Canberra coach Ricky Stuart is yet to provide genuine answers for the Raiders’ shocking form slump and alarm bells are ringing, rugby league great Peter Sterling says.
The Raiders have lost seven games in a row, the most recent a 34-10 defeat against a severely depleted Melbourne Storm team. On the ladder at least, it’s a proper crisis.
There have been various issues with a number of star players, including former co-captain Josh Hodgson, halfback George Williams and back-rower Joe Tapine. Yet Stuart has insisted that his team is united and engaged, despite sitting 11th on the ladder with a 4-7 record when Canberra was rated a premiership threat at season kick-off.
“I listened to Ricky Stuart’s press conference after the [Storm] game, I think it went less than two minutes. He said it’s not attitude, he said it’s not a lot of things; I didn’t hear what it is. I’ve got no idea what’s happened down there,” Sterling, a fellow ex-champion halfback, said on Wide World of Sports’ Sterlo’s Wrap.
“I know there were key players missing. Unfortunate news that Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad will miss the majority of the season, they’ve got Josh Hodgson on the sideline, Jack Wighton didn’t play in this game as well, they will come back soon, [Josh] Papali’i.
“But there was still enough quality out there against a Melbourne Storm team … the spine in Round One for the Melbourne Storm was Papenhuyzen, Munster, Hughes and Smith; Nicho Hynes, Chris Lewis, Cooper Johns and Brandon Smith [against Canberra].
“Now, you take the one, six, seven and nine out of any team, how do you knock over a side 34-10 after trailing by 10 and get the job done in such emphatic fashion?”
Sterling said that Melbourne’s hardiness against all odds was in stark contrast to Canberra’s frailty.
“I loved the way that the Melbourne Storm, when they went 10 down, they’d had a lot of football, they don’t get frustrated. They remain patient, even when they’re not quite hitting the mark and when they do, all of a sudden they just get on that roll and the Canberra Raiders were unable to stop that,” Sterling said.
“But if I’m Ricky Stuart, I don’t know where the season’s going. He keeps talking positive, that there are no dramas down there, but I don’t know where their game has gone, I don’t know where their confidence has gone.
“This was a great opportunity, after leading 10-0 against a very much weakened Melbourne Storm side … to get pumped by 24 and not score after you’ve opened with those 10 points early on, it’s real danger signs.”
Ricky apologises for netball dig
Stuart cut a curious figure after the defeat, in a press conference lasting one minute and 50 seconds.
He offered only short responses to reporters, providing few answers, yet was largely absent his trademark tone of defiance and combativeness. By his standards, he looked deflated; though also refused to give his team a pass on the grounds of key players being out.
“It’s definitely not that. We’re not going to look at that as an excuse,” he said, while also insisting, “It’s not attitude”.
The Raiders face the Roosters at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday night; another ravaged side that will nonetheless provide a stiff test.
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