NSW's first full-time Origin coach Ricky Stuart was one of rugby league's finest on field performers during a star-studded career that saw him scale the dizzy heights of the game.
Since transferring his talents to coaching, the former Test halfback, rated by Rugby League Week in the game's top 30 players, has established an equally commanding reputation.
A superstar during the 90s, Stuart created history when he took the Sydney Roosters to premiership honours in his first season as a senior NRL coach. For the Bondi Junction club, it was the first time in 27 years it had tasted grand final success.
A few months later, the Stuart-coached Roosters thrashed English champions St Helens 38-0 in the World Cup Challenge.
And just to prove his coaching success was no flash in the pan, Stuart got the Roosters to the NRL grand final in the next two years as well, only to see them disappointingly falter on the big day.
His coaching achievements in such a short space of time obviously didn't go unnoticed among the game's powerbrokers, leading to his appointments as coach of the NSW Country Origin team and the NSW State of Origin team. Following NSW's 2-1 Origin success, Stuart coached the Australian Kangaroos. He celebrated his first year as national coach with a one-off Test victory over New Zealand in Brisbane and the Tri-Nations championship. Australia's gripping 16-12 win over the Kiwis in the final helped erase memories of the Kangaroos 24-0 loss to New Zealand in the Tri-Nations final.
Coach of the Year in the NSW Sports Awards, Stuart was a rugby union international before switching to league with the Canberra Raiders. His precocious halfback talents were first identified at St Edmunds College in Canberra and his appointment of captain of the Australian Schoolboys stamped him as a player with a big future.
By then he was ready for international exposure and that came on the Wallabies tour of Argentina.
Three years later he starred on the Kangaroos tour of England and France when he was significantly instrumental in securing a 2-1 Ashes victory. Four years later his influence was again dominant as the Mal Meninga-led Australians retained the Ashes by the same margin.
On the representative front, Stuart played nine rugby league Tests for his country, 14 State of Origin matches for the NSW Blues, made two Kangaroo tours and one World Cup tour to Great Britain and starred in four NSW State of Origin series victories.
Stuart made a successful return to playing after a serious illness threatened his future, and his life.
After 11 seasons and 203 first-grade matches in Canberra's colours, Stuart in moved to the Canterbury Bulldogs. When a serious knee injury brought his career to a dramatic end in Auckland he had played 40 first-grade matches for the Bulldogs. During his entire first-grade rugby league career, Stuart scored 205 points (41 tries, 27 field goals, seven goals).
Stuart's trophy cabinet groans from the weight of numerous awards.
Holding pride of place are his three premiership medals as a player with the Canberra Raiders and, as a coach, the Jersey Flegg premiership with the Canterbury Bulldogs and 'with the Sydney Roosters' the NRL premiership, World Cup Challenge, Team of the Year in the NSW Sports Awards and NRL minor premiership. Individual honours include several Test and State of Origin man-of-the-match awards, the Clive Churchill Medal as the best-and-fairest player in Canberra's grand final victory over Penrith and Dally M player of the year and Rothmans Medal winner..
Sitting alongside former Federal Treasurer Peter Costello at a big-end-of-town lunch on Friday, Ricky Stuart didn't get around to offering his thoughts on how to reduce Australia's burgeoning debt. But the new Parramatta Eels mentor did offer some words of wisdom on what's required to be a successful rugby league coach. Costello, Stuart and the President/CEO of General Electric Steve Sargent were interviewed by Sky Business host Peter Switzer in front of more than 500 guests at a leadership gathering at the Four Seasons Hotel. Interestingly, when the audience got a chance to ask questions Stuart was their key target.
- The Sunday Telegraph