Raiders legend Mal Meninga. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
Canberra legend Mal Meninga says Ricky Stuart can withstand the pressure of restoring his own coaching credibility and the expectation of returning the Raiders to a premiership force.
Meninga admits he ''highly recommended'' sacked North Queensland Cowboys coach Neil Henry for the Raiders job, but said Stuart's ''brutal'' honesty could set the standard for a revamped culture at the Raiders.
Meninga was part of a four-man sub-committee charged with finding a short-list of coaching candidates, but stressed the ultimate decision was made by the Raiders board on the final recommendation of Canberra chief executive Don Furner.
Meninga backed Stuart to do a ''fantastic job'', but said his former teammate needed to re-shape the Raiders as an NRL premiership force within three years.
Stuart says he's prepared to cop the criticism for walking out on the shambolic Parramatta Eels, but Meninga said Stuart also faced the pressure of quick results in Canberra.
The former NSW Origin and Australian coach has a winning ratio of just 29 per cent in his last three years in the NRL, coming off a wooden-spoon year at Parramatta.
''First and foremost I think he'll do a great job, I believe that,'' Meninga said. ''I feel him coming home to Canberra with his family, he's going to be more settled in life and in general, which is a bonus.
''He'll understand the pressure he's under, not just to get the Raiders firing but his own personal credibility.
''Based on what's happened this year, all the trauma and behavioural issues the club's had, I think top-eight is a realistic goal next year, into a top-four, then into a premiership is where the club should be pushing by year three.''
Meninga said Stuart was a man capable of enforcing a more disciplined attitude at the Raiders, given one of the club's most tumultuous seasons on and off the field.
Although he is yet to contact Stuart since his appointment, Meninga said he'd talked to a lot of players during the search for a new coach and hoped to pass on that information to Stuart.
''I think that [discipline] is one of his assets,'' Meninga said. ''He's honest, to some point brutal, but you need an honest environment to be successful, you need to know the parameters around behaviour and standards of performance. Ricky brings that to the club, the discipline of it all.
''[The mood of the players] was a little bit despondent, I think mentally they're a bit frail. It's been a real tough season with their mates playing up and not wanting to be there, emotionally that's got to affect them.''
Meninga admitted he had nominated his former Queensland Origin assistant Henry for a return to the Raiders' coaching role, but ''delivered a fair summation on all coaches''.