At first glance, Canberra’s Ricky Stuart and Parramatta’s Brad Arthur are two coaches that don’t seem to have that much in common.
Stuart was a champion halfback who won three premierships as a player with the Raiders, represented the Blues and the Kangaroos with great distinction, and won pretty much every individual accolade that was going during his 13-year playing career.
These days he’s the most outspoken coach in the NRL, appears to have a chip on each shoulder and at least one foot in his mouth, and is regularly fined by the NRL for his unbalanced rants.
His post-game interviews are often more entertaining than the games themselves, and if anyone wears his heart on his sleeve, it’s Ricky.
Brad Arthur, on the other hand, was a halfback who never made it out of the lower grades with Parramatta and Penrith as a player, and was such an ordinary playmaker that he ended up in the back row. He’s not one to make much of a fuss, could easily walk through the streets of Parramatta without being recognised, and is far more likely to be fined for parking than bringing the game into disrepute.
His post-game press conferences are a wonderful cure for insomnia.
However, the one thing these two have in common is that they’ve both just finished their tenth year coaching their respective teams without winning a premiership! Two decades between them and not a single trophy.
Of the current coaches, only Craig Bellamy and Trent Robinson have been at the helm of a club longer than either Stuart or Arthur, and their at the Storm and the Roosters is well known. So just what have Stuart and Arthur been doing this past decade?
Let’s start with the club that hasn’t won a premiership since 1986, a mystical time before most Eels supporters were even born.
Arthur has been involved in the coaching system since 2011 when he was assistant coach to Stephen Kearney, and it was Arthur who temporarily stepped into the first-grade role in 2012 when Kearney departed with six games to go.
He was then appointed to the full-time role in 2014 after Stuart led the Eels to the wooden spoon in 2013, spat the dummy and resigned with two years still to run on his contract.
Parramatta continued to struggle for the next three years with Arthur at the helm, finishing no higher than 10th, but then they broke through for a finals berth in 2017 only to bow out to the Cowboys.
Another wooden spoon followed the next year before they hit a real purple patch in 2019, making it to the finals for four consecutive years, culminating with an ultimately unsuccessful grand final appearance in 2022. They then dramatically slipped down the ladder to finish 10th last season.
Close but no cigar. He has now coached more Eels games than anyone else, coming in with a win ratio of 52.8% across 254 games, but has failed to deliver.
Meanwhile, in the nation’s capital with the Raiders, another club that hasn’t tasted premiership success this millennium, Stuart wasn’t doing much better, taking over the reins in 2014, after the Raiders finished 13th in 2013 under previous coach David Furner.
There was no immediate bounce-back under Stuart as the Raiders finished 15th and 10th respectively in 2014 and 2015, but they finished strongly the following year to come home in second place, only to be defeated by the Panthers in the semi-finals.
They resumed their favoured 10th position in both 2017 and 2018 before going all the way to the grand final against the Roosters in 2019, losing narrowly in what many believe were controversial circumstances.
The next four years saw the Raiders finish in the top eight three times, but they weren’t considered to be serious contenders at any time.
So once again, a single losing grand final finish in 10 years is all she wrote for Ricky. Like Arthur, Stuart has now become the longest serving coach for his club, with 247 games, at the unimpressive win ratio of just 51.7%.
So just how do these two get away with it? Why do their clubs keep accepting failure while at the same time renewing their contracts? Surely, any club focused on winning another premiership before the next ice age should give someone else a go?
Apparently not Parramatta and Canberra fans, and there’s one more thing that Stuart and Arthur have in common – they are both contracted to continue in their roles for the next two seasons. Heaven help the Eels and the Raiders.