Canberra hooker Tom Starling has been charged over an alleged intimidation incident, clouding Josh Hodgson’s expected move to Wests Tigers.
Canberra have lost the resilience that gave them recent success, with defeat by their 2019 grand final opponents Sydney Roosters proving how far they’ve fallen.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart concedes the resilience that got the Raiders to a historic NRL grand final just two seasons ago has been sucked out of the club.
After a week of turmoil which bubbled over once George Williams was given an early release on Tuesday, the Raiders were thrashed by an understrength Sydney Roosters side 44-16 on Saturday night.
They were a long way off the cohesive unit that went down to the Roosters in the 2019 decider.
For years, Canberra were given the unfortunate moniker of ‘Faders’, and at least for the past two seasons the sledge didn’t stick.
But after seven losses from their past eight games, including three that they’ve led at halftime, the toughness which has defined their recent success is nowhere to be seen.
“You can’t keep getting to good leads, taking control of games as we are and then some passages of play go against us and then it’s breaking our back,” Stuart said.
“It used to be the complete opposite.
“It was only yesterday. The last couple of years we have been so resilient and so tough, and yet it seems to be sucked out of us at the moment.”
Williams’ shock exit brought issues to the surface that had been festering within the club this season after the Englishman took a parting shot at the Raiders on social media, with several teammates ‘liking’ the post.
However, Stuart denies the headlines distracted the team, citing their 10-0 lead after 28 minutes as proof.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. It was a tough week, but I think we showed when we got to the game there was a some good energy and good play… we had good control of the game for 30 minutes and then it goes away,” he said.
“If we didn’t start that way, I’d say it’s really affected us, but it hasn’t.
“It didn’t affect us because the boys got here, they were upbeat.”
Former captain Josh Hodgson threw fuel on the fire by defending Williams in an interview with Newscorp following the halfback’s release.
However, on Saturday night he clarified that it wasn’t a swipe at the club, but a show of support for Williams, who is struggling mentally being away from home in England.
“It kind of came out wrong in terms of what I was trying to do. I was trying to look after my mate and protect my mate,” Hodgson told Fox Sports.
“The headlines kind of make it sound like I was having a dig at the club. Not a chance… I love this club.
“This club’s given me a home away from my own place. I was trying to defend a mate and that’s what we’re all about in Canberra.
“We defend each other to the hilt and in these times you figure out who your true friends are when you go through the tough times. We’ve just got to keep coming out swinging.”