Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
Ricky Stuart has been the coach of the Canberra Raiders since 2014 and has been in charge of over 200 games at the club.
Since taking on the role Stuart has taken the Green Machine to four finals series and a Grand Final.
Following a poor first two seasons that may have seen other coaches lose their job the powers that be in Canberra backed Stuart as he took the club just one game away from the Grand Final in 2016.
Unfortunately the season after the Raiders tumbled back down the ladder and missed the top eight in 2017 and 2018 but yet again Stuart kept his job and took the Raiders to their first Grand Final since 1994 in 2019.
After again making it just one game away from the Grand Final in 2020 Canberra were primed for a huge 2021 with arguably the competition’s best forward pack and the best team that they have had on paper heading into a season in many years.
Heading into the season it seemed that at worst the Raiders would once again come up short one week before the Grand final but things soon took a downward turn.
Reports emerged that the locker room had begun to turn on Stuart before players started taking their gripes against their coach to social media.
No matter which side was the innocent party in this situation it is baffling to see that the board continued to back Stuart even though on-field results were being negatively impacted by this situation and it caused the club’s halfback George Williams to be released halfway through the year after stating that he would see out the rest of the season.
In the end Canberra missed the finals for the first time since 2018.
Apart from an isolated incident in early 2022 there have been no more reports of unrest in the Raiders locker room as the club returned to the finals.
However, Canberra made the top eight by the skin of their teeth in large part to a cataclysmic downturn in form from the Brisbane Broncos that nobody saw coming.
Stuart also jeopardised his club’s chances of making the finals by publicly insulting Penrith Panthers player Jaeman Salmon after the Raiders loss to the defending premiers in round 21.
Despite this the Raiders board still has a lot of faith in Stuart as they extended his contract until the end of 2025.
It is clear to see that Stuart’s reputation as a Raiders club legend has helped him keep his job at times when others would have lost theirs and he has done all he can to try to bring success back to Canberra but it is at the point now where the club needs to look at making changes.
The Raiders qualifying for the top eight last season has earned Stuart another year to try and better the team as it should but if they miss the top eight in 2023 he must do the right thing and step aside allowing somebody else to bring a new philosophy and culture to the club.