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Furner failed to prove himself as Raiders flounder

Greg Prichard Roar Rookie

By Greg Prichard, Greg Prichard is a Roar Rookie

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    Canberra Raiders celebrate a try during the round 8 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Canberra Raiders. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Brett Crockford)

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    David Furner was lucky to last as long as he did as Canberra coach. Had the club sacked him at the end of the 2011 season, in which the Raiders finished 15th, it would have been fair enough.

    Furner had been coach for three years by then. Canberra finished 13th in 2009, and, given that results have to be catastrophic for a first-year coach not to continue into his second year, he remained coach in 2010.

    The Raiders made a late rush to qualify for the finals in seventh place that year, and beat Penrith in the first week before being eliminated by Wests Tigers. You may remember that being the game in which Terry Campese went down with the first of a series of major injuries for him.

    In 2011, Canberra finished on 16 points and only avoided the wooden spoon because Gold Coast, also on 16, had a worse points for-and-against differential.

    Furner had been re-signed before the start of the 2011 season until the end of 2014, but that shouldn’t have stopped the club from acting.

    He’d had enough time to prove himself as a first-grade coach by then, particularly at a club that had a very talented playing roster.

    The Raiders have always been a frustratingly inconsistent side under Furner’s coaching. The good days were great, but the bad days were awful, and Furner was never able to do anything about the wretched ups and downs.

    The Raiders have had injuries, but every club gets them.

    Furner is a good guy, and because of that a lot of people will have a lot of sympathy for him, but being a good guy is down the list of things you need to make a successful coach.

    Midway through last season, when the Raiders were in typically annoying form, Furner was under pressure to retain his job. Coming off the previous season’s 15th placing, they had lost eight and won just five of their first 13 matches, and were in second-last place.

    The result that really put Furner under the pump then was a 40-0 loss at home to Wests Tigers, in Round 13.

    But he survived, and the Raiders recovered to win four of their next seven before finishing off with a six-game winning streak that took them through to the second week of the finals, where they lost to South Sydney.

    That gave hope for this season, but it has just been another roller-coaster ride.

    Canberra have won two in a row three times, and three in a row once. They’ve also lost two in a row three times and three in a row once.

    That’s Raiders football. At least they’re consistent with their inconsistency. It’s the sort of stuff mid-table dreams are made of, and explains why they are in ninth place.

    Canberra should be consistently finishing high on the competition table and challenging for the premiership.

    Even when the club sacked Furner yesterday, it was inconsistent with how these things should be done.

    The board held an extraordinary meeting after Furner had taken the team to the South Coast for a training camp, so when they sacked him they had to send his brother, chief executive Don, to go and tell him the bad news.

    They might have done it when David Furner was actually in Canberra.

    Player power was a factor in the club’s decision. Plenty of people will say the players should have done better in terms of their form, and they probably should have, but when a team’s form is as wildly up and down as Canberra’s was I think the coach has got to take most of the responsibility.

    The Raiders have got to be very careful about their next coaching appointment. They need someone who can, and will, get the best out of their players on a regular basis.

    This season isn’t over for them yet, but their inconsistency and the fact they have to win their last three games to make the finals obviously isn’t a good mix.

    Next year, the Raiders are almost certainly going to have to do it without both Blake Ferguson and Anthony Milford.

    Ferguson had a get-out clause in his contract should Furner no longer be coach, and appeared to be already angling for a way out anyway, and Milford is determined to activate a release clause based on compassionate grounds.

    There is plenty of speculation that Ferguson will end up back at Cronulla, the club he left at the end of 2010 because, he said, he wanted to go to a club that could win a premiership.

    Ferguson also had a release clause at the Sharks, if Ricky Stuart was no longer coach. Will clubs ever learn about these clauses?

    But if Ferguson is planning on rejoining Cronulla, he might want to wait a while to see how their playing roster looks for next year, just in case.

    The loss of both Ferguson and Milford would have the capacity to blow a gaping hole in the Raiders from which the club could find it very difficult to recover in the short-term.

    That makes it even more important for them to find the right man as their next coach.

    Greg Prichard
    Greg Prichard

    Greg Prichard has spent all of his working life in the media, from way back when journalists were still using typewriters. He has covered rugby league, football, AFL and various other sports for News Limited and Fairfax newspapers and also worked for magazines, radio and pay television. Twitter: @gregprichard

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    The Crowd Says (44)

    • August 21st 2013 @ 6:50am
      oikee said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:50am | ! Report

      They are playing like a club in turmoil. Hard to watch. Juniors have brought them undone, and Furner took the wrong bet.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 7:13am
      dwayno75 said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:13am | ! Report

      Well something had to give – wonder what effect this will have on the players now – odds on Ferguson gone now as well…

