Why can’t the Raiders retain their talent?

Tom Gibson Roar Rookie

By Tom Gibson, Tom Gibson is a Roar Rookie

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    Luke Walsh and Josh Dugan have a disagreement during the NRL round 23, Penrith Panthers V Canberra Raiders in Penrith, Sunday Aug. 12, 2012. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Robb Cox)

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    As a hypothetical exercise, let me throw a backline at you. What about coming up against the following players, all in the same team?

    1. Josh Dugan
    2. Joel Monaghan
    3. Daniel Vidot
    4. Blake Ferguson
    5. Bronx Goodwin
    6. Todd Carney
    7. Anthony Milford

    How would you rate it in purely football terms? Somewhere between very impressive and premiership material? At a minimum, you would have to acknowledge it would be very exciting to watch.

    Of course, that is a list of players the Canberra Raiders have – or will have – let go either for alcohol-related bad behaviour or ‘personal reasons’ over the last five years.

    As likely as it is that those seven players would produce scintillating football, it is equally likely that the first post-match function would result in several of them being arrested.

    Of the seven players in that list, four have played State of Origin and one, Anthony Milford, is widely regarded to be a future Maroon.

    All bar Blake Ferguson are Raiders juniors, including Josh Dugan and Joel Monaghan who were born and raised in Canberra.

    Arguably the most disappointing fact about this list for Raiders fans is that all the players on it left the club partway through a contract.

    They didn’t hate the club; most of them were only a year or two into new contracts when they left – Carney, Dugan, Milford and Ferguson all with significant upgrades.

    Dugan, Goodwin and Carney were sacked for repeated breaches of player conduct, while Monaghan fell on his sword before the club could sack him.

    These four have produced varying responses from fans ranging from disinterest to disgust to something approaching hatred. In the cases of Dugan and Carney, they were the highest-paid players in the club and the future of the team was structured around them.

    The other three are different. The Raiders and Vidot came to a joint conclusion that he was better off somewhere else.

    The details were slightly murky around the time of his departure but the now familiar phrasem’personal reasons’ was used. I won’t hazard a guess at what that means.

    Milford is in the Carney and Dugan category in terms of how he is valued by the club.

    This is a kid who entered the Raiders system at 13, debuted in first grade at 19 and is the type of natural talent that you shift anyone you have to in order to accommodate.

    Now he is citing his father’s health as a reason to move to Brisbane.

    Coincidentally, the Broncos need a young, creative attacking player and, also coincidentally, they have a lot of money to pay that player after they told Scott Prince and Peter Wallace they were no longer required at the club – a gutsy move considering there are no obvious replacements at the club or off contract at the end of the season.

    We all know Milford’s contract has a get-out clause concerning his father’s health. I wasn’t there at the time it was written but I imagine it was intended to allow Milford to return home if his old man’s heart condition deteriorated.

    Milford’s agent, Sam Ayoub, believes it allows Milford to return home whenever Milford feels he needs to be close to his family.

    My money is on Milford and Ayoub winning this one.

    Ferguson’s case will be different again. After being suspended for seven games over two seasons for alcohol-related incidents, not to mention having his State of Origin prospects cut short, Ferguson was retained by the club in the hope that it could work with him to overcome whatever it is that results in so many poor choices.

    This was a brave move by the club but after Carney and Dugan only ended up getting huge salaries to help rival clubs after being sacked, it didn’t have much choice.

    Now there is talk Ferguson wants out of Canberra. He wants to go to Sydney to be near relative and mentor, Anthony Mundine.

    This is despite him signing on for two seasons just a couple of months ago. Again, in a spate of good fortune for a player allegedly about to break his contract, two Sydney clubs are rumoured to have big money contracts ready for him.

    At the end of the day, a club will not keep a player who does not want to be there. It is destructive for club culture and can only have negative impacts on the field. So the question becomes: what do the Raiders do?

    They have long had difficulties signing big name players. When Greg Inglis, Israel Folau and Sonny Bill were off-contract, were the Raiders mentioned? Of course not. It’s not because the club doesn’t want players like that but because Canberra is not a place the big names come.

    So the Raiders develop their own talent. They work from the bottom up: identifying players, coaching and guiding them through the system then blooding them in first grade in the hope they will one day become stars.

    It works. Look at the list above for a start. The club has so many juniors, it can afford to supply St George Illawarra with half its team too.

    But the final step is not there. The step after these young players become stars. The step that keeps them in lime green for the representative years.

    How that happens is beyond me. It will require the help of the NRL to implement policies that support clubs, particularly those that develop juniors and take tough stances on wayward individuals. I am not holding my breath for that.

