14 September 2023

Raiders presentation night turns emotional as Ricky Stuart pays tribute to Wighton and Croker

| Tim Gavel
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Ricky Stuart at the 2023 Raiders Presentation Night

Coach Ricky Stuart shows his emotions during his speech at the Raiders presentation night on Tuesday (5 September) as he farewells Jack Wighton and Jarrod Croker. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Ricky Stuart was halfway through his speech at the club’s presentation night when emotions took over.

Stuart, as tough a footballer as there was during his playing days, was unable to continue when he started paying tribute to departing players Jack Wighton and Jarrod Croker.

It was almost as if the reality had struck home that neither would be at the club next season.

With the coach struggling to compose himself, Wighton and Croker took to the stage and finished Stuart’s speech.

Raiders farewell Jack Wighton and Jarrod Croker

Farewell Jack Wighton and Jarrod Croker. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

If nothing else, it highlights the family atmosphere that has been nurtured at the Raiders.

Earlier, both players spoke about their time at the club.

Wighton described how hard it was to tell Stuart and his teammates that he would be heading to South Sydney next season. He also talked about coming to the club as a boy and leaving as a man.

Ricky Stuart pays tribute to the contribution of Jarrod Croker and Jack Wighton to the Raiders Club

Ricky Stuart pays tribute to the contribution of Jarrod Croker and Jack Wighton to the Raiders Club. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

Croker said he was already in talks with CEO Don Furner about an off-field role with the club in 2024.

Stuart also paid tribute to Matt Frawley, who is heading to UK Super League team, Leeds Rhinos.

The major award, the Meninga Medal, was won for the second year in a row by prop Joe Tapine.

The NRL Coaches Award went to Sebastian Kris, while Janelle Williams won the NRLW Coaches Award.

The Fred Daly Club Person of the Year Award went to Jamal Fogarty to acknowledge his outstanding work in the Canberra community.

It was a night to remember, particularly as this tight-knit club emotionally farewelled three of its respected members: Jack Wighton, Jarrod Croker and Matt Frawley.

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You can say what you want about Ricky Stuart, but he is passionate about his players, passionate about the Raiders club, passionate about Canberra and the surrounding region and passionate about supporting people with a disability or with life struggles.

He’s quite a conundrum compared to his NRL coach persona that you see on game day.

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