Can Ricky rebuild?

Filed in NRL by on May 26, 2014

I wanted to make a comment this morning about a story I read in the paper about Ricky Stuart over the weekend. You can find that article here. It is basically all about the rebuilding process that Ricky Stuart will be undertaking at the Raiders.

If you have been following Ladies who League as of late, you’ll know I wrote an article last week about whether Canberra should consider giving Rick the flick. You can check that article out here.

In that blog, whilst I questioned Ricky’s tactical ability to coach, one area I suggested that he excelled at was being able to identify talent. My question is, am I right?

The Eels had a tough year last year – we performed poorly on the field and we were an embarrassment in the back office. This was all in an environment where Ricky made sweeping changes across the board, including getting rid of a whole series of players including Matt Keating, Reni Maitua, Pat O’Hanlon, Nathan Smith and Cheyse Blair. Many of these players have gone on to play for other clubs.

The only bright light for Parramatta throughout last year was that we managed to recruit some fresh blood including Nathan Peats and Corey Norman. Ricky Stuart would have been instrumental in orchestrating and securing these signings.

It’s fair to say that these two players have been team changing for the Eels. I would call Nathan Peats best buy of the season for any club. In respect of the Eels success so far this year, I would say that credit is partly due to Ricky Stuart’s recruitment selections last year. We cannot discount the efforts of the players, the way some of our players have stepped up, particularly our Juniors and the efforts of our brand new coach.

This suggests that perhaps Ricky is able to identify talent, but is he able to raise that talent and coach a team to success?

The question is, can Canberra afford to take the risk.

Regardless it appears like the Raiders are in for some pain before pleasure.

The first area this will become evident in is retention. At the moment, the Club is talking to a number of players including Melbourne Storm forward Kevin Proctor, Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco and Penrith winger Josh Mansour. They have also expressed an interest in Michael Ennis who is reportedly having difficulty securing a 2 year deal from the Bulldogs.

Whilst this is exciting, it has not been without its costs. Whilst the loss of Blake Ferguson and Josh Dugan last year are not directly linked to an increased participation in the player market, the loss of these two players means the Raiders have more money to play with. The Raiders will also most likely lose more players this year as well.  Some names which have been suggested include Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and the Raiders have already having lost Matt Atwood.

The article, most disappointing for me, also mentioned that because of Canberra’s increased participation in the player market, there may be a shift away from producing juniors.

This to me is a tremendous shame and something which should be the subject of another blog – perhaps on the way our salary cap can further support those clubs that produce juniors.

Whatever next few years will hold, it is clear that we can’t expect too much more from the Raiders this year.  Stuart has announced that the Raiders are ‘rebuilding’ this year. For me, that sends a dangerous message to players – it suggests low expectations and that the year is essentially a write off. I never want to hear the word rebuilding again. I want to hear that my team is ‘in it to win it’ and that their coach has high expectations week in week out.

Whether Stuart has the ability to make something of the Raiders remains to be seen – what are your thoughts?

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