Canberra Raiders player Blake Ferguson has been told to front the board on Friday. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
The Rabbitohs have shot down any interest in recruiting Blake Ferguson, despite the wayward Raiders star being spotted at the club's Redfern training venue on Tuesday.
The two biggest issues confronting the Raiders will be addressed by the board this week - Ferguson's future and the first official update on the search for a new coach.
The Raiders have all but issued an ultimatum to Ferguson: he shows up for Friday's board meeting or he is sacked.
Blake Ferguson failed to attend Waverley Court on Tuesday. Photo: Getty Images
The Raiders have summoned Ferguson by text, email and through his manager, Anthony Mundine, but the 23-year-old is yet to confirm whether he will attend.
Should he skip the meeting, the board is positioned to axe him immediately for breach of contract, given the Raiders have already suspended him without pay and have provided the required seven days notice for him to front the board.
Ferguson did not attend Sydney's Waverley Court on Tuesday morning to face a charge of indecent assault.
Ferguson has pleaded not guilty to the charge and the next mention is set down for Sutherland Court on September 10.
But Ferguson was spotted at Redfern Oval as Souths prepared to train on Tuesday, sitting in the car of Grayson Goodwin - brother of Rabbitohs back Bryson Goodwin.
Cronulla is Ferguson's most likely destination should he leave Canberra and avoid deregistration, with the NRL Integrity Unit also monitoring his situation. He has also been linked to the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs.
Asked if the Rabbitohs were interested in Ferguson, Souths chief executive Shane Richardson was emphatic. ''No, none whatsoever. Can I be more specific or explicit than that?'' Richardson said. ''There's no interest at all in any way, shape or form.
''Why he was driving past with Grayson Goodwin I have no idea … there's never been any conversation here, his name hasn't been brought up once by anyone in our recruitment.
''It is a dead, final, no.''
The standoff with Ferguson mirrors Canberra's sacking of Josh Dugan after round one this year, when the star fullback refused to front the board.
In a sign Ferguson has already lost the support of some teammates, Raiders prop David Shillington said: ''It comes down to the club taking a stance..
''Josh Dugan got the sack earlier this year from repeated off-field stuff and I'm not sure what's going to happen with Blake, but he seems headed for the same destiny.
''If the club keeps taking a strong stance like that, sooner rather than later, then it sends a message to the playing group that you can't do whatever you want and get away with it.''
The Raiders subcommittee charged with finding Canberra's next coach is expected to provide an initial briefing to the rest of the board by the end of the week - potentially at the same meeting that will discuss Ferguson's future.
While the Raiders have publicly dismissed Ricky Stuart as one of the candidates, the instability at Parramatta could open the door for Stuart at Canberra.
Stuart said he would not address speculation until after this weekend's final round.
There are reportedly 16 candidates in the frame, although senior coaches with experience appear to be the front-runners. There is growing support for former Raiders coach and sacked North Queensland Cowboys mentor Neil Henry.
Raiders players have thrown their support behind interim coach Andrew Dunemann, the rookie NRL coach thrown into the deep end for the final three games of the season.
''He can't come in and fix everything in one or three weeks,'' Shillington said.
''If he got the chance he'd be really good for us. The players are behind him and if he gets a chance it will be exciting.''