‘Show me’: Ricky’s challenge to his under-fire Raiders

Alex Mitchell |

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart wants his experienced forward pack to lead the side out of a form slump.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart wants his experienced forward pack to lead the side out of a form slump.

Ricky Stuart is demanding Canberra’s experienced forward pack stand up and lead their side out of a form slump, as their NRL season threatens to quickly unravel.

From a 4-2 start that had them nestled inside the top four, the Raiders have received successive beatings and conceded 74 points in a fortnight as an injury crisis derails any progress.

Friday night’s trip to Manly presents another daunting challenge for the out-of-form side, the Sea Eagles soaring up the table to fourth off the back of a four-game unbeaten run.

Canberra might have started a makeshift halves duo of Ethan Strange and Kaeo Weekes that had just 20 previous games of NRL between them, but that didn’t excuse a soft performance through the middle.

Their forwards lacked their usual punch and the side missed a combined 50 tackles, way up on their previous season-high of 37.

Asked what response he wanted from the veteran pack, Stuart said the expectations had been made abundantly clear.

Raiders players after being thrashed 40-0 by the Sharks.
Raiders players can’t hide their disappointment after being thrashed 40-0 by the Sharks. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

“If you were just in the meeting we had, very high,” he said.

“Ownership is on every individual, you’ve got to turn up and play their game.

“You can’t rely on three, four or five people … and that’s the young blokes too, they’re all talented football players – (so) show me.”

With Jordan Rapana (34 years old), Jamal Fogarty (30), Zac Hosking (27) and Corey Horsburgh (26) all out injured, Stuart has had little choice but to adopt a youth policy.

But the Raiders mentor found the young core didn’t collectively handle the intensity in the Sharks thrashing, injecting veteran faces such as Elliott Whitehead, Nick Cotric and Emre Guler back into the line-up as a result.

“We played against a good football team last week and I just feel as though our intensity, for an NRL level, wasn’t there,” Stuart said.

“(Introducing young players is a) huge challenge, but I’m big enough to handle that, and I’m making sure staff around me are big enough to handle it.

“We want to win now, but we’ve also got to coach for the future.”

Three of Canberra’s next four outings are on the road in what shapes as a season-defining window.

The coach suggested teen fullback Chevy Stewart had been left out with those upcoming fixtures in mind after a brutal opening three games in first grade.

“I know what I’m doing with Chevy,” he said.

“It’s about looking after him physically, because he doesn’t look out for himself physically, he plays the game very tough for his size.”