Canberra Raiders head Coach Ricky Stuart will tick off an impressive personal milestone this weekend, as he becomes just the eighth coach in NRL history to Coach 400 NRL matches.
Since returning to the club as Head Coach in 2014, Stuart has coached the Raiders in 154 matches and last week surpassed the clubs inaugural Coach Don Furner senior, who was in charge for the club for 153 matches. He now only trails behind Tim Sheens who has coached 219 matches for the club.
Reflecting on the milestone today Stuart said he only became aware of his 400th game in charge this week, when close friend and former teammate Craig Bellamy reached out to him.
“Craig Bellamy called me two days ago and told me. Before that I wasn’t aware of it,” he said. “Its been a bit of a surprise, but you look back on it and I appreciate the opportunity Nick Politis and Phil Gould gave me at the Roosters many years ago and fortunately I’ve had a bit of longevity in the game as a coach and it’s something I take very personal and enjoy doing.”
With so much experience and success as a player before entering the coaching ranks, Stuart said the learning he undertook from his former Raiders mentor Tim Sheens and NSW Blues Coach Phil Gould was instrumental in ensuring a long coaching career.
“I think a lot of the coaches I had as a player, Tim Sheens has a massive handprint on me as a football player at the Canberra Raiders and then the opportunity to work at the Roosters with Phil Gould was for me, a massive influence on my early stages as a coach and the assistance I needed as a young coach.”
The current crop of Canberra Raiders players also took the opportunity this week to wish their Coach all the best ahead of the milestone match, with members of the Club 82 leadership group speaking about Stuart.
“Sticky. I know you hate being the centre of attention on any occasion but don’t underestimate the influence and the positive effects throughout your 400 games as coach has had and that sometimes goes unnoticed.”
“Thanks for providing opportunities for normal guys like us to live out our ultimate dream. So congratulations on 400 games and let’s spare a thought for the 400 stands of hair you’ve lost throughout that time as well.”
“I want to congratulate you on your 400th game as an NRL Coach and hopefully we can get the win for you this weekend and plenty more in the future. “You’ve been a great help for me since I arrived in Canberra and you’re not only a good coach but you’re a good bloke as well. Looking forward to a beer in the sheds after a win Saturday.”
“Ricky, congrats on 400 games as an NRL Coach. It’s one of the hardest jobs out there but you turn up every week and give 100 percent for the club. You do a lot of great things for us players, the fans, and the community and we wish you all the best. Well done mate it’s a massive achievement.”
“Stick, congrats on your 400th game as a Coach. You’ve had a huge influence on this playing group and from the moment you set foot back in Canberra you’ve had nothing but the club’s best interests at heart. It's been a pleasure to be part of it."
"Apologies for the grey hairs along the way mate! let's celebrate this milestone with a win and a few cold ones on the bus trip home."