Raiders reach the crossroads
Canberra Raiders coach, David Furner, holds a press conference at Raiders HQ following Saturday night's 40-0 thrashing by the Tigers. Photo: Graham Tidy
The Raiders' recent off-field disciplinary issues are an indication besieged coach David Furner may not command the full respect of some players, according to former Canberra skipper Alan Tongue.
Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson were dumped from the Raiders side which lost to Souths on May 25 after breaching the club's alcohol policy.
The incidents occurred just four days after a three-week drinking ban undertaken by the entire squad ended, which Tongue admitted could be viewed as a sign of rebellion.
Players arrive to board a bus for Newcastle. Blake Ferguson, left and Joel Thompson. Photo: Graham Tidy
Tongues' comments came on a dramatic day at Raiders headquarters where:
■ Reports surfaced on social media suggesting Furner would stand down or be sacked, which were later retracted with an apology;
■ Furner and club management rubbished claims he has been put on notice by the board; and
Players arrive to board a bus for Newcastle. L to R Edrick Lee, Blake Ferguson, left and Joel Thompson. Photo: Graham Tidy
■ The first-grade squad embarked on an unprecedented trip to the Central Coast to prepare for Saturday's crunch game against Newcastle.
Asked if the recent off-field issues were a sign of rebellion, Tongue said: ''I think it has to be looked into it like that, when you lay it out like that.
''I think it is, it's almost a lack of respect for the coaching staff and what they've done, but it's also a lack of respect for your teammates.
''When two guys go against [the best preparation], yes it's a lack of respect for the coach and the coaching staff, but it's also a lack of respect for the other players, which is just as important.''
Tongue, who retired after last season, doesn't feel there is any rift between Furner or any of the players.
But he said a few players would have been told in no uncertain terms their first-grade spots are in immediate jeopardy. He said the fact the Raiders' woeful 40-0 home loss to Wests Tigers came the week after another poor effort against Souths suggested change is needed.
''Often you give the players the opportunity to make up for their mistakes or a poor performance, [but] it's happened for a couple of weeks now and it looks like guys will be on notice and changes will happen,'' he said.
''It [accountability for performance] has got to come back more on the players I think.
''I don't think there are any divisions in the playing group, what I see is a team that is really down on confidence and self-belief.
''I know fingers are getting pointed at Dave, but you can only do so much from the coach's box.''
Tongue said blooding more youngsters from the Raiders' high-flying Toyota Cup side ''needs to be looked at'', but warned against shattering their confidence.
''It's important you don't blood them too early, but in saying that, we have a situation where if it's for the long-term health of the club, it needs to be looked at,'' he said.
Tongue backed Furner's decision to adopt a siege mentality and prepare this week out of the capital.
''It can be a really valuable week, so I think it's a good thing,'' he said.
''In these tough times you have to face the music and you can't shy away from that, but you need as little distractions as you possibly can.''
Penrith great Greg Alexander said Furner's job may fast become ''unworkable'' unless the Raiders turn their on-field fortunes around immediately. ''The coaches always seem to be the first to go don't they, they can't change the whole club,'' he said yesterday.
''[But] I would think they need some results pretty soon, otherwise it nearly becomes unworkable.
''They're trying something different this week so we'll see if that works, it it doesn't you're back to square one and everyone's asking questions again. If they go on and have another couple of losses, it might be the line in the sand.''
Alexander said the question of whether the coaching staff or the players are accountable is something only those behind closed doors can answer. ''Whether you blame the coach, or whether you think the players aren't performing because they're unhappy with the coaching, that is something,'' Alexander said.
''It's easy to blame the coach, but some of those blokes [players], after that effort, need to have a look at themselves. Sometimes you do lose the dressing room and if you do it's hard to get it back, I don't know if that's happened at Canberra yet.
''Unless you're in amongst the players and see exactly how the relationships and dynamics of it all are working, you're guessing.''
Furner is under contract until the end of 2014.