Blake Ferguson is set to become the hottest property in the NRL after David Furner’s shock sacking by Canberra on Tuesday.
The troubled NSW star has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave should Furner depart and the 42-year-old’s axing will fuel speculation Ferguson wants out of the Raiders.
Former Canberra coaches Neil Henry and Tim Sheens are the early favourites to fill the position along with Sydney Roosters assistant coach Jason Taylor and Trent Barrett.
On an eventful evening in the nation’s capital, Furner, whose brother Don is the club’s chief executive, was sacked with immediate effect.
Assistant coach Andrew Dunemann will take charge for the final three games of the season with the team sitting one place outside of the top eight on points differential.
Furner was with the team in camp in Batemans Bay on the NSW south coast when he received the news and becomes the first coach in the club’s 31-year history to be sacked.
“It’s obviously a results driven game and we have lost our last three games,” Furner told News Corp Australia.
“It’s still terribly disappointing after all the work I’ve put in.”
His downfall comes amidst rumours of a squad mutiny with several players believed to have confronted the board claiming they were unable to work under him any longer.
The decision ends a long association with the club for the former Test and NSW star who is also Sheens’ assistant with the Kangaroos side.
He made 200 appearances as a player between 1992 and 2000 and his father Don senior was the coach for the club’s maiden season in 1982.
Since replacing Henry as coach in 2009, Furner has reached the finals just twice, despite having a powerful squad and some of the best crop of youngsters in the NRL.
However, he has been forced to deal with a number of thorny issues involving some of his best players.
The club were forced to sack both Todd Carney and Josh Dugan following a number of off-field indiscretions.
And Ferguson was the latest player to be in trouble following his arrest for indecent assault in June after an incident at a south Sydney nightspot.
The Raiders were also rocked after being named as one of the clubs of interest to ASADA’s investigation into the use of prohibited substances on the eve of the season.
It has subsequently been cleared of any wrongdoing but the season has been far from plain sailing for Furner who was under contract until the end of next year.
“The board made the tough decision feeling the team’s inconsistent performances were not reflective of the talent within the squad and have decided to pursue a different direction for the future of the club,” a statement said.
“The board noted the wonderful service over many years that David Furner has made to the club from his days as a player and more recently a coach.
“He will leave his tenure at the club as one of the Raiders most loyal and respected figures.
“They noted the difficulty in the decision and said it was one of the saddest days in the club’s history.”
Club chairman John McIntyre and chief executive Don Furner did not respond to calls from AAP.