    What would be of most use is a crystal ball to let the Raiders know if a 13-year-old hopeful will grow into an adult that behaves like Shaun Fensom and Alan Tongue, or go down the Dugan and Carney route.

    Actually, even if they had that, they still couldn’t avoid the Milford situation where a well-liked, trouble-free player simply opts to leave because it suits him better. I wonder why he didn’t opt for that when he signed his last contract 18 months ago and his father’s health was at its worst.

    A more cynical mind than mind might think it was Brisbane didn’t have the cash or the incentive to throw big dollars at him then – particularly, as he hadn’t yet played first grade.

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    The Crowd Says (16)

    • August 21st 2013 @ 7:39am
      dwayno75 said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:39am | ! Report

      “As likely as it is that those seven players would produce scintillating football, it is equally likely that the first post-match function would result in several of them being arrested.” That made me laugh! Good read, there are many interesting points here that are going to be difficult to address, where to know for the Raiders, with Furner gone I guess it’s a step forward but 1 year from now will anything change?

      • August 21st 2013 @ 9:45pm
        Tom Gibson said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:45pm | ! Report

        I wonder about the same thing, Dwayno. Not sure if Furner was to blame for many of the problems with the team. I hope the nine senior players who pushed for his sacking step up and start playing better than most of them have for the last couple of years.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 7:45am
      Eden said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Perhaps I’m simplifying it too much but I think the players go a bit stir crazy in Canberra. They get isolated, bored, cold and eventually become reckless. Sydney is bigger and more “happening”, especially for cashed up kids in their 20s. Plus plenty of footballers are friends with other footballers and most of them are in Sydney.

      Why thi theory doesn’t hold true for other regional sides??? The weather?

      • August 21st 2013 @ 9:36pm
        Tom Gibson said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:36pm | ! Report

        This theory seems valid but wouldn’t it make as much sense that a player like Ferguson would be better off in Canberra where there is less ‘happening’?

    • August 21st 2013 @ 9:17am
      turbodewd said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      Re – Milford.

      What is the point of the Raiders recruiting a player from SEQld if he has a high probability of wanting to move back OR being poached back by the 2 SE Qld teams? Im a Canberran and I dont understand this. Im not surprised he wants to leave.

      Stir crazy doesnt seem to affects Brumbies, only some Raiders.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 9:43pm
        Tom Gibson said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:43pm | ! Report

        The Raiders have always had a strong presence in SE QLD, dating back to the Meninga and Belcher days. Just this year, Josh Papalii re-signed with Canberra and he’s from next door to Milford. The Raiders in fact identified it as the place in Australia that produces the most NRL players so .

        Also, it’s not like they aren’t recruiting from their own backyard. The current squad is littered with players from Goulburn, Temora, Orange – and Canberra.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 9:53am
      GW said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      Daniel Vidot, Joel Monaghan and Goodwin are fringe first graders in the NRL. Goodwin is coming good at a mature age, but he’s not a star. Dugan, Fergo, Carney, Milford are stars, no doubt. Vidot is big and strong but he does the dopiest things ever seen on a footy field, plus he drops the ball too often. Goodwin, Monaghan and Milford are very respectable guys – Monnas did something stupid and a teammate let everyone know about it. How many things were done in your youth that you’re damned glad no one saw?

    • August 21st 2013 @ 10:07am
      GW said | August 21st 2013 @ 10:07am | ! Report

      Extremely well written and so many good points Tom!

      If the NRL actually supported the Raiders stance against extremely poor behaviour, by de-registering the players for a season, I’m sure these spoilt stars would behave a whole lot better. At the moment, they get out of contracts, walk out on fans, get taken on by any team that needs their skills, and they start trying again which results in rep honours. Some punishment.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 4:13pm
        Ron Norton said | August 21st 2013 @ 4:13pm | ! Report

        The Raiders, like every other NRL club, has the answer to its own woes if it has the fortitude to act. Instead of tearing up players’ contracts, refuse to release them and make them sit out the balance of their contracts. Remember what happened to Gordon Tallis when he wanted to leave the Dragons to sign with the Broncos? He was forced to sit out a season. If players were forced to sit on the sideline for a couple of years until their contracts expired they might think twice about walking out on the clubs that nurtured them through their formative years. Of course the clubs would need NRL support and good luck with that!!

    • August 21st 2013 @ 10:14am
      Johnno said | August 21st 2013 @ 10:14am | ! Report

      The question is why do the Brumbies retain theres.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 12:26pm
        turbodewd said | August 21st 2013 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

        maybe because the Waratahs are a basketcase. I think the main reason is simple maths, there are more clubs in Sydney.

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