Don Furner says the toughest decision he has had to make in his 17 years or so as the Raiders CEO was to tell his brother that he would no longer be coaching the Raiders. That was in 2013.
Don and then football manager John Bonasera drove from Canberra to Moruya where the team was in a three-day camp in a bid to turn around a run of disappointing results.
Don had phoned David signalling that they needed to talk face-to-face. Don told David that his time as coach of the Raiders was to finish after 109 games.
It was effectively a board decision but delivered by Don. What made it particularly painful was David’s status as a Raiders legend – a premiership player who had racked up 200 games for the club.
The fall out from the decision was felt at the highest levels of the club, with chair John McIntyre saying the sacking didn’t sit comfortably with him.
McIntyre was the Raiders’ inaugural boss and his father, Les, was the club’s first chair. Don Furner Snr was coach. They were the key drivers behind Canberra’s entry to the NSWRL. Without them, there would be no Raiders.
Such was the anguish at having to sack David Furner, given his long-standing relationship with the Furner family, JR, as John McIntyre is widely known, felt that he had no option but to step down as chair.
JR handed over the role to his childhood friend growing up in Queanbeyan, Dr Allan Hawke, a man who had carved out an incredible career in the public service.
Ricky Stuart had earlier made it clear that he wouldn’t express interest in the Raiders job while David Furner was in the role, such was the strength of their friendship, which had its origins in their days as schoolboys.
With David Furner sacked, Ricky, who was coaching Parramatta, was sounded out about his interest in the position. Dr Hawke had been appointed by John McIntyre to chair a sub-committee to select the new coach.
History shows Ricky took on the role, guiding the Club to the grand final two seasons ago and a preliminary final last year. He remains in the position.
His appointment has been a masterstroke and emphasises the importance of relationships in successful organisations.
Ricky and CEO Don Furner are great mates since their time in the same year and the same rugby teams at St Edmund’s College.
With Ricky as the coach, Don as the CEO, Allan Hawke as the chair and John McIntyre as the club patron, there is as strong a bond as you will find in sport. The origins of that friendship from their Queanbeyan days include John McIntyre as a key figure in developing a dynasty through relationships.
The club experienced the same ownership structure for much of its existence, except for six years under the control of News Ltd.
Simon Hawkins is another key figure as the CEO of the entire League Club’s group operations, which has provided financial stability.
There have been accusations of nepotism over the years, given the close relationships of the key personnel. Those close relationships, though, have provided the club with stability and laid the foundations for the success the Raiders enjoy today.