In the lead up to the Canberra Raiders’ first preseason game against the Bulldogs today (February 29) in Port Macquarie, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has paid tribute to long-time friend and green machine legend Don Furner who passed away on Monday night aged 87.
“I was very fortunate to be personal friends with the Furner family and had some wonderful advice given to me as a young guy [by Don Furner],” Stuart said.
“We were, as a club, very fortunate to have a guy who has played for Australia and coached Australia as our first coach here at an NRL level. He will be sadly missed and my prayers and thoughts go to his family at the moment.
“He had such a massive impact on the club and was around the club for many, many years after he finished coaching before he did get quite ill.
“I was very fortunate to have spent a lot of my childhood days at the Furner household with old Don there as a father and he was a character, a loving father and I know that his wife and the boys looked after him when he was at a time of need.”
The Raiders have taken a squad of 26 players to Port Macquarie to face the Bulldogs and Stuart has a clear idea on how much energy his players will use up while leaving some players back in the nation’s capital to get a run with the feeder club, the Mount Pritchard Mounties.
“My first 18-20 players will get more time, they will get about 55-60 minutes. I will give some other players an opportunity, but I will also leave other players here to get more time in the Mounties game,” Stuart said.
The game will also feature the club’s exciting new signing George Williams, who made the move to Canberra from the Wigan Warriors for the upcoming campaign, and the halfback will finally have some time to build a solid partnership with fellow halves player Jack Wighton.
“I just hope he finds a little cohesion and combination with Jack,” Stuart said.
“He has played a lot of football with Josh Hodgson from an international point of view, but he hasn’t been able to do a lot of training with Jack as he has had a thigh strain that has kept him out of main sessions for the last 3-4 weeks out of the 5-6 weeks that we’ve had. Getting 50-60 minutes on the weekend will be really important for those boys.”
The green machine is itching to get back on the field in what has felt like a long pre-season after the loss in last year’s grand final to the Roosters and the troubles surrounding new signing Curtis Scott.
Stuart is taking 26 players to Port Macquarie for the trial match against the Bulldogs:
1. Jarrod Croker, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Matt Frawley, 4. Emre Guler, 5. Siliva Havili, 6. Josh Hodgson, 7. Corey Horsburgh, 8. Dunamis Lui, 9. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 10. Kai O’Donnell, 11. Michael Oldfield, 12. Josh Papalii, 13. Curtis Scott, 14. Bailey Simonsson, 15. Harley Smith-Shields, 16. Sia Soliola, 17. Daine Spencer, 18. Ryan Sutton, 19. Joe Tapine, 20. Matt Timoko, 21. Semi Valemei, 22. Elliott Whitehead, 23. Jack Wighton, 24. George Williams, 25. Sam Williams, 26. Hudson Young.
Raiders v Bulldogs
Where: Port Macquarie Regional Stadium, Port Macquarie, NSW
When: 4:30 pm, Saturday, 29 February.