OPINION

Ricky Stuart's the coach you want when the going gets tough

The Raiders' Jack Wighton will have to take more of a leadership role for the rest of the season. Photo: Matt King/Getty Images
The Raiders' Jack Wighton will have to take more of a leadership role for the rest of the season. Photo: Matt King/Getty Images

Write off the Canberra Raiders at your peril!

In the short term, obviously it's going to be difficult without Josh Hodgson because he's their most influential player.

I believe he means just as much to the Raiders as Cameron Smith does to Melbourne and they have some other injury concerns at the moment.

But one thing the Raiders have been able to do in the past is rally and support one another in tough times and turn a negative into a positive. The positive is that plenty of people are going to be talking them down now and not giving them a chance.

In this situation you've got to be able to band together and in adversity show your strength, and that's one of Ricky Stuart's strong points as both a person and a coach.

He's able to bring a group of players together and get them to believe that no matter what the outside noises are, internally, if you expect to do well and prepare to do well, you'll do well.

Irrespective of the result this week against the Sydney Roosters, I think that will be the mantra they take for the rest of the season. It's going to be about other players stepping up to the plate and taking on more responsibility than they ever have.

Jack Wighton - what influence has he got on this team? I've got a huge opinion of Jack and I think he needs to step up even more in a leadership role and inspire his team.

We'll get to see more of Englishman George Williams because the focus is going to be on him to step up his game and be given more control and make more decisions with Hodgson not there.

Siliva Havili is a different style of hooker to Hodgson but he's a very good running player and very aggressive in defence.

The bottom line is every player is going to have to step it up a little and get enough wins on the board until some of their heavy artillery in Bateman, Soliola and Horsburgh get back.

One thing about the NRL, if you can sneak into the finals, things are very different once you are there.

They have to stay positive, work hard and believe even more in their own ability and this can bring them even tighter together.

BARRETT'S BIG CALL

If Trent Barrett is the Bulldogs coach-in-waiting as seems the case, if I'm him, I'm wanting plenty of assurances about my short-term future and the control I have at Belmore before agreeing to take over from Dean Pay.

Trent looks like the man they have identified but it's a big decision for him given he has not long come out of the top job at Manly and is now at a rising club like the Panthers as an assistant and doing a good job there.

Given that he wants to be a career coach, his next appointment is probably the last time he'll get a crack so he has to make sure in his own mind he's given the best chance to succeed.

If he stays at Penrith and keeps developing these young blokes like he is now, he is always going to be in demand. That's what he has to weigh up now. Does he put his hand up and go after the first job that's available or does he wait and potentially land a better job down the track.

The upside is the Bulldogs are a big club and if he backs himself, goes there and does a good job, he will really set himself up.

I've got to say I'm really disappointed for Dean and how he has been treated.

He's had his hands tied behind his back somewhat over the past couple of years. He hasn't been in control of his roster, salary cap space hasn't been there, yet there was plenty of evidence that despite the limited ability of his squad, they were all playing for him.

I thought they should have given him another year to try and turn it around with light at the end of the tunnel thanks to a much healthier cap situation and give him that time with the players he brings in.

He's done the tough yards but has been denied the chance to see the fruits of his hard work which is disappointing.

ROUND 10 PREDICTIONS

ROOSTERS v RAIDERS

The Raiders haven't had a lot of time to process or prepare following the loss of Hodgson so I'm expected the Roosters to win their grand final rematch but not by a big scoreline.

STORM v TITANS

You can't possibly tip against the Storm in this one. Cameron Munster's back and they just don't stop competing over the full 80 minutes.

TIGERS v BRONCOS

A new halves pairing for the Tigers and I like the Billy Walters/Benji Marshall combination. I reckon they will be too strong for Brisbane at Leichhardt.

DRAGONS v BULLDOGS

The Dogs might get a bit of a bounce from having a new voice at training this week but if the Dragons reproduce their form from last week and Ben Hunt is again influential at hooker, they win.

RABBITOHS v KNIGHTS

Even though the Knights have some issues with their attack, I reckon they will be too solid overall for a Souths side missing some key players including Latrell Mitchell.

SEA EAGLES v EELS

Parra have been consistently outstanding all season and are playing with too much confidence to drop this game to a depleted Manly.

WARRIORS v SHARKS

Two sides who are tough to predict but I'm going with an upset with the Warriors to prevail despite their internal issues with players going home.

PANTHERS v COWBOYS

Penrith by 13+ in this one. For mine, the Cowboys rival Brisbane as the big disappointments of the competition this season.

This story Ricky Stuart's the coach you want when the going gets tough first appeared on The Canberra Times.