NRL coach downplays allegations

Ricky Stuart admits there have been more than a few “headbutts” at the Raiders this year, but refutes allegations his side is fractured after a turbulent few months on and off the field.

Speaking after his side’s crucial 30-16 win over Manly on Thursday, the Canberra coach delivered his most detailed account of what had transpired in the nation’s capital this season.

Stuart conceded the Raiders’ lean run was made harder given they had become so used to winning over the past couple of seasons, but was quick to quash rumours that he had lost the playing group.

The Raiders have dealt with a number of issues including George Williams’ messy departure, Joe Tapine’s partner unleashing on social media, as well as unfounded reports of a rift between Stuart and Josh Hodgson.

But Stuart praised Tapine’s monster performance off the bench, saying his past month has been his best of the season, before he went on to dispel the culture concerns.

“You hear a lot of comment about our situation at the moment that we’re fractured as a group and that we’ve got issues in the camp,” Stuart said.

“We haven’t, but we’re all very competitive individuals.

“We’re a club that strives to be a competitive football team that wants to play finals football. “When you’re in a very volatile, competitive industry, there are always going to be headbutts.

“I’ve never coached a football team or been coached as a player where there hasn’t been a few headbutts throughout the year. We’re all men and we get on with it.

“It’s a lot different inside our club to what the comment is outside. I know we’ve been accused of players not putting in and a lack of effort, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth.”

The Raiders had won just one of their last eight games before Thursday night. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Stuart is a hard taskmaster but everyone knows he cares deeply about his players and simply wants what’s best for them.

“There have been some headbutts with a couple of players this year with myself, but that’s me trying to create an edge. That’s me trying to get that player to play his best football. That’s not me personally attacking a player,” he said.

“One thing I try to do so hard is to build a relationship with my players. That’s what I think I’m good at, and I won’t change that.

“Sometimes you might have a headbutt with your best mate, but you’ve got to be big enough to move on. It’s not all the players’ fault; I’m wrong too. But you sit down and discuss it and move forward.”

One win won’t save their season, but at least the Raiders are back on track after last week’s embarrassing loss at home to the Titans.

They went back to basics against the Sea Eagles and will finish the round just one win outside the top eight after all 17 players received Stuart’s tick of approval.

The players will be given a few days off to recover leading into next Saturday’s showdown with the Sharks that shapes as a pivotal four-point game between two teams desperate to clinch a finals berth.

“We’re not in a position to be concerned about what’s happening with the table or what’s happening over the next two to three weeks,” Stuart said.

“A bit of downtime this weekend will be a lot easier than what it’s been. I’m happy that the players can have a little bit of joy in their couple of days with their families or partners because that’s important.

“Please don’t underestimate what I say there because it’s been a tough situation over the last three months only winning a game or so.

“We’re certainly not out of it and we need to back up today’s performance. We don’t win that game tonight if we’re broken inside our club, because I can promise you we’re not.”

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