Outgoing Parramatta coach Ricky Stuart expects the assassination of his character to continue after explaining to the Eels faithful he made the decision to quit the club for family and career reasons.
Stuart addressed fans, sponsors, past and present players, coaches and management at the Parramatta presentation night at Rosehill Racecourse on Thursday night.
It was less than 24 hours after Parramatta announced Stuart would not fulfil the last two years of his contract and would be taking over at Canberra.
He spoke to the playing group earlier in the night and said it was a decision that he hadn’t taken lightly because it affected a lot of people.
“It’s been very hard, it’s been very difficult, it’s a very big decision,” Stuart said.
“I’ve had a lot of criticism today. It’s not easy to take.
“I’ve had my character judged.
I made a decision that’s best for my career and my family and I’ll wear all the criticism.”
“I’ve been assassinated over the last day and I’ll be assassinated again tomorrow, but they are small-minded people.
“They don’t understand the big decision I’ve had to make.”
Stuart said he didn’t back down from his mid-season decision to cut several players, who won’t be at the club next year.
“I’m proud of the fact that I’ve had to make this decision and I’m proud of the fact I’ve got the courage to do it,” Stuart said.
“I’ll continue to get the criticism, but I will stand strong and I’ll cop the criticism and I’ll cop the punishment whilst everyone knows it’s the best decision for myself and my family.”
He said he would love to see Parramatta successful again and was upbeat about their future despite the Eels collecting back-to-back wooden spoons.
“They are not too far away from being a consistently competitive football team,” Stuart said.
“Why? Because I really do believe that the debutants we had this year are genuine first-grade football players.
“There’s a couple of players, debutants, that will be representative players.
“I believe Darcy Lussick and Kelepi Tnaganoa are representative players of the future and Jacob Loko who has been very unfortunate with injury, is a representative player of the future.”
Stuart received support from key players including co-captain Tim Mannah, who won three awards on the night, and fellow forward Lussick, who took out the main Players’ Player prize.
“He’s off to Canberra and he’s going with my support and my best wishes,” Mannah said.
Lussick, who was in his first season after crossing from Manly said: “I really appreciate what he’s done for me and I’m forever indebted to him for what he’s done for me this year.”