Oh Ricky you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Ricky?
Today I was supposed to write part two of the column I started on Monday and discuss the goings on in NRL finals and AFL finals and it would be a nice and easy piece before this weekend’s matches. But NOOOOOOOOO Ricky Stuart has to come out last night and confirm the terribly kept secret that he is going back to Canberra to coach the Raiders.
I couldn’t pass up the chance to discuss this because it really does blow my mind, hey Ricky.
Somehow, Ricky Stuart is about to coach his fourth NRL club (not including NSW State of Origin and Australia), which means he will have coached a quarter of the clubs in the NRL. He only just started at Parramatta and was one year into a highly paid three year deal to rebuild the Eels, but now he is abandoning ship after one of the worst seasons imaginable to go to a club that waited too long to fire their coach and former Stuart teammate David Furner. The whole thing is a fiasco.
A lot of Parramatta fans are upset about this as it’s just another bad moment in a season that couldn’t get worse; however I think those fans are missing the point. The only upside in this whole thing is for Parramatta fans because they just got out of paying two more expensive years to the most overrated coach in the history of rugby league. It is win-win for Parra as they get out of his contract without having to buy him out, but also hit the necessary rock bottom to have the clear out of players they so desperately needed.
Whilst they may be at rock bottom, if I were an Eels fan I would be smiling today as everything can only get better from here. Next season won’t be easy, but they bring in talents like Corey Norman, Nathan Peats, Justin Hunt and unless he backs out of his contract Will Hopoate returning from his Mormon mission. They are going to make a very enticing backline (and hooker) and if they can get their pack in order they might just have a foundation to move forward.
Supposedly Neil Henry is getting the job and whilst Henry did a poor job getting the best out of the Cowboys this season until after he was told he was not being re-signed, he has a decent enough history. I don’t think I would have hired him were I in charge of the Eels, but I don’t think he is necessarily a disaster.
Speaking of disasters, that brings me back to Mr Stuart.
I cannot for the life of me figure out why this man is held up as such a fantastic coach that teams are fighting to pay him big dollars to coach their club and why some fans are desperate to get him or keep him. The man was a tremendous player but has been coaching for over a decade now and has one of the least inspiring resumes of someone with that many years under their belt.
Let’s look at what he has done shall we.
His career started off with the best season of his coaching career when he won the Premiership as a rookie coach with the Roosters in 2002. Ignoring the fact that the Bulldogs had the salary cap scandal that year which made life a bit easier, the main reason they won that title was because Phil Gould (and Graham Murray) not only built a fantastic squad, but he was holding Stuart’s hand the entire way and practically coaching that team. Say what you want about Gould as a media personality, and many people have, but he was and probably still would be an incredible football coach.
Every Roosters fan I know gives credit for that title to Gould and Fittler, not to Stuart. The Roosters made the next two Grand Finals with that incredible team but fell one game short both years. Now I guess that three year run must be why some rate Stuart as a coach, but then Stuart and Gould had their falling out, Gould left the Roosters and everything fell to shit for poor old Sticky.
He left the Roosters with a winning record and 3 Grand Final appearances, so it reads well, but knowing how good the squad was and how instrumental Gould was, the statistics tell a story that reality struggles to back up. He moved on to the Sharks for the 2007 season and I guess because expectations are low and because the Sharks did at least play defence under him, people act like he was a good coach there too.
Again, most Sharks fans I know never rated him either.
Again he left before the end of his contract and with poor relationships with many at the club including players and board members. By the end of his four years at Cronulla he had an amazing win percentage of 45%. They had one good year in 2008 where they made the preliminary final, but they were never able to reach those heights again.
After leaving that job he took the NSW Origin coaching job and we all know how unsuccessful that turned out, so we will leave it at that. On the subject of representative coaching, he also had the 2008 World Cup drama when coaching Australia when he lost the final to New Zealand and then was fined $20,000 for a post-match outburst before stepping down.
Then this year he returned with Parramatta. I must admit, whilst I didn’t think he would do a great job I figured he would at least get them defending as his Sharks team had and been a bit competitive. But no, the team not only didn’t defend, but they looked like they couldn’t care less for much of the season. Stuart handled the clear out saga terribly and turning a lot of the team against him and amazingly a club that got the wooden spoon in 2012 managed to play even worse in 2013.
Somehow his reputation wasn’t damaged beyond repair by this and yet again he leaves a club of his own accord and not at the end of a contract.
The Raiders have a very talented playing roster. They need a hooker desperately, but have enough talented players that they can work it out. Whilst they made week 2 of the finals last year, they have probably underachieved under David Furner given how talented their squad is and how much of a factory their Holden Cup team is and has been going back to when they won the first Toyota Cup.
I applauded their decision to finally end Furner’s tenure, but now I feel like they have jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
We will have to wait and see how they perform under Stuart, how well he incorporates their next generation of stars into the side and whether he can get the players to be disciplined on and off the field. They no longer have the Blake Ferguson, Sandor Earl or Josh Dugan distractions so everything is set up for Stuart to have every opportunity to succeed.
But surely if he fails yet again, there won’t possibly be a fifth team desperate to hire him. He currently holds a 51% win percentage heavily weighted by those first three years at the Roosters. But those seasons were a decade ago and it’s been all downhill since then.
For some reason NRL clubs look at Ricky and think he is so fine and that blows my mind.