How Ricky Stuart proved me wrong

Tim Gavel 1 October 2019 22
Ricky Stuart

Ricky Stuart has changed the culture of the Canberra Raiders. Photo: File.

I remember when I was first informed that Ricky Stuart would be returning to coach the Raiders. I wasn’t sure if it was the right move, having witnessed another legend recently depart the club.

David Furner had been axed with three games to go before the end of the 2013 season and everybody associated with the club was emotionally drained from the fallout. The spectre of fans publicly criticising somebody who had done so much for the Raiders was hard to take.

Were we ready for another roller coaster, remembering, of course, the way Ricky Stuart had been treated when he left the club in 1998 after playing 203 games for the Raiders and a key role in the club’s three premierships?

How would Ricky handle it if things went south?

Six years down the track, Ricky could not have done more on and off the field to generate success and support for the team.

From the outset in the 2014 season, he worked hard to re-engage with the community. He was omnipresent at every junior presentation night. He encouraged his players to be involved in charitable pursuits.

His quest to win back the support of the Canberra community didn’t happen overnight. The average crowds at Canberra Stadium dropped below 10,000 in his first two years as coach. By 2017, average home game attendance had risen to almost 15,500.

Ricky Stuart on the sideline.

The close-losses epidemic seems like ages ago. Photo: File.

There is more to it than simple crowd size and success on the field this season. He effectively reconnected the Canberra business community with the club; a relationship developed prior to his return through his charity golf days and his respite centres. These centres have flourished ever since.

His charitable work has effectively encouraged spontaneous acts of generosity from his players. This connection to the community has helped keep his players grounded.

Another aspect, which hasn’t been widely publicised, is the way he has developed a solid relationship with the Sydney media which had been highly critical of the Raiders from the Super League years onwards.

In many ways, despite a couple of tough seasons in which the side finished tenth in consecutive years, he was given space to get the team playing as he wanted them to, with the players recruited by him. He had to make hard decisions to get the best out of the players.

Josh Papali was dropped last season, and Aidan Sezer spent much of the early part of this season in the NSW Cup. He supported Jack Wighton, giving him a second chance after his off-field drama last year which cost the team dearly.

The result, as we have seen this season, achieved the desired outcome. The playing group are performing for him, knowing that he has the ability to guide them around the field from the sidelines with a game plan that combines attacking brilliance with a defensive mindset.

Ricky Stuart pays TJ a visit on Christmas morning in ICU.

Ricky Stuart with fan TJ Campagna on Christmas morning in ICU. Photo: Supplied.

But there is more to it than a game plan. At Ricky’s insistence, the current playing group has constant reminders of the feats of the 1989 Premiership winning team, with current players partnered with players from the 1989 team.

There’s also the visual image of the ’89 players, as the current group walk to the change rooms at Canberra Stadium.

His working relationship with CEO Don Furner has given him scope to explore all options in the pursuit of success. This success includes the freedom to look outside the square when signing players, as evidenced by the recruitment of key players from the United Kingdom.

Ricky has effectively turned the club around. There have been plenty of tough decisions along the way, but the result has been a cultural shift within the playing group and the connection with the community.

This has changed the perception of the Raiders, a seismic shift akin to the days before and after the ’89 Grand Final.

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22 Responses to How Ricky Stuart proved me wrong
Allan McGrath Allan McGrath 9:20 pm 05 Oct 19

Cannot fault Ricky's passion! No one can drop kick a chair nearly as good as him.

Charbel Tahhan Charbel Tahhan 12:22 pm 05 Oct 19

The king of canberra

Stan Gerebtzoff Stan Gerebtzoff 5:25 pm 04 Oct 19

Ricky, there are coaches and there are coaches. you are a bloody COACH! keep up the good work

Pete Samu Pete Samu 4:26 pm 04 Oct 19

Vincynt Simone Toni Pulu the guy in the back lol

    Vincynt Sim Vincynt Sim 7:38 pm 04 Oct 19

    Pete Samu thought he got fired from there ? Haha

Nic Watson Nic Watson 12:20 pm 04 Oct 19

He's matured as a Coach. He's Home. =)

Emma Ciuffetelli-Mirenda Emma Ciuffetelli-Mirenda 7:11 am 04 Oct 19

He’s a great coach and I hope they bring it home. He’s a great man and has a heart of green 💚💚

Agnes Kumar Agnes Kumar 11:15 pm 03 Oct 19

A man with a green heart.

Timothy Hughes Timothy Hughes 7:38 pm 03 Oct 19

Being a bulldogs supporter Sticky used to piss me off, but I give him credit now, the man can coach!

Evonne Deans Evonne Deans 5:15 pm 03 Oct 19

Well Tim you were wrong !

Monica Tiffen Monica Tiffen 9:46 pm 02 Oct 19

A real success story, and, seems a really nice man!

Shan Weereratne Shan Weereratne 3:17 pm 02 Oct 19

He played with his heart and brains as a champion halfback. No different to his passion as a coach either.

Barb Mills Barb Mills 2:02 pm 02 Oct 19

We love Ricky.😍

Jan Gulliver Jan Gulliver 2:02 pm 02 Oct 19

Never in doubt, waited for years for this to happen 💚💚💚

Samuel Nicholls Samuel Nicholls 1:32 pm 02 Oct 19

In Ricky we very much trust!

He got rid of the big boppers and played smart for key positions.

David Vickers David Vickers 12:44 pm 02 Oct 19

He has set an example to his players on being a Good Man. They have reacted by becoming a very good team. Well done Ricky. I was a doubter too. Happy to eat my words.

Dean Bruce Dean Bruce 8:25 am 02 Oct 19

Until they get pumped at the weekend. Then it's all his fault again. 😉

Andrew Dale Andrew Dale 8:21 am 02 Oct 19

Yep me too 🙌

Bruce Rossel Bruce Rossel 8:09 am 02 Oct 19

I am happily eating humble pie after questioning some of Sticky’s recruitment and other moves in his early years as Raiders coach. It was all part of his master plan 😀

AbbDon Helen AbbDon Helen 7:40 am 02 Oct 19

An inspirational man who has given so much back to his community .... congratulations Mr Stuart

    Cecilia Veamatahau-Tupou Cecilia Veamatahau-Tupou 7:49 am 02 Oct 19

    AbbDon Helen yes a fine man, Mr Stuart👌

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