Raiders coach Ricky Stuart. Photo: Getty Images
Parramatta has little sympathy for Ricky Stuart as it plots a victory over Canberra that would push the former Eels mentor closer to a dubious place in NRL history.
A loss to Parramatta in Darwin on Saturday night could leave the struggling Raiders in last spot at the end of round 22 as Stuart desperately tries to avoid becoming the first coach ever to collect wooden spoons in back-to-back seasons with different clubs.
After his Eels finished as cellar dwellers last season, Stuart is just a month of bad results away from becoming the first coach since Tom Raudonikis, with Western Suburbs in 1998-99, to collect the wooden spoon in consecutive years.
Rugby league statistician David Middleton reports that rugby league Immortal Wally Lewis (Gold Coast, 1992-93), Brian Smith (Illawarra, 1985-86), Bert Holcroft (Easts, 1965-66) and Jack Rayner (Parramatta, 1958-60) are the only other coaches since World War II to land successive wooden spoons.
But Parramatta five-eighth Corey Norman said Stuart's plight was the least of his concerns as the ninth-placed Eels walk the finals tightrope with five games before the play-offs.
"We've got a job to do and that's to beat the Raiders," Norman said.
"Maybe after the game they might have a little thought about it. I think we're more worried about the game than Ricky."
Under new coach Brad Arthur, the Eels are on the verge of playing finals football for the first time since 2009.
Parramatta's rise this year has coincided with skipper Jarryd Hayne's return to his scintillating best, and Norman believes the "Hayne Plane" is soaring to greater heights than he did five years ago, when his form spurred the Eels all the way to the grand final..
"He's definitely got the talent to take us all the way," Norman said.
"I think he's got a lot more help this year than he did in '09."
By contrast, the Raiders suffered their third consecutive loss after being hammered by the Warriors 54-18 on Sunday.
The defeat was compounded by the loss of Shaun Fensom, David Shillington, Kurt Baptiste and captain Terry Campese to injury.
The Raiders are locked in a three-way battle to avoid the wooden spoon with Newcastle and Cronulla.
And while Parramatta has a relatively softer run home than Canberra, Norman said his team's for-and-against rating meant they could not afford to be complacent.
"I think it's our for-and-against that's pushed us to ninth place now," he said.
"So in these last five weeks, we've really got to tighten our defence up and not leak points."
RUGBY LEAGUE PREMIERSHIP COACHES WHO COLLECTED THE WOODEN SPOON IN CONSECUTIVE SEASONS
Tom Raudonikis (Western Suburbs, 1998-99)
Wally Lewis (Gold Coast, 1992-93)
Brian Smith (Illawarra, 1985-86)
Bert Holcroft (Eastern Suburbs, 1965-66)
Jack Rayner (Parramatta, 1958-60)
*Source: Rugby League Information Services