Kent: Sticky mess is through no fault of his own
More than a few were surprised they blushed on Monday as wild audio of Ricky Stuart, secretly taped in the dressing room after the Raiders collapsed once more, this time to Newcastle, circulated quickly around the game.
It was a first class performance from a coach considered world class at delivery.
Plenty of skin was peeled as few in the dressing room were spared.
Watch The 2021 NRL Telstra Premiership Live & On-Demand with No Ad-Breaks During Play. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
Sadly for the conspirators the audio is not Stuart at all but only a reasonably good facsimile, a recording that surfaced several years back and has made a comeback again now that pressure is heaping on Canberra.
It added to the narrative around the Raiders at the moment, which paints a picture of a club in small crisis.
Former skipper Josh Hodgson was dropped and then he wasn't, resigned as captain and then he didn't, was sacked as captain but wasn't.
Joe Tapine, Josh Papalii … off it goes.
It has created a storyline that Stuart has lost the dressing room and all that is left now is for the clock to tick down to all zeroes, at which point Stuart will combust.
At the same time the scallywags were circulating the false Stuart audio, former Raider John Bateman popped up to defend his teammates and taking aim at the Raiders management for leaking the rumours.
Now, only a few truly know where these rumours originate from.
Why management would leak the rumours, heaping pressure on coaching staff, was not explained.
The leaks seemed designed to heap pressure on Stuart, so why would it come from management if it was the dressing room that is lost?
Bateman seemed adamant, even though he is in England now and his voice carries nothing.
How much of this is a carry-over from last year when Bateman fluffed up his deal and ultimately returned to England, for less than what he previously rejected in Australia, is unknown.
Bateman or his management stretched the truth enough in their dealings with the Raiders last year to drift as a priority at the Raiders.
Stuart refused to get in the bidding war Bateman's manager was pitching, failing to fall for the old three card trick and rushing to sign Bateman on overs to stave off big rival offers.
"I'm proud that the club has taken a strong stance," Stuart said once Bateman's signature in England was confirmed.
"The last thing that we are going to be is a club such as the Warriors or the Broncos where they've been ruined by manipulation and agitation of roster."
And here we might be getting to it.
Managers cornering the market is a common problem in the NRL. It's something far more prevalent than the average fan realises.
The internal politics within clubland are the equal of anything that happens in parliament.
Stuart identified two clubs who he believed their rosters were bent out of shape by banned player manager Isaac Moses, where both clubs struggled to attract quality players not managed by Moses and, conversely, signed a few Moses clients that they might not have otherwise signed.
The Warriors realised this and began their break away from Moses by first sacking coach Stephen Kearney, a Moses client, even though he had only recently extended his contract.
The Warriors thought it was the only way out of an unhealthy place.
Moses also has a strong majority of Broncos and this is one of the problems new coach Kevin Walters is trying to navigate through after inheriting the job from another Moses client, Anthony Seibold.
And so when Bateman pops up, it surprised nobody that, lo and behold, he is managed by Moses.
Not only that, and sit down for this one, but he has been the same manager for … Josh Hodgson, which is where the internal rumblings at Canberra are supposed to be originating.
What are the odds?
Now, nobody would ever dare suggest Moses was squaring up with Stuart for last year's comments, only that it just happened to be an incredible coincidence.
But the unrest is creating enough waves that Stuart remains under attack.
Some sports fans, always under aliases, hit talk back radio on Monday asking why Stuart was a "protected species", believing that what was happening in Canberra was a cover-up to protect the coach.
The five straight losses are being offered as evidence that Stuart can't coach even though he took the Raiders to the grand final in 2019, when many did not have them tipped to make the eight, and took them to within a game of last year's grand final when they flew to Brisbane to play Melbourne on the day of the game and were bused straight to the stadium where the players tried to rest and recover by laying on corporate suite floors.
All this is why the bosses at Canberra know Stuart isn't the problem.
Originally published as Kent: Sticky mess is through no fault of his own