How will Stuart's departure affect Eels?
Fairfax Rugby League reporter Brad Walter examines Ricky Stuart's decision to leave Parramatta for Canberra.PT1M26S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2tm5r 620 349 September 12, 2013
Ricky Stuart has moved from Parramatta to Canberra to save his coaching career.
If Stuart had remained at the Eels there is a genuine feeling he would have joined the club's list of coaching casualties before completing the remaining two years of his contract as next season's squad appears little stronger than the ones that have finished with back-to-back wooden spoons.
With Parramatta's next board elections in 2015, it is extremely unlikely that another season of failure would have been tolerated, and being sacked from a third NRL club would significantly damage the reputation of the 2002 premiership winning mentor - possibly beyond repair.
Difference of opinion: Jarryd Hayne did not back Stuart's player clear-out. Photo: Getty Images
Since taking Cronulla to equal first place in 2008, Stuart has overseen a Sharks team that finished equal last the following year before being sacked midway through the 2010 season.
The former Sydney Roosters coach, who won a premiership in his first season of coaching and took the club to three consecutive grand finals, then had two years away from the NRL to coach NSW before returning this season with the Eels.
After inheriting what is widely considered to be the worst roster in the NRL, Stuart aimed to make Parramatta competitive in his first season and he had hoped they could become top-four contenders next year.
By the end of the season, the players were clearly no longer playing for him as they conceded more than 50 points in two of their last three matches.
Anyone who has watched Stuart's playing or coaching career knows that he has never been one to hide his feelings and Fairfax Media was told his players need to have ''a lot of man about them'' because he is ''honest in his appraisal'' of their performances.
That style wasn't appreciated by all at Parramatta and his decision to tell up to 12 players in June that their services would not be required next season - even though some were under contract - clearly backfired.
Other players, including Jarryd Hayne, were upset over the mass axings and the shocked reaction of the superstar fullback when told of Stuart's defection by journalists at Wednesday night's NSWRL awards demonstrates that the Eels coach and biggest name player don't share a close relationship.
Some players are said to have been angered because they had asked Stuart of his intentions and expected him to stay, while others who have already agreed to join rival clubs next season now believe they may not have had to do so.
Fairfax Media has been told Stuart's move to Canberra has been in train for up to three weeks and that his body language before Parramatta's clash with Newcastle last Sunday suggested it was his final game in charge of the Eels.
If so, Parramatta chairman Steve Sharp didn't see it coming and he was described as ''upset'' and ''shattered'' after receiving a late-night phone call from Stuart on Wednesday advising him he was invoking a get-out clause in his contract to join the Raiders.
Nathan Peats and one other 2014 recruit, thought to be Justin Hunt, also have get-out clauses if Stuart isn't the coach but it is believed he does not want to further destabilise the Eels and it is also doubtful Canberra could match the $350,000 per season the South Sydney back-up hooker signed with Parramatta for.
Having put himself and the players through the pain of culling the Eels roster and after signing the likes of Peats, Hunt, Brisbane five-eighth Corey Norman and England forward Lee Mossop for next season, it is obvious that Stuart had only begun to think of leaving since David Furner's sacking by the Raiders.
However, coaching Canberra has always appeared to be his destiny and critics could question why Stuart had a get-out clause inserted in his contract when he joined the Eels after rejecting a Raiders' approach 12 months ago.
If Stuart was looking for reasons to quit the Eels, the club's dysfunctional board, the worst training facilities in the NRL and a roster that does not compare to the talent factory at the Raiders ensured that anyone whose opinion he sought would have advised him to go to Canberra. By doing so, Stuart has ensured his coaching career extends beyond next season.