When the Sydney Roosters Chairman, Nick Politis, gave a ringing endorsement to coach, Ricky Stuart, just under six weeks ago you could tell the writing was on the wall – he would probably be gone when the season ended.
Removing rugby league coaches has become a bit like challenges to political leaders – the more they are denied, the more likely they are to eventuate. Bob Quinn, Simon Crean, among many others will confirm that.
Last month Politis said, “…we will come out the other side through the leadership of Ricky. I think he has earned the right to coach the Roosters in their 100th season (2007)”.
That won’t happen. Stuart will coach the Roosters for the last time when they meet the St George Illawarra Dragons at the venue of many of their epic clashes – the SCG – this Saturday night.
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The sacking of NRL coaches this year has been truly bizarre. Three were told virtually before the season began they would not be needed in 2007, and one of them, the Eels’ Brian Smith, was shown the door a third of the way through the season. And now Ricky Stuart has been told he is not needed in the centenary year on the eve of the last match of the season.
Why couldn’t the Roosters board wait until after the team’s final match this weekend?
It’s all about the blame game. Stuart clearly knew he was doomed, and would almost certainly have resigned next week, but the club decided to get in first. By sacking the coach now, Politis and his team will be hoping Stuart can be lumped with all the blame for a woeful season.
Forget the nonsense about the players being “surprised” and “upset” at Stuart’s demise. They will be breathing heavy sighs of relief that Stuart is being blamed for every bombed try, every missed tackle, every dreadful game during the 2006 season.
But that’s the way it has become in the NRL. It’s all the coaches’ fault. And Stuart’s record in his short coaching career counted for absolutely nothing in the end.
He won the grand final in 2002 – his first year as Roosters coach and as a first grade coach. He took the team to the 2003 and 2004 grand finals. He coached the NSW Blues to win the 2005 State of Origin series and this year he took over from Wayne Bennett as the national coach.
Stuart must accept some of the blame for the Roosters’ season, in which they will finish an inglorious second-last. But looking at their recent games on television, one thing is overwhelmingly evident – more than one high profile, and highly paid, player should be following him out the door!