Raiders prop David Shillington has contacted suspended teammate Blake Ferguson to assure him he still wants to play alongside him.
But Fairfax Media understands some senior Raiders players remain unhappy about the club’s leniency dealing with previous off-field issues, which has now reached crisis point with Josh Dugan’s sacking, Ferguson charged with indecent assault and questions being raised about Canberra’s culture.
Shillington and Raiders skipper Terry Campese attempted on Friday to quell reports of turmoil among the club’s senior leadership and coach David Furner.
But there is a growing frustration from senior players that they are being blamed for a poor culture, despite their attempts to enforce more disciplinary measures.
Shillington, who started the 2013 NRL season as stand-in Raiders captain, confirmed Fairfax Media reports he quit the club’s senior leadership group about a month ago.
The timing coincided with Ferguson being charged with indecent assault over an alleged incident at a Cronulla bar on the eve of NSW Origin camp.
Shillington, who was also dropped from the Queensland State of Origin team and relegated to the Raiders bench, declined to be interviewed and declare the exact reason why he quit.
In a text to Fairfax Media, Shillington wrote ”it was causing too big of a distraction”.
But it’s understood he is one of the players who shares the frustration over club discipline.
Shillington denied he had personally called for Ferguson’s sacking.
”I’ve spoken to Fergo about that and he completely understands where I’m at with everything,” Shillington texted.
”After his incident with [Josh Dugan] on the rooftop we stuck by him and committed to helping him improve himself.”
Ferguson was supposed to have been on his last chance with the club before the incident in Cronulla, but the club has said it will support him. The Origin winger is due to face a Sydney Court on Tuesday.
Furner and other senior Raiders players refused to comment publicly on Friday.
There is, however, a simmering unrest among some senior players about the leniency shown by Furner towards disciplining Dugan and Ferguson in the past, which has led to this point.
There is also some disenchantment that the senior playing group is powerless.
The Raiders presented a dossier of 18 misdemeanours to the NRL when they sacked Dugan in March, including five that involved police.
Dugan and Ferguson were both stood down for one match last year, after Dugan was out drinking while injured and Ferguson reported to training under the influence of alcohol. But the senior playing group’s recommendation that they be demoted to NSW Cup was ignored.
Ferguson was again stood down for only one NRL match for his part in the drinking incident with Dugan in March. Senior players had recommended longer.
There is the perception that Dugan and Ferguson had been allowed to get away with too much because of their on-field abilities.
But Campese played down any friction among the club’s leadership group and administration.
”My understanding was [Shillington was stood down] because of his form and he wanted to get back into the Queensland side,” Campese said.
”The senior leadership group still meets once a week, it’s all sweet.
”I don’t think there’s any dramas, I think it’s a storm in a teacup.
”I don’t know where all this stuff’s coming from that people are unhappy. As a team we’re travelling all right. Of course there’s still things we can learn as a leadership group and a club, but we’ve got to learn to grow from these things and learn from these off-field incidents and set better examples.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.