Rugby League


Stuart opts out as Blues mentor

RICKY STUART has decided to walk away from the NSW State of Origin coaching job after the ongoing bunfight over whether he should continue in the role.

Stuart announced his resignation via his weekend newspaper column, saying it was with a heavy heart that he was leaving the post after back-to-back series defeats at the hands of the all-conquering Maroons. NSWRL general manager Geoff Carr said the state body had accepted Stuart's decision and would begin the search for a new coach.

There has been ongoing speculation about Stuart's future at State of Origin level since he accepted the role of Parramatta's head coach last week. The Blues made a point of making it a priority to have a full-time Origin coach following a wide-ranging review into football operations last year when Stuart returned from the coaching wilderness after an ill-fated stint with Cronulla.

Stuart was seen as the central figure to have restored the spirit into the Blues despite the team suffering 2-1 series losses last year and this season.

Former NSW stars Laurie Daley, Trent Barrett and Brad Fittler are leading candidates to take over from Stuart while more experienced coaches like Daniel Anderson and Jason Taylor will also come under consideration.

Stuart said it had been an extremely difficult decision to give the NSW gig away. There has been a push for the Blues' most successful coach, Phil Gould, to re-enter the State of Origin fray – but he is unlikely to put his hand up unless the NSWRL shows considerable interest.

"For weeks I have been saying that this is not about me, it's about setting up the future – but everybody wants to look past that and come up with their own theories on my motivations, ignoring what's in front of them," Stuart wrote in his Telegraph column. "And I would be lying if I didn't say I'm becoming tired of it because I don't believe that is being heard. As NSW fans we need to believe. We need to trust in what we're doing. All this swimming through my head is part of the reason why I am stepping down. As of right now, I am no longer the NSW coach."

Stuart, who guided the Roosters to the 2002 premiership in his rookie year as a coach, described leaving the Blues as "one of the toughest decisions of my career".