Raiders left with no option: Tongue
Josh Dugan and Raiders coach David Furner at training last week. Photo: Colleen Petch
Former Raiders skipper Alan Tongue believes the NRL's young stars need to accept their actions have ramifications for the entire club, backing Canberra's decision to stand down Blake Ferguson and Josh Dugan for alcohol breaches.
Tongue declared protecting team culture was paramount and dumping the star duo from the team to play South Sydney this Friday was the only option.
As revealed online by The Canberra Times yesterday, Ferguson allegedly fronted for training last Friday still under the influence of alcohol. He and Dugan had been drinking together the night before.
Blake Ferguson, left, with Josh McCrone at Raiders training yesterday morning. Photo: Colleen Petch
Dugan has been punished for drinking while recovering from an abdominal injury.
The Raiders' season is at the crossroads at 4-6, and coach David Furner's hardline stance at such a crucial juncture emphasises his refusal to compromise team policy.
Fullback Dugan is the Raiders' highest paid and most influential player, while Ferguson has been one of Canberra's best performers this season.
Their absence will be sorely felt against the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium, but Tongue said the Raiders were right to draw a line in the sand.
''You can't let your standards slip, it doesn't matter what time of the season it is,'' Tongue said.
''If they talked as a group that it's not acceptable and they've made it known it [the decision] is fair enough.
''It doesn't matter whether it's a must-win game or it isn't, it [team culture] is what you have to stick by.
''When it's two of your star players it would be tough to swallow, but you just have to do it to set that example.''
Furner placed the entire first grade squad on a booze ban after Canberra's heavy round seven loss to Brisbane.
The Raiders are still battling to overcome previous alcohol-fuelled dramas which led to Todd Carney's sacking and Joel Monaghan quitting the club.
''Our problems have been pretty well-documented in the past and they took a tough stance on it, and it's important for that to be shown,'' Tongue said.
''We seem to keep making the same old mistakes, though, even though we've taken a tough stance we still keep shooting ourselves in the foot.
''In a team environment you're not just representing yourself, your representing your teammates, family, supporters - the list goes on.
''When you let people down you have to understand you're letting down more than yourself … that's where the younger generation needs to understand and appreciate that.''
Tongue said the daunting prospect of explaining themselves to their teammates will be punishment enough for Dugan and Ferguson.
They won't be welcome at the side's final training session tomorrow, and will train alone on Saturday and Sunday.
Furner said the decision to stand down Dugan and Ferguson was made in consultation with the club's leadership group.
Their omission has opened the door for in-form rookie Edrick Lee to make his debut on the wing, while Reece Robinson will again deputise for Dugan at fullback.
Second-rower Joel Thompson has been moved to the centres, pushing Jack Wighton to the wing.
''I'm confident with the side we've got, but it's also about what's been put in place at this club,'' Furner said.
''We talk about building culture and there's policies in place for good reason.''
NRL round 12: South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canberra Raiders at ANZ Stadium, 7.35pm
TV time: Live on WIN