The Canberra Raiders train at the club's headquarters in Bruce. Andrew McFadden and Haydon Hodge watch Travis Waddell pass. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
CANBERRA RAIDERS coach David Furner insists he won't stand in assistant coach Andrew McFadden's way should he wish to quit his post to join the Warriors.
The Raiders this week initially denied McFadden's request for a release, as he still has a year to run on his contract.
But Furner insisted he won't play hard ball when he holds talks with his deputy on Monday should he still wish to accept a role under Matt Elliott in New Zealand.
If McFadden leaves as expected, Furner said he had a ready-made replacement who would fill the void in time for the start of pre-season training on Friday.
Furner confirmed Toyota Cup coach Andrew Dunemann would fill a role with the NRL squad, after guiding the under-20s to a grand final in his first year in charge.
Dunemann will replace Justin Morgan, who will leave the club or be demoted from his role despite having a year to run on his two-year deal.
McFadden is highly regarded by Furner and the playing group, and the club is keen for him to stay.
But Furner said the former halfback would leave with his blessing if he did not have a change of heart.
''I only found out last week he got approached by the Warriors, and I think it's an extra year and a bit more money,'' Furner said.
''I can't begrudge the bloke. I know at first we said it [a release] is not going to happen, but I think that might change on Monday.
''I'll have a talk to him, but if someone's not going to be 100 per cent focused here, then there's no point being here.
''It'd be nice if he stays, but if he doesn't I wish him all the best.''
Furner declined to divulge the identity of McFadden's potential replacement, but confirmed it was someone who did not have an existing role at the club.
A strength and conditioning coach based in Britain will also join the Raiders next year, replacing the departing Matt Ford.
''I've got everything in place. The pre-season's all sorted, strength and conditioning's all sorted,'' Furner said.
''Fordy was looking to have a break and pursue something else, so the only person I looked to change was 'Morgs' [Morgan].
''The assistant coaches are pretty much in place, on Monday we'll see where we're at with 'Cap' [McFadden] and go from there.
''He has been under me for a while and I know one of his reasons is to keep broadening his coaching under another coach in Matty [Elliott].
''I've got no problems there and if that's the case on Monday, that's fine.''
Raiders star David Shillington admitted the playing group was as much in the dark as anyone about the club's coaching roster. ''I don't know anything about it, to be honest,'' he said.
''Picking the coaching staff is up to the head coach, it's up to Furnsey what he wants to do there.
''I've always been really happy with the coaching of Morgs, 'Cappy' [McFadden] and Furnsey but if they were to change, so be it.''
Shillington said he would be shattered should McFadden depart, adamant he was a first-grade coach-in-waiting.
''I've said plenty of times I think he'll make a great first-grade coach one day, if he's crazy enough to take the plunge into first-grade coaching,'' he said.
''He's got an extremely intelligent football brain and he's a fantastic communicator and people manager, too, which is a huge part of coaching dealing with 30 different personalities in a squad.
''It would be a huge shame to see him leave, but if another club did pick him up they'd be very lucky to have him.''
Canberra's coaching upheaval could not have come at a worse time, with pre-season set to begin.
But Shillington remained upbeat, believing a few new faces in charge could help refresh and motivate the squad.
Former Raiders captain Alan Tongue described McFadden's likely departure as ''a huge loss''.
But he insisted the former halfback would still fill his role professionally should the Raiders refuse to let him go. ''It would be a huge loss, all the players really respect him and love the way he coaches,'' Tongue said.