Raiders first coach Don Furner dies at 87

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Don Furner Sr… Raiders first coach dead at 87. Photo: Raiders.

DON FURNER SR (December 26,1932 to February 24, 2020)

The Canberra Raiders inaugural coach and life member Don Furner Sr died last night (February 24) following a long battle with illness. He was 87.

Born in Condobolin, Don played rugby league for a range of clubs across Queensland and NSW, including Souths (Toowoomba), Roma, Junee and Queanbeyan. He represented Queensland on eight occasions and toured England with the 1956-57 Kangaroos.

Forced to retire through injury, he embarked on a coaching career, taking Eastern Suburbs to a Grand Final in 1972 and piloting the Queanbeyan Blues to a remarkable 10 premierships in 13 years.

He became a fundamental part of the Raiders’ push to enter the NSWRL, recruited by club patriarch Les McIntyre to add credibility to the bid. He was subsequently named head coach when the club entered the competition in 1982.

Furner’s wealth of experience as a coach in country football, together with his unmatched ability to spot raw talent, were invaluable in the Raiders’ testing early years. He put together a squad that surprised the League world when it almost made the semi-finals in only its third year. His recruitment of Mal Meninga in late 1985, which then attracted so much talent to the club, was viewed as a masterstroke.

Head coach until the end of 1986, Don took the team to a Grand Final (with co-coach Wayne Bennett) in 1987. He coached the Australian team between 1986 and 1988.

Raiders chairman Dr Allan Hawke paid tribute to Furner and said he had the unique distinction at excelling in multiple roles in rugby league.

“Don Furner Sr was a fundamental piece of the architecture in putting our club together,” Dr Hawke said.

“He distinguished himself as a player, an exemplary coach and then as an administrator.

“Very few people would have the gift to excel in all the facets of rugby league, but Don Furner Sr did.”

In honour of Don, Canberra Liberals Leader Alistair Coe highlights his extraordinary contribution to Canberra and the region.

“As the founding coach of the Raiders, Don played a significant role in establishing a team that would become part of our city’s identity,” Mr Coe says.

“With Don as coach, the team developed a strong culture, signed significant players and played in the finals in 1984 and 1987.

“Don was awarded the order of Australia in 1989 and the Australian Sports Medal in 2000. He played for Queensland and Australia and his coaching career included the Queanbeyan Blues and Australia.

“My thoughts are with his family and the Raiders community at this sad time.”

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