David Shillington, No. 8, gets into a scuffle with some Rabbitohs players on Friday night. Photo: Steve Christo
RAIDERS captain David Shillington has demanded the young Raiders squad gets serious about its professionalism if it wants to turn a failing season around with rookie winger Jack Wighton the latest casualty of an off-field incident.
Shillington also denied that he had reacted to a verbal slur from Rabbitohs forward Sam Burgess in Friday night's 36-18 loss to Souths, claiming he had hit out at the English import in retaliation to physical intimidation.
Having already axed stars Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson because of alcohol breaches, the Sunday Canberra Times has learned that Wighton's late-withdrawal on Friday night was because of a toe injury suffered during a backyard trampoline accident.
The ligament injury is set to sideline the teenage rookie for Saturday's match against the Wests Tigers at Canberra Stadium.
The Raiders have slumped to four losses from their past five games and coach David Furner is under pressure to come up with answers. The Sunday Canberra Times understands:
■ Dugan and Ferguson won't play for NSW Cup feeder team the Mounties today and are set to be recalled to the NRL line-up after their one-match ban for breaching the club's alcohol policy;
■ hooker Travis Waddell is again under pressure to hold his place in the squad with veteran utility Shaun Berrigan likely to be promoted to the starting team and Glen Buttriss to be considered if he can recover from a sternum injury; and
■ teenage winger Edrick Lee is favoured to retain his spot after making his NRL debut on Friday, meaning someone in the backline will be squeezed out.
Backing up for the Raiders two days after Wednesday's Origin opener, Shillington admitted he was running out of answers for Canberra's poor form.
The Raiders heaped pressure on themselves with unforced errors on Friday night, including: centre Joel Thompson being tackled into touch on the first tackle; five-eighth Josh McCrone failing to find touch from a penalty; and Reece Robinson kicking out on the full from a restart. ''Those lapses in concentration cost us dearly,'' Shillington said.
''Obviously Furnsey is coming under fire for his coaching but I spoke to him after the game and I was saying how do we get players to stop doing this, these lapses in concentration? I don't know the answer. What springs to mind is just working hard at training … the more disciplined we are at training, then that will relate to a better performance on the field.''
Canberra's commitment to training was undermined by Dugan and Ferguson, who were disciplined for alcohol breaches. It was Ferguson's second misdemeanour relating to alcohol this season. Ferguson's behaviour after the loss to the Brisbane Broncos in round seven contributed to the entire team copping a three-week alcohol ban.
With captain Terry Campese and vice-captain Brett White sidelined for the season, Shillington said the Raiders needed to be more diligent in their preparation.
''We all supported Furnsey with his hardline approach [dropping Dugan and Ferguson], it's bloody frustrating,'' Shillington admitted.
''Having Campo and Whitey out already - two of our best players - and then to miss Duges and Fergo too which are our next best players. You take four of the best players out of any team and they're going to struggle. In saying that I was still confident.
''Obviously the way those two boys prepared last week wasn't ideal and didn't fit into the culture of what we're trying to do around here with professionalism. Hopefully that's the last we hear of it and they jump into line and rip in for us next week to make up for it.''
Shillington played down the push-and-shove with Burgess late in the match on Friday. Shillington was being cautioned by the referee for a late hit on Luke Burgess, when he appeared to hit out at Sam Burgess.
''He was just trying to standover me, he put his head up against mine trying to intimidate me and obviously I wasn't going to let that happen,'' Shillington said. ''He might have called me a geezer who knows … It was just a heat of the moment thing, I actually apologised to Luke after the game [for the late tackle].''