Just when Canberra Raiders fans thought things could not get any worse, coach Ricky Stuart has unleashed an astonishing rant warning it may not get better any time soon.
Stuart effectively conceded his squad was not strong enough to compete with the NRL's best, admitting thing's "ain't going to change" unless he can attract representative talent to the club.
The St George Illawarra Dragons ended a 14-year hoodoo at Canberra Stadium to outclass the Raiders 34-16 and Canberra faces the Cronulla Sharks next weekend in a battle to avoid its first wooden spoon since 1982.
Stuart said sacking State of Origin players Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson last year had put the club's playing ranks "in this rut’’.
Dugan came back to haunt the Raiders with a starring display in his first match back in Canberra, highlighted by a key second half try.
“We’re in a position now where we need to rebuild,’’ Stuart said.
“Every fan, every supporter, they can jam it into us and they can bag us for what it is.
“Until I get Origin players or international players in here, around that group of blokes in there and I’ve got some brilliant young players coming through, it ain’t going to change.
“I don't give a stuff what people say about me, I'm here to do a job and the way I do it is we have to slowly, slowly build.
“I've got players in there who will one day play Origin.
“I’m not trying to make excuses. I’m telling it exactly how it is.’’
Stuart is confident the likes of Jack Wighton, Edrick Lee and Josh Papalii will become regular representative players.
He reiterated his statement was not a criticism of his young players and rated working with them this year as one of his more enjoyable seasons.
"I've got kids in there who are absolutely hurting and killing themselves at the moment with regards to not being able to win,'' Stuart said.
''It is not effort, it is not work at training, it is not commitment. They love this club as much as I do and their fans do. I will gradually recruit players and gradually grow our own for this club. We will be a force again one day."
“It's a great club, it has a very proud history and we're all hurting.,
“But I won't take my eye off the job and that's why I'm making this statement today in regards to what we've got to do to build this club.’’
Gareth Widdop, Brett Morris, Benji Marshall and Jason Nightingale were outstanding for the Dragons and proved the difference against the inexperienced Raiders.
Their exploits highlighted the gulf in class between the sides and how much work Stuart has to do to transform his embattled club into a finals contender.
“You only have to see last week, one player [Jarryd Hayne] beat us last week, a superstar,'' he said.
“Today international players and Origin players beat us. We don't have it, until we get it here we have to keep fighting hard.
"I've got a devastated bunch of boys in there who are busting their gut at the the moment, all season they have, even when we get beaten by 50 ... it kills me to see them upset."
"I've enjoyed coaching as much this year as I have in my career because of the players I coach and the club I'm at."