The pressure had been mounting heavily on Ricky Stuart to walk from the Sharks in recent weeks. After announcing his decision to leave at the years end, many felt him staying on for the rest of 2010 was pointless.
Stuart has had a tough time of things since joining the Sharks in 2007. The former Roosters coach is well respected in the NRL community, many including the likes of Phil Gould and John Cartwright believe Stuart to be one of the hardest working and most dedicated clipboard men in the game.
But in the same breath, they may say that Stuart is guilty of probably trying too hard at times. Few, if any, could question his passion or commitment. Most will never forget him punching holes in the walls at Parramatta Stadium, thrusting his hands to his face after a crucial play goes wrong or waving his arms madly on the touchline after a successful play.
Stuart lives and breathes NRL.
While some point out that Stuart may alienate the odd player or two through his intense personality and overly strict attention to detail – few could argue, that most players would play their heart out for him.
Where Stuart probably failed at the Sharks was with his recruitment and his loyalty to certain players.
Certainly after 3 seasons at the club, 2010 should have been the stellar year. Stuart had 3 seasons to prepare and recruit successfully to make a genuine assault on the 2010 Premiership.
The Seymour, Bird and Maitua sagas obviously didn’t help – but they were all behind the club heading into 2010. With the likes of Barrett, Tupou, Gallen and NSW debutant Kade Snowden rolling out – they had the core of a competitive team.
But the choice to recruit John Morris, Dean Collis, Adam Cuthbertson and Corey Hughes is certainly questionable.
Morris is a solid player, not someone that could take the Sharks to a new level. Collis was full of potential at the Tigers, but is massively injury prone and was always a risk. Cuthbertson was overpriced and is now languishing in the NSW Cup and Corey Hughes was a great player 3-4 years ago.
Brett Kimmorley should never have been let go from the club, when on deck – Kimmorley took the Sharks to the finals. The year he leaves, he takes the Bulldogs to a Preliminary Final.
Brett Kearney was another star for Cronulla, sure he was injured at times – but the club should have done everything to keep him in the mix.
Luke Covell is another work-a-holic, but Stuarts loyalty to the winger has really cost him and the club. Covell is a another solid player, a potentially good goal kicking back-rower – but no way should Covell remain a winger. He is outrun by most forwards and yet Cronulla keep him on the flank?
Making things even harder for Stuart and his players was the controversy swirling around the Sharks regularly. Poor on-field performances weren’t helping, but sponsorship dramas, the Bird court case, the Tony Zappia saga, the Reni Maitua drug case and the seemingly monthly off-field problems with Paul Gallen.
Gallen is a genuine star performer, the guy is a top-shelf footy player. But it’s obvious to anyone in Rugby League he is arguably the grubbiest player on the field on any given day.
Sure, Gal pours his heart into every performance. But his stray elbows, facial massages, slurs and grubby tactics have put everyone offside.
He costs the Sharks on average 2 penalties a week, and no NRL can compete with consistent penalties against them.
It’s all come to a head now, maybe it’s best for both Ricky Stuart and the Cronulla Sharks to start afresh and move to the next phases in their lives.