New Canberra coach Ricky Stuart wants to stem the flow of promising young players leaving the club, saying it’s not always brighter in Sydney.
The lights aren’t any brighter in Sydney.
That’s the message Canberra’s number one prodigal son Ricky Stuart has sent his squad to help stem the flow of promising young footballers leaving the nation’s capital for the glamorous NRL life in Sydney.
Stuart – more than anyone – would know.
After a dynamic start to his league career with three Raiders premierships, Stuart moved to the Canterbury Bulldogs where he’d finish his playing days without a fairytale swan song.
While he led the Sydney Roosters to an NRL premiership in 2002 during his first year as coach, he’s encountered mixed success in Sydney ever since.
“It’s not always brighter on the other side of the fence, believe me,” Stuart said of his 15 years outside the Raiders’ heartland.
Stuart’s hoping a return to where his success began will earn him his first NRL title in 12 years.
And he’s implementing lessons learnt from his early playing days to try and kick-start the stuttering Green Machine back into premiership contention.
He said the club’s past three premierships came from young players such as himself, Laurie Daley, Bradley Clyde, Steve and Kevin Walters and Glenn Lazarus feeding off the experience of Mal Meninga, Gary Belcher, Gary Coyne and Dean Lance.
“(That’s) something I haven’t made too public,” he said.
With the likes of Terry Campese, Josh McCrone, Jarrod Croker, Shaun Fensom, David Shillington, Brett White – there’s no shortage of current Raiders leaders.
It’s the younger talent they have trouble controlling.
Origin stars Blake Ferguson and Josh Dugan forced their way out of the club with disciplinary incidents last year, wasted talent not felt by the club since Todd Carney.
Meanwhile promising young five-eighth Sam Williams has departed for St George Illawarra, while 2013 Mal Meninga medallist Anthony Milford heads to Brisbane in 2015.
Stuart has indicated he’ll be giving the youth a bigger crack this year, seen in his decision to take a 29-player squad to Melbourne for Saturday’s trial against the Storm.
“We’re working hard at that (stopping young players leaving),” Stuart said.
“We need to get our senior players around them playing very, very well, and to bring the youth through.”
One player Stuart is keen to see flourish in the lime-green is 21-year-old Jack Wighton, who’s recovered from a broken leg.
While most of Wighton’s NRL experience has been at centre or wing, he’ll get first chance to impress in the halves alongside Mitch Cornish during Saturday’s trial – which is an audition to partner skipper Campese in the season ahead.
“He hasn’t played for a fair while, so this is what the trials are good for and Jack’s performance and development will determine when he gets there,” Stuart said.