Bye Bye Blake! Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out!

Thank goodness that is over! The saga of Blake Ferguson’s tenure as a Canberra Raider player is now over and ended with these words from Don Furner:

“The board were left with little choice but to terminate Blake Ferguson’s contract, after several breaches of club policy”.

Despite all of the support shown for Ferguson by the Raiders, he did not have the fortitude to attend a board meeting summonsed to discuss his recent conduct and that, according to the Raiders statement was the last straw.

The season that was for Ferguson included being the other part of the infamous roof top photo with Josh Dugan, a sexual assault charge whilst in camp with the NSW State of Origin team, the sacking of the coach who supported him after the players could not take that support any more, a disappearing act in recent weeks and playing mute in a bizarre press conference. It is fair to say that his sacking has been a long time coming.

In a season where:

· Josh Dugan was sacked by the club but not de-registered only to find himself playing for another club;

· Sandor Earl has been stood down earlier for conduct that pre-dated his time with the club; and

· Anthony Milford has decided he does not want to stay with the club that gave him a chance in the top flight,

The NRL MUST deregister Ferguson and await the outcome of his current court case as well as the obvious counselling he requires if only to ensure that the Raiders are not punished AGAIN for doing the right thing but also give Ferguson a chance to get his life in order.

It has been a difficult season to be a Canberra Raiders fan this season. Hopefully drawing a line under this sorry saga can assist fans, like me, get some closure and move forward looking towards the 2014 season. It will be all the more difficult to do that if one of the first things that Raiders fans see is Ferguson rewarded with another contract next season.

Here’s hoping he gets the help he obviously needs and the Raiders can move forward with a squad of players who want to play in the green jersey of this proud club. In the meantime: bye bye Blake … I can’t say it has been fun or even rewarding.

Canberra Raiders: Ferguson, Milford and the quest for players who want to play

Is there a week that goes by in the NRL at the moment where there is not some off field “news” about a Canberra Raiders player? Of recent weeks, whilst the team that I have followed for nearly two decades has been in the midst of playing the top 5 teams back to back and losing, the only news one seems to read is of players wanting a release from their contracts. Coming after the Josh Dugan debacle of earlier in the season, this constant cloud over the Raiders is almost becoming too much for this lifelong fan to bear.

I am not going to rehash all of the news of recent weeks save to say that it seems pretty clear that Blake Ferguson and Anthony Milford do not want to be at the club. In Ferguson’s case, whether he was on the grog at the weekend or not, he has shown nothing that could even be considered as resembling interest in being at the club since his return to the fold following his suspension over sexual assault allegations. The club stood behind him and now he, seemingly, not only wants to leave but cannot be bothered to watch a whole game that he was allegedly too injured to play? What a fine way to repay the faith the Raiders showed in him.

The Milford case is a sad one given his father’s illness. I would have more sympathy though if his manager was not in the press last week spruiking that his player, Milford, would consider boycotting the whole of the 2014 season if the Raiders did not grant him a release. It is important to note here three things:

1. Milford is a young man and is obviously close to his family. It is entirely understandable, as a human being, that he would want to be close to his father.

2. The Raiders have invested significantly in Milford given that they gave him an opportunity in their SG Ball side, after he had played with feeder club Souths Logan as a junior, and then the under 20 team before he hit the big time in the NRL this season. What I am saying is, this is not a player developed by another club who had been swooped upon when disaffected by the club. Simply: he was developed by the Raiders into the player he is.

3. It is pretty obvious that he does not want to be at the club next year.

That last point is the real issue for me: I just want to see a Raiders 17 on the weekend that wants to play for the club. Not one that is filled with players on the way out, wanting to be out or focused on their own agendas ahead of what is best for the club. If Ferguson and Milford do not want to play in the green jersey, then surely the best thing for all involved is to cut them lose and get players in that want to play for our proud club.

I know that is a painful suggestion given the players that the Raiders have had to give up in recent times but, in time, to have developed a squad of players who actually want to play in Canberra into a winning line up would surely be more satisfying that having to put up with the rabble we, as fans, have to put up with now.

I will always be a fan of the Canberra Raiders. It is striking though that this is the first year in my recent memory when I have not made a trip to Canberra from Brisbane to watch my team play. Indeed as close as two seasons ago I would travel to Canberra Stadium two or three teams a year. Maybe my disaffection with the NRL in general is colouring my love of my team but maybe, also, this seemingly constant wave of player disenfranchisement is also having an impact.

I crave the week, then month and then season where the team running out for the Raiders is one entirely united to cause of winning for the club and the fans. At the moment it feels like that week is a long way away.