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Amid much hope from Raiders folk and plenty of skepticism from his critics, Ricky Stuart took over the coaching reins in Canberra at the start of the 2014 NRL season.
The appointment followed a dismal stint at the helm of Parramatta in 2013, where the club managed just the five wins, conceded 740 points and claimed an inglorious wooden spoon.
Just a few years earlier, his time at Cronulla had ended disastrously and prematurely late in the 2010 season, with fractured relationships at board, staff and player levels making his future at the club untenable.
Both clubs were in turmoil, some would say chaos, at the moment Stuart rode into the sunset, with winning records of 21 per cent at Parramatta and 42 per cent at the Sharks completely unsustainable.
Only his first stint at the Roosters between 2002 and 2006 had brought anything of note in terms of coaching success, with an instant premiership in his first year, then some solid seasons, before the club was well in decline by 2005.
Just like his demise at the Sharks, he departed the Roosters prior to the official end date of his contract.
Now, with the Raiders sitting second to last on the NRL ladder after five rounds of the 2023 season and with pressure mounting on the coach, a continuation of the pattern does not seem beyond the realms of possibility.
In attendance for the Raiders’ clash with the Panthers last Friday night, aside from the 53-12 shellacking dished out and the sheer dominance of a typically well-drilled and organised Penrith side, the most significant thing that was apparent from the contest was the frustration of the fans in the outer directed towards their coach.
Sure, Jordan Rapana was responsible for one of the worst games ever played by an NRL winger, the Raiders were without key man Jack Wighton and the Panthers are a heck of a good team, yet the Canberra fans were vocal each and every time their coach appeared on the big screen, seething at the ineptitude of their team and his certain role in it.
Thus far in 2023, the Raiders have lost to the Cowboys, Dolphins, Knights and Panthers and managed just a lone win against the Sharks, where Cronulla scored the final two tries of the game and were close to stealing the two points based on late momentum.
There are a stack of quality teams to face in the short-term future, with the unbeaten Broncos in Brisbane this Saturday night followed by a home game against the hot-and-cold Dragons before the bye in Round 8.
They are at home to the surprise packet Dolphins before an extremely difficult stretch against the resurgent Bulldogs, Eels, Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs which will decide the fate of their season.
Stuart comes across as a gruff man; someone prepared to get into the trenches and fight hard with his players. An admirable quality indeed. Yet he also is seemingly incapable of rolling with the punches and accepting the good with the bad and realising that, in the end, things probably do work out fairly across the long haul.
Undoubtedly robbed by the most appalling of refereeing blunders in the 2019 Grand Final, Stuart appears to have been determined to prove a point, failing to replenish his squad; to modernise and add what was required in order to match pace with rugby league evolution and thus remain relevant.
The Raiders, renowned under Stuart for a power game ignited by big packs that laid brutal platforms, now look slow, cumbersome and playing a style that has since been filed away by other teams.
Whilst there are plenty of new names in the squad, few look to have true quality. Hanging on to club stalwarts like Jarrod Croker, Elliott Whitehead, Josh Papali’i and Rapana, as well as the re-signing of Nick Cotric are moves full of club spirit, loyalty and trust, yet potentially harmful to the regeneration required to be competitive.
Perhaps Stuart was determined to avenge 2019 so much, that he simply ignored the modern necessity to make a few tough calls along the way, in order to be ready for what lies ahead.
After four finals appearances in nine seasons and a winning rate of just 51 per cent, a continuation of the Raiders’ early-season form could well signal the end of Stuart’s time as head coach of the Raiders, even considering he has a contract until 2025.
Should things continue as they are right now, the big question will be whether he sees out the remainder of the season or once again, is frog-marched from office in failure.