Greg Prichard, NRL.com
Brett White wants to get the Canberra players together for a meeting he hopes can save the team's season before it's too late.
The Raiders' hopes of making the finals are at a critical level after three straight losses that have left the team in ninth place and with an awful points for-and-against differential.
White, the veteran ex-Melbourne prop who represented NSW and Australia, has enormous experience that gives him the ability to read the warning signs.
He told NRL.com he was worried the constant speculation over the futures of fullback Anthony Milford and centre Blake Ferguson had the potential to become a destructive distraction over the last three rounds. The media has been full of stories on the subject in recent days – most recently with news of Ferguson’s alleged sightings in bars in Canberra and Sydney over the weekend after missing the Raiders’ loss to the Bulldogs due to injury.
Milford has asked the club for a release from the final year of his contract on compassionate grounds, and there have been suggestions Ferguson plans to ask for a release from the final two years of his deal. Ferguson has not done so yet, but he also hasn't denied the reports.
White's only concern is to do with the football. He said he had spoken with coach David Furner about his concerns, and that Furner had agreed with him that it was a good idea to have the players meet with a view to putting the blinkers on and concentrating on the football and nothing else for the next three weeks.
Canberra's differential of minus-122 means they can't hope to reach the finals by winning two of their last three games and finishing on 28 points. They have to get to 30 by winning all three, starting with a huge home game against fourth-placed Manly on Sunday.
"I spoke to 'Furnesy' about my concerns that all of the speculation about these things could have an effect on the team and that we could miss out on the finals because of it," White said on Monday.
"I'm not sure if it affected us against the Bulldogs on the weekend. I think we probably just got a few things wrong and the score mounted up against us. But it might become too big a distraction, and if we get the boys together we can talk about trying to put things aside.
"The thing that happens when one or two of the boys in a team have got things going on in regard to their futures or whatever, they sometimes just talk about it in little groups. I don't want to talk to the boys about any of that stuff unless they want to, but I think it would be better if any discussions they were having on their futures could be put off until the end of the season because we're at threat of missing out on the finals.
"Let's just focus on the football. Put all of that other stuff aside and tell your managers that for the next three weeks you don't want to deal with anything else. Like I said, I'm not too worried about it yet, but I think we should do something about it. We're all mates and we're all in this together, and we've all worked too hard for too long, going right back to the start of the pre-season, to let anything get in the way of us making the finals.
"We can still win our last three games and get there, so let's do that."