Ricky Stuart has quit Parramatta effective immediately to take up a three-year deal to coach Canberra.
After weeks of speculation, Stuart has activated a get-out clause in his contract with the wooden spooners and will return to the club where he made his name as a premiership-winning halfback.
The former NSW mentor has been tight-lipped about his future but it’s understood that family reasons, coupled with frustrations with a divided Eels boardroom, have prompted the move.
He was just one-year into a three-year deal. Former Eels and Rabbitohs coach Jason Taylor and outgoing North Queensland coach Neil Henry are favourites to fill the post.
Raiders directors met to discuss the coaching position prior to Wednesday night’s presentation night and Stuart was preferred in favour of Neil Henry, Andrew Dunemann and Tim Sheens.
‘‘The period I’ve been with the Parramatta Eels has been extremely challenging, not only for me, but for many people like Steve Sharp who clearly have the best interests of the club at heart,’’ Stuart said.
‘‘I sincerely hope the stability the club is entitled to will soon return and reward those people who have genuine commitment and passion for the Eels.’’
Stuart informed Sharp about the decision on Wednesday night.
‘‘It’s effective immediately,’’ Stuart’s manager John Fordham said.
‘‘It ends speculation about his future at the club.’’
A three-year deal with the Raiders is expected in coming days.
‘‘We received advice from the Canberra Raiders that the board had voted to offer him the position on a three-year term. His management will now commence formal negotiations with the Raiders where Stuart won three premierships as a player between ’89-94. Negotiations will commence [Thursday],’’ Fordham said.
I sincerely hope the stability the club is entitled to will soon return and reward those people who have genuine commitment and passion for the Eels.
Speaking to Fairfax Media just before he was informed of Stuart’s decision, Sharp said that all future playing and coaching contracts would be devoid of ‘get-out clauses’.
Several incoming recruits can wriggle out of their deals now that Stuart is moving on.‘‘I believe some have some clause there but I’m confident all will come because they want to play for Parramatta,’’ Sharp said.
‘‘There’s one thing I can assure everybody, and I’m happy to come out and say this, is no player, coach or official will be signed in the future where they have a clause where they can get out purely because someone moves on.
‘‘It’s all about the club and getting people here who want to play for Parramatta. If they’re only there because of an individual – well there’s a saying no individual is bigger than the game.
‘‘Plenty of people do the hard work behind the scenes to get the finances to put those footballers on the park, so the reward is to see the top players strut their stuff in the team’s colours. I won’t hold that against anyone who has had that before, it seems to be a trend in the game. But I can assure you it won’t happen here in the future.’’
Eels skipper Jarryd Hayne was shocked when informed of the news at the Brad Fittler Medal presentation on Wednesday night.
‘‘We always knew there were rumours but I haven’t got confirmation yet and I haven’t been told by club officials,’’ Hayne said.
‘‘It’s obviously a huge shock but as I said I haven’t had anything official, until then I will just have to wait and hear it from the horses mouth. ‘‘It’s definitely been the toughest year of my career. It’s been tough. This news comes out it just makes it worse. We all knew there were rumours going around.
‘‘We heard bits and pieces about it. We had a meeting with Sticky a couple of the senior players and for us we had an idea what was going on. Stick sat us down and gave us his side of things. It was one of those things.’’
NSW coach Laurie Daley, Stuart’s former teammate at the Green Machine, added: ‘‘I am really happy for him. The club has had some dramas this year and they need fixing and they will certainly add some discipline.
‘‘It doesn’t surprise me. He was always the man they wanted, whether he could have moved on was the issue. It’s a match that everyone wanted to see, being a local boy.‘‘I think he is a good fit for the club where they are at at the moment.’’