David Furner
David Furner Getty Images

David faces Goliath in skirmish

WHEN Wayne Bennett and Don Furner coached the Raiders to their first grand final in 1987, David Furner was an impressionable 17-year-old who idolised his dad's coaching sidekick.

Tonight, at Newcastle's Hunter Stadium, the veteran NRL coach may well help put a line through the 87-NRL game career of the younger Furner in a match-up the master and the pupil are both desperate to win.

But the variance is that Bennett has a contract for four years which - almost assuredly - will be honoured irrespective of results in the short term.

Furner, on the other hand, is under extreme pressure to retain his job despite the fact he is contracted until the end of the 2014 season.

Speculation from the national capital during the week was that Furner was about to step aside and his assistant, Justin Morgan, would assume the reins. But Furner, following the Raiders fifth loss from their past six outings, was adamant there was "no way" he would walk away from his job.

"That's not me. I want to lead the team out of this and I'm not looking for an 'out'," he said. "Everyone has to show some character.

"The easy thing to do would be quit but that has never entered my mind.

"The team needs some guidance and I'm not quitting anything."

Both coaches have made several changes to their line-ups, some forced some by choice.

Darius Boyd and Akuila Uate are on Origin duty for the Knights while Ken Naiqama replaces his brother Wes.

Former Bronco Dane Gagai makes his debut in the centres, alongside the returning Tima Tahu, Peter Mata'utia is the new fullback and Zeb Taia is back on the bench, replacing Richie Fa'aoso.

The Raiders will be without skipper David Shillington, on Origin duty, and veteran utility Shaun Berrigan will be sidelined until round 18 with a bicep injury.

Debutant Mark Nicholls and one-gamer Matt McIlwrick and are on a seven-man Raiders bench.

After last week's 40-nil hammering at the hands of the Tigers, Furner took his squad in to camp at Swansea, near Newcastle, to prepare for tonight's match.

But the bad news for the Raiders is that lock Shaun Fensom (knee) and second rower Joe Picker (virus) are in doubt.

Both sides sit precariously on 10 premiership points - four behind eighth-placed North Queensland - with just four wins.

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