fined $10,000 and ordered to undergo counselling. Sources say Furner told frustrated senior players at the time that Ferguson was on his last warning. It has left them incredulous that he has since been spared again – even though he is yet to face court – prompting Shillington's exit from the leadership group.

Furner said on Thursday he believed Shillington had left the senior players group because of his own poor form and not in relation to the Ferguson issue. ''I can understand if some of the players are angry because he's out for four weeks and the team wants to concentrate on playing good football without these distractions,'' Furner said.

The angst over the handling of Ferguson and until March, Dugan, spans back well before this season. Senior players had before the infamous rooftop session called for the pair to be sacked, such was their destabilising influence.

Last year, they wanted them stood down and playing reserve grade for three weeks over alcohol breaches – Dugan for drinking when injured; Ferguson for reporting to training still affected by alcohol. Instead, they were stood down for one match – a round-12 defeat to South Sydney – and had the weekend off rather than being relegated to the second tier. Players have also recommended Ferguson undergo counselling on a full-time basis but that has also been turned down.

Canberra have sacked Todd Carney and Dugan over off-field issues and seen both go on to perform well for other clubs. As a result there is a reluctance to essentially hand another young star to a rival but Ferguson's ''soft'' treatment is alienating other players.   Shillington declined to comment when contacted by Fairfax Media.

46 comments

  • Good on the senior Canberra players taking a stand. The NRL Commission needs to show the same drive and expectations of player behaviour. When they are sacked don't take the easy way out and let them join a rival team. That kicks the original team in the face and sends a bad message. If the offending players don't like it, TOUGH! There are plenty of talented players to take their place - look at Reece Robinson for Dugan.

    Commenter
    RabbitohLeigh
    Location
    Central Coast
    Date and time
    July 11, 2013, 11:45PM
    • Sacking ferguson is far from the answer. I think shillington should be more worried about his own game. And rabbitohleigh as for Robinson being a comparison with Dugan. Chalk and cheese. Dugan is a match winner and a game changer. Robinson is steady with the occasional ability to look good once a break is presented to him through his speed. Other than that he offers little in defence, is shaky under the high ball and is not a roaming fullback that looks to also create chances as milford did last week. Robinson is a better winger, if canberra want to go up a gear they need Milford at fullback to offer more of a spark from the back and that X factor and they need ferguson's attack and aggressive defence.
      Sacking ferguson will mean he ends up in a couple of weeks at another club. What's the point of that. We should learn from what happened to duges.

      Commenter
      SYDNEY RAIDER
      Date and time
      July 12, 2013, 1:51AM
    • Indeed. Canberra do the 'right' thing and give Dugan the sack. So he goes and plays for another club. Well, he certainly learnt his lesson, didn't he? With no threat of serious punishment for their actions, why should these kids give a rats for the repercussions? Twelve months in the actual workforce might change their minds about how much of a privilege it is to play sport for a living.

      Commenter
      Gary
      Date and time
      July 12, 2013, 5:45AM
    • Gary's right. Any player who is sacked by an NRL club for justified disciplinary reasons should face a complete ban from the NRL for a full season.

      Commenter
      rudy
      Date and time
      July 12, 2013, 8:54AM
    • @Sydney Raider, I disagree. It isn't always about winning. I have been a Raiders fan all my life and I have come to a point where I am embarrassed to say I love Rugby League. I much rather support a team I respect than a talented team I don’t, even if the former losses all the time. If they instil the discipline now, they will build a team of like minded people, we have plenty of talent coming through the lower grades, they just need to make sure they nurture them properly. Sets us back a year or two but it is better for the team in the long run. And I don’t have to be ashamed to say I support the Raiders.

      Commenter
      Sam
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 12, 2013, 9:37AM
    • The suspension for a year option is right. As for the Dugan question, if you don't believe that Ferguson is as good as (and certainly better for team morale than) Dugan, well there's Milford in that position too. Remember, Carney was sacked and Campese stepped up. The Raiders talent identification and development conveyor belt endures and these characters need to have a look over their shoulder and realise they are not irreplaceable.

      Commenter
      YS
      Date and time
      July 12, 2013, 10:14PM
    • Sack Dugan: becomes the Origin fullback and finds great form.
      Sack Fergo and i bet he wins the dally M!lol

      Im not surprised as the league protects its own and has its favourites. Fitler POD before captaining Australia, Andrew Johns drugs immortalised, the list goes on.

      Look, i understand its a full time job for footy players. 7am starts, 5pm finishes. The problem is the NRL needs to put out a general code of conduct for all clubs because i do know that certain clubs have their own which can have a more adverse effect on players. If there is one clear cut standard set by the League and all clubs agree to comply then if there are serial breachers, then the league can impose a just punishment 1 year ban etc. just like any other business or organization.

      But then again, if fans are paying money to see these players play and bring in crowds, let them play, its a business, a very big money making business..

      Commenter
      Fax_en_figahz
      Date and time
      July 13, 2013, 3:23PM
  • Lucky we're re-signing Furner then! Bigger things to worry about. Agar just got out for 98! What a shame?!

    Commenter
    Rusta
    Location
    the berra
    Date and time
    July 11, 2013, 11:53PM
    • How is anything cricket related bigger than league? For Christs sake, it's footy season. Goes to show the management at the Raiders is a joke. No wonder Sam Williams wants out and is pushing up his asking price. Come on over to the Sharks Sam and join up with Todd. What a pairing these two would be.

      Commenter
      Catapultluch
      Date and time
      July 12, 2013, 7:26AM
  • The problem is that the NRL allows players quite rightly stood down by one club to sign with another club because they don't want to lose these players to another code. Maybe they could only be signed by a club that has an "empty slot" because it has stood down a previous player?

    Commenter
    WESTeve
    Date and time
    July 12, 2013, 1:22AM

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