Stuart’s Eels move helped Raiders: Shillo
Canberra NRL fans, save some thanks for Ricky Stuart. He may have signed on as coach of Parramatta rather than for the Raiders, but skipper David Shillington believes the move can be partly credited for the team’s remarkable late-season resurgence.
Canberra host Cronulla in the second elimination final on Sunday, capping an impressive turnaround for the club that were serious wooden spoon contenders just three months ago.
They’ve won eight of their past 10 matches, including the last five straight, which started the week after Stuart confirmed he was heading west, not to the ACT as some predicted.
For Shillington, the timing was no coincidence.
“That adversity was taken away,” he told AAP, referring to the incessant chatter about David Furner’s coaching tenure.
“There was no more distraction and no `oh, who’s going to be coach’.”
Stuart had been talked about as the No.1 candidate to replace Furner.
But Shillington, who took over captaining duties in April following a season-ending knee injury to Terry Campese, said player support for Furner had never wavered.
“When people start talking about sacking their coach and bringing in a new one, it’s a huge distraction to the players.
“At the time, you try and block it out and pretend it’s not happening.
“But it would be naive and ignorant to say it isn’t.
“That we started playing well when Furnsey was reaffirmed as coach and the Ricky Stuart rumours went away, that’s more that the distractions were gone.”
Shillington had nothing but praise for Furner, arguing he’d been made the scapegoat for the Raiders’ bad run of injuries this year.
“When a team’s losing, someone’s got to take the blame for it, but there’s so many aspects to a team functioning well, so many things have to be right,” he said.
“It’s unfair to put pressure on the coach like that.
“He’s been the coach for four years and made the finals twice, which is a great record.”© AAP 2013