RICKY STUART – SUNDAY TELEGRAPH COLUMN

Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley talk about the State of Origin blueprint and ending Queensland’s seven-year reign

BY Ricky Stuart –  August 26, 2012

WHEN I walked in to lunch today and shook your hand, the one person I thought of was your father and how proud he’d be, he would be mate, he would be because (chokes up — long pause, and tears start).

I don’t mean to upset you, I really don’t, but I honestly thought of it. I did, too. I thought of it as soon as the announcement came through. We spoke about that, when I spoke to my mum, and I’ve got no doubt he’d be there, he’d be rapt. He’d be having a VB in his hand. I love him. It’s a shame he can’t be there.

So Loz, why are you ready for the Origin job?

I’m passionate about NSW. I’m like a number of ex-NSW players and like yourself — we are all wanting success for the team. We haven’t had it over the last seven years, and the opportunity came when you stepped down. I have something to offer and I want to have a crack at it.

What can you bring to the table?
I’ll add my own flavour to it, but I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. We’ve been close over the years, I know the environment the players are going into and I think I can add my own touch.
My own touch is probably different to you, I’m more relaxed than what you are, but I’m still intense in my own way.
We’re not far away. A few little things could have been different and we could be celebrating our first victory in seven years, but that wasn’t the case. We just need to take the next step.

Have you spoken to the players yet?
I’ve spoken to Paul Gallen personally. I rang him, let him know I’ve been named coach, but he’s got some pretty big games coming up and I don’t want to be a distraction.
I will catch up with the others when the time’s right, other senior players that I’ll be in contact . . . with those that have had a huge influence.

Is this your biggest challenge?
Most definitely. And I see it as an exciting time because I’m like anyone, I want to be successful.
I’m driven when I put my mind to something and I don’t want to fail. I’ve got to make sure preparation is spot on.

People see you as a soft guy. Do you feel as though you’ve got to harden up?
Probably not, because I know that when the time is for business, I can be tough and ruthless.

Will we see the whites of your eyes? I’ve seen the whites of your eyes and I know that’s when game is on here.
That’s the sort of way I’ve carried myself. I don’t change as a person in terms of personality . But I do change when it comes to the way I’m looking to prepare.
I expect the players to prepare the same way as I would. I know what players like, I know what players dislike and I know from the knowledge I’ve been able to gather over the years. I can put my own touch on it and that could be the difference between winning and losing.

Football teams play with the personality of the coach, what are we going to see?
The biggest barrier we broke down is that we went out there with genuine belief of winning. I don’t think we genuinely had it and I don’t think it was until this year that we actually believed it.
I think this series, whenever we had momentum, we lost it pretty quickly. I thought our mentality went from we’re in front, we can win, to we’ve got to hang on to win. I want the players to be thinking that we’re going to dare to be brave, were going to be next to score.

That was you as a player. Do you see that we’re gaining an advantage and some experience with the development of our youth?
When you go into an Origin camp you don’t know what to expect, you’re nervous — and, remember, we’ve been playing the best Queensland side in history, so for us to be so close, we’ve done an exceptional job. But now is our time. We can’t continue to say we’re in a development phase.

Are you confident you can end their reign?
As confident as one can be, without being arrogant or cocky. I know how much it means to the players. I think if they continue to work hard and strive for excellence we can get the job done, but it’s got to come with great attitude. They have to work hard, but it will be worth it.

Do you see stability as important in terms of staff?
One of the big strengths in the early ’90s was you’d see the same old faces. It felt like a family, and I know that’s the environment you’ve created. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. There’s no point me making changes, because you only make change if it’s needed. The blueprint is there, it’s about getting the team to go that extra two to five per cent.

Is State of Origin won on defence or attack?
A bit of both. I’m a believer in the fact that you have to play footy. We can go out there and we have to compete. I look at the Queensland team and I see points in them, so we have to defend well. But I can also see points in NSW. We have to have the mentality that we’re never too far in front, we have to dare to believe that we’re going to win and we’ve got to keep playing football.

After the season, we’re going to visit a lot of the academies and visit the make-up of our pathways of our younger players — what’s your message to them?
Follow your dream. One of the greatest things that we’ve been able to achieve is to play for our state. Know that what has happened to NSW over the past seven years will not be repeated. They’ve got to remember these times. They’ve got to remember how disappointing it is.

This year on the sidelines as coach, I had Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns (who were doing their jobs there with Channel Nine). They were as intense, emotional and passionate, and had as much desire as me to win. Is it important, having those ex-players involved?
It’s so important to have everyone on board. This is not about me, and it’s not about you. It’s about the ex-players, it’s about the players today reaching their potential and experiencing something that we’ve all felt before. A lot of players have been part of a winning culture and for those players to be supportive and not critical, it’s such an important part of our fabric.

You’ve got my 110 per cent support, good luck.

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