Ricky Stuart's honesty is refreshing. Photo: Getty Images
Straight up, I don't think Ricky Stuart's post-match news conference warranted a $10,000 fine from the NRL last weekend.
But here's my question to the Canberra coach: how would he honestly react if his team was labelled "laughable", "shit", "poor" and "not of a first grade standard"?
Those were Stuart's words to describe referees Gavin Badger and Grant Atkins after last Sunday's 26-20 loss to the Penrith Panthers at Canberra Stadium.
The words could equally apply to Canberra's two previous performances, 50-point losses to the Manly Sea Eagles and New Zealand Warriors.
Since those losses, the Raiders have adopted a siege mentality, bunkering down as club officials challenged this newspaper for what it perceives is negative media coverage. I guess it goes a long way to answering my question above.
In part, there was truth to Stuart's raw and emotional assessment of last Sunday's refereeing.
Raiders lock Shaun Fensom should have been awarded a try late in the match when prop David Shillington was penalised at the play the ball for reacting to a forearm from Panthers hooker James Segeyaro.
Upon replay, the penalty was reversed and given to the Raiders, though Fensom's try was inexplicably not awarded. Stuart labelled it the biggest "clanger" he'd seen in his coaching career.
The two penalties against Raiders centre Jarrod Croker for allegedly taking out Penrith defenders while contesting two bombs also seemed excessive.
What about Stuart's reaction after the game?
Obviously frustrated, he began the news conference legitimately by pointing out what he thought were refereeing errors. Positively, Stuart then turned his attention to an honest assessment of his team's performance.
"We beat ourselves today,'' Stuart said. "In there I've got a very fragile bunch of guys who are working their butts off to try and change things and get out of this.
"And we will get out of it if we keep the effort we had today. We made a lot of simple errors today ... through just simply frustration and over-trying. While ever they're trying like that, I'm happy with them."
Hallelujah. In defeat – many would say an unlucky loss – there was honesty, but then humility and honour. And hope. Let's end it there.
But Stuart continued. He blamed the officials for player frustration boiling over and causing blues; he said he was telling the "truth" to "protect" his players. This is where Stuart overstepped the mark.
For all his critics, which Stuart often acknowledges he has many, I genuinely believe his heart is in the right place – but more often than not, that's on his sleeve.
There was an insightful article in The Age newspaper last week, written by an AFL player known as The Secret Footballer who spoke about how easily a club can fall into a spiral of defeat.
"All the camaraderie and team spirit that is built up during periods of success just melts away as the losses pile up," he wrote.
During the pre-season, when there were no wins and losses to deal with, there was a great mood in the Raiders camp. It was a renewed energy after a sapping 2013.
The challenge is to maintain that positivity in defeat. Neither media nor officials are responsible for creating a club's mood; we're both in this game as objective observers to call it as we see it.
The inconsistency in Stuart's fine is that others have gotten away with similar offences this season.
Two weeks ago, an angry Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy didn’t even turn up to a compulsory post-match media conference after a win over Manly, in protest about the officiating.
Earlier in the season, Cowboys skipper Johnathan Thurston escaped sanction when some match-defining calls went against his team. Did he not challenge the integrity of referees by saying ''when you're in this jersey and it goes to a video ref, it's a lottery''?
You win some games, you lose some, but prolonged success is how you respond to both.
I was at Canberra Stadium for the Raiders' home game before the Panthers, when Canberra got a fair rub of the green against the Melbourne Storm.
Storm winger Sisa Waqa was denied a contentious try in the corner that would have wrapped up the result, only for Raiders forward Paul Vaughan to snatch victory with an incredible last-minute try.
My two sons wanted to stay behind that day as players did a long lap of honour, the boys getting their caps signed by Terry Campese, Croker, Josh Papalii and Anthony Milford.
Last Sunday my eight-year-old son started to pull that same Raiders cap down over his eyes, upset and unwilling to watch because his team might lose. I made him pull the brim back up, explaining that although the Raiders were likely to miss out on the two points, they were having an honest dig.
Stuart had an honest dig too in the news conference.
The Raiders have until Monday to decide whether they appeal Stuart's $10,000 fine. Between then and now is a another game, against an under-strength North Queensland Cowboys, and another news conference.
I, as a rugby league fan, hope Stuart continues to call it as he sees it, as we all should be entitled to.