RICKY STUART – DAILY TELEGRAPH

NSW Blues coach Ricky Stuart is likely to stay true Blue
Andrew Webster The Daily Telegraph

COACHING the Blues for a third consecutive series – and not an NRL club – has emerged as the most likely option for Ricky Stuart beyond this year.

Despite rampant speculation that he is poised to replace either David Furner at Canberra or Stephen Kearney at Parramatta next season, several sources close to Stuart have strongly advised against rushing into the first NRL job offered to him.

Stuart, who for the last two years has been NSW’s first full-time coach, yesterday maintained his stance when pressed about his future next year.”I don’t want to go there,” he said. “I’m not really too concerned and all I am concerned about is this game. That’s as honest as I can be about it.”

Stuart’s long-time manager John Fordham said no NRL clubs had approached him – and that another year at the helm of NSW remained a distinct possibility.

“He is so passionate about NSW that he tucks a Blues football in with him at night,” Fordham quipped. “He has rebuilt a culture and winning platform at Origin and that has been most rewarding and exciting for him.

“While there is considerable speculation about him returning to the NRL next year, neither he nor I have engaged in discussions with any organisation. But we won’t be surprised if we get some approaches in the next couple of weeks.”

Since leaving Cronulla midway through 2010, Stuart has been linked to every struggling club in the NRL. While Kearney is likely to coach out his contract to the end of next season, especially with Chris Anderson advising him, there are serious doubts if a headstrong figure like Stuart could operate alongside a fickle and hands-on Eels board.

It has been rumoured for weeks that a deal has already been done with his former club Canberra, although chairman John McIntyre has repeatedly said Furner will fulfil his deal until the end of 2014.

Depending on the outcome of Wednesday night’s Origin decider, Stuart’s closest allies hope he waits for the right job to come along.

That could be a stunning return to the Roosters, who won a premiership under him in 2002. Stuart remains close to all-powerful chairman Nick Politis and several members of the Roosters board have expressed a desire to bring him back.

Current coach Brian Smith has a season to run on his four-year deal, with Politis privately saying the days of paying out coach contracts are over.While Stuart believes he can juggle both positions, NSWRL boss Geoff Carr said that his board would not budge from its policy of employing full-time coaches.

“Ricky has done a great job, but I don’t want to kill him,” Carr said. “It would be extremely difficult to do the club job and the Origin job. It’s too premature to talk about it. Ricky hasn’t got a club job yet, and it will always be a board decision.

“The board is entitled to change its position, but the current position is pretty firm. It’s a full-time job.”

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