Jon Tuxworth In Townsville June 24, 2012
Raiders star Josh Dugan comes off the field after being injured against the Cowboys. Photo: Ian Hitchcock
CANBERRA'S year continues to lurch from one crisis to the next after star players Josh Dugan and Joel Thompson suffered potential long-term injuries in a woeful 40-18 loss to North Queensland last night.
There were fears Dugan's season had ended with a broken ankle when he was stretchered off after falling awkwardly in a tackle late in the game.
But it looks likely he will be sidelined for around six to eight weeks with either a syndesmosis sprain or ligament damage.
Second-rower Thompson [broken knuckle on his left hand] didn't re-appear after half-time, while bench forward Trevor Thurling sustained an injury to the AC joint in his shoulder.
''I just got caught in a tackle and got my leg swept from behind, and my ankle got caught underneath me,'' Dugan said.
''It's pretty early to tell, but I'm trying to keep optimistic about it.
''We [injured players] just have to keep our heads up, and do whatever it takes to get back on the field.''
With Terry Campese, Brett White, Shaun Berrigan, Glen Buttriss and Bronson Harrison already sidelined, the Raiders are the most injury-ravaged team in the NRL.
Their misfortune against the Cowboys in particular is remarkable.
White snapped his anterior cruciate ligament in round 5 this year, while last season Campese and Dugan both suffered serious injuries against the Cowboys.
Injuries aside though, Canberra's performance, particularly in the first half, simply wasn't up to NRL standard.
They made every fundamental error in the book to make the Cowboys' task far easier than it should have been. Booting a kick-off out on the full.
Failing to find touch on penalties.
Dropping bombs, giving away silly penalties and completing just 57 per cent of their sets.
Canberra's ninth loss in 14 matches will heap even more pressure on coach David Furner.
Coming off a bye after a last-start win in Newcastle, the Raiders started promisingly with an early try to centre Jarrod Croker.
But some schoolboy mistakes simply gifted the Cowboys 30 unanswered points before the break.
And their ineptitude and lapses in concentration contributed to all five of the Cowboys first-half tries.
Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen staked a huge claim to replace the injured Billy Slater in Queensland's Origin III side.
The livewire custodian threw the last pass for four of North Queensland's seven tries in a virtuoso performance.
Furner was disconsolate after the match, and at a loss to explain his side's continued ill-discipline and poor execution.
''The frustrating thing is those errors, that's the real frustrating thing and in the first half I thought we could have defended those errors,'' he said.
''The first three or four tries to the Cowboys were off the back of our errors.
''It wasn't always our inexperienced players either, our experienced players did [make mistakes] too and they need to lead.''
Raiders skipper Shillington was also guilty of some uncharacteristic mistakes, and admitted the first half was probably the Raiders' worst 40 minutes of the year.
It is the second time in three matches the Raiders have conceded 40 points after their horrific 40-0 loss to Wests Tigers three weeks ago.
''I'll put my hand up, that was my worst start of the year,'' Shillington said.
''A few of those elementary errors [hurt us badly] and we didn't defend our line well.''