    • August 21st 2013 @ 7:21am
      Jay C said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      The Raiders inconsistency stems from the fact it is cold in Canberra and teams don’t like playing there. he wasn’t sacked earlier because of his brother.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 8:00am
      Haradasun said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      I thought a few weeks ago Shillington resigned as a senior leader in the team because the club kept Fergusson agains the playing groups wishes and that finally the players got sick of Furner repeatedly giving fergusson another chance when none of them want to play with him.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 8:21am
        The eye said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        According to one media source,you’re right,they said the senior playing group had lost all confidence in Furner,which probably comes on the back of him kid gloving Ferguson in the past and culminating in last weeks no show.Berrigan left the group a while ago.Hope Dunemann can get them going and keep the job.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 8:17am
      Tom said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      Ferguson sounds like he has a king sized ego and is just too hard work to keep on the straight and narrow for the return he gives on the footy field. It’s a shame that plyers like this put their own interests ahead of the team. I reckon a lot of the problems with players chasing the cash is their player agents telling them what they can get elsewhere and basically coaching them what to say to the media and their club to get out of their contract. In saying that, Furner has had his chance but I don’t see why they should sack him now with qonly three games left – it will cause more disruption then calmness at the club. I don’t expect the raiders to make the eight and goodbye ferguson.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 8:21am
        Greg Prichard said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        Here’s a theory: What if the board had come to the conclusion it was best for the long-term that Furner should be sacked, but didn’t want to wait until the end of the season in case they stormed into the finals and that made it too hard to sack him? Andrew Dunemann has a good relationship with the players, particularly Milford. If they’re good enough to make the finals from here, they’ll make it under his interim coaching. Furner’s sacking won’t affect their chances.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 8:29am
          oikee said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:29am | ! Report

          I think Dunemann has the Cows job.

          • August 21st 2013 @ 8:33am
            Greg Prichard said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:33am | ! Report

            I’m told dunemann has made the short-list of four in interviews for the cowboys’ job.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 8:32am
        Greg Prichard said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:32am | ! Report

        all of that is fair comment, of course. there’s no doubt the playing group was sick to death of, first, dugan’s, and then, ferguson’s antics, and the coach’s kid-gloves treatment of ferguson. but remember the one golden rule when it comes to a team being satisfied and a coach surviving: if you’re winning, all of the other stuff doesn’t matter.

    • Roar Guru

      August 21st 2013 @ 8:42am
      ScottWoodward.me said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      Greg,
      “To the people who are looking for David Furner’s head, it’s not going to happen under my watch. He’s there until the end of next season.”, Canberra Raiders Club President John McIntyre, May 06, 2013.
      This quote underlines the wider problem within the Raiders and it stems from the top.
      They have consistently made wrong decisions for a long period of time going back to when they knocked back Craig Bellamy for the head coaching position.
      Members must ask why would a Board allow the CEO to hire his brother who he would never sack regardless of how bad he goes.
      I am going to be fascinated to see who they appoint next.
      There is no shortage of ex Raiders who coach like Meninga, Stuart, Henry and Sheens, but if they go down that path they would have been better off sticking with Furner.
      They need to “discover” their own Craig Bellamy. Maybe it is Dunnermann, maybe it is Noddy, maybe…………

      • August 21st 2013 @ 9:24am
        GW said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        I agree, the Raiders do not need Mal, Ricky, Henry or old Tim. Dunemann could very well be the man. The Souths and Roosters coaches were relative unknowns but they definitely have the backing of their players, have good game plans, and keep their teams on an even keel so that a poor performance is very rare. They are a little advantaged by being able to pay $140,000 for a player that would be on $350,000 at Canberra. Noddy is amongst the very best people to listen to in rugby league, but I’m not too sure how he’d go at full time coaching. Why would anyone want to coach if they had other really good options, like he has. I think bringing Ricky back would be akin to bringing Elliot back, no thanks.

        Two days ago I was so very upset that Fergo was wanting out, but after his meeting with Nasser and SBW, plus dumping his uncle as manager, I’m now with the senior Raiders players and want him gone, today if possible. Tony Milford can go too if he still wants to, as long as it’s on the basis of homesickness only. Given Tony signed a contract extension with us well after his Dad’s heart attack, I can’t handle the “need to be by his sick Dad” as a justifiable reason to terminate a contract. Indeed, he could take some time off, miss some games if necessary, but no need to cancel a contract and get paid heaps by the Broncos. If we’re not paying him heaps, we should be. Oikee – your point in past days that the Raiders have halves and a fullback already so don’t need Milford is one of the most inane arguments ever heard. I put McCrone in the class of Wallace and Walsh, they try so very hard but are better suited to slower ESL games. Campo is really struggling to come back from devastating injuries and Robinson can only attack. We have three aging, former Aussie reps, yet the top 4 teams have multiple current Aussie, NZ or English reps. Why we should just give up a player that we have developed and funded for the past 6 years is beyond me. Milford’s footwork reminds me so much of a young Benji. Is that good or bad?

      • August 21st 2013 @ 4:03pm
        ElGusto said | August 21st 2013 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

        It does come the top..as the story goes Dave was done playing, and Mcintyre made room for him to coach reserve grade as his first coaching job, then after the Henry saga they promoted from the “family farm”. The worst thing is, rumor has it that bennett wanted back to the raiders (instead of the dragons) but they thought they had Henry and we got screwed.

        Mcintyre is a cancer on the club, and the sooner he is gone and the board stops accepting mediocre performances from staff then we might see some improvement

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