Canberra Raiders plot plan to re-sign Ricky Stuart as club chases premiership

Team building: The Raiders are keen to extend coach Ricky Stuart’s contract. Photo: Melissa Adams The Canberra Raiders will build finals incentives into a new contract offer to coach Ricky Stuart, chairman Alan Hawke declaring the club champion has laid the building blocks to break a two-decade premiership drought.

The Raiders are on the verge of locking Stuart into a new deal until at least 2018, with potential options to extend his tenure even further if the Green Machine clicks into gear.

Stuart is on a mission to turn the Raiders back into premiership contenders and, despite a lean two years since taking the reins, Hawke says it’s time to extend his tenure into the future.

It is expected an extension will be finalised when Stuart returns from a fact-finding mission in the United States next week with an announcement likely to coincide with a new sponsorship deal on December 16.

Stuart’s contract expires at the end of next year, but the Raiders initiated negotiations with Stuart three weeks ago rather than wait to see if the club will be a premiership contender.

“Ricky has had more success at recruitment and getting players to come to Canberra than we’ve had in recent years. They’re coming because Ricky is the coach,” Hawke said.

“The players who are signing and re-signing will want some certainty about how long Ricky is staying.

“I’ve always thought it would be 2016 before we see the proof of Ricky’s program, his recruitment and the values that drive the players.

“I’ve got no doubts about whether it’s working, I’m convinced it’s working. I’d be incredibly disappointed if we’re not really competitive next year. That’s what we’ve been working on – getting the right squad.”

The Raiders’ decision to negotiate with three-time Canberra premiership winner Stuart follows the ACT Brumbies’ move to lock in coach Stephen Larkham.

Stuart and Larkham guided the Raiders and Brumbies respectively through their golden eras and are now trying to win premierships for their clubs for the first time since they were players.

Larkham’s negotiations have been put on hold for beyond the 2016 Super Rugby season as he concentrates on re-signing players and retaining his squad.

The Raiders have already re-signed Josh Papalii and Jack Wighton, with England international Josh Hodgson expected to follow in the coming weeks and Aidan Sezer, Blake Austin and a host of players already committed to a long-term future in the capital.

Hawke and Raiders Group chief executive Simon Hawkins took charge of negotiations with Stuart and “we just need to dot the i’s and cross the t’s”.

Hawke said the finer details of Stuart’s deal were still being finalised, with the length of the extension, finals incentives and a post-coaching career on the cards.

Hawke hoped that Stuart would be interested in helping the club off the field in an administration role whenever he decided to finish coaching.

“Ricky’s here for the long-term now. We’re after stability. Stability in the board, stability in the funding arrangements, the administrative staff and the coaching staff,” Hawke said.

“I think we’ve got all of that and now we just need stability in the playing ranks and results. That’s what we’re all in this for. We want success for the club, the fans and the sponsors.”

The Raiders haven’t made the finals since the 2012 season and Stuart has revamped the playing roster since taking over in 2014.

There are just five players left from the 2013 campaign with Stuart injecting new blood to ensure long-term success.

The club has won just 18 of 48 games over the past two seasons, but were in finals contention to the last rounds of the 2015 season.

“We could have made the top eight last year but the players learnt so much over that year. You see that Ricky is a different coach … as a playing group, they’ve grown after what happened last season and that will serve them well next year,” Hawke said.

The Raiders are also closing in a new double major-sponsor deal. The arrangement would split Huawei and another company as the major backers of the team.

“We’ve got a lot of people who are rusted-on Raiders fans and we need to settle on if we can have two sponsors on the front [of the jersey],” Hawke said.

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