Legendary rugby league hardman Mark Geyer has called on the NRL to suspend Ricky Stuart to make an example and set a precedent for the game’s coaches.
The integrity unit is investigating explosive comments made by Stuart during his press conference on Saturday about Penrith playmaker Jaeman Salmon.
The Raiders coach sensationally used his post-game platform to label the 23-year-old a “weak gutted dog person” and said Salmon had been since he was a kid.
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It’s since been revealed Stuart had a run-in with Salmon in 2010 when then the latter was playing under 12s, and the former was coaching the Sharks. The Salmon family and the Panthers are exploring legal options.
NRL coaches have been fined varying amounts for comments made in press conferences before – Stuart the most fined coach ever – but normally the penalty is for questioning the integrity of referees.
A coach has never been suspended, but no coach has ever made such personal remarks as Stuart did about an individual.
Geyer says the game has to draw a line in the sand and send a message to coaches that it is not acceptable.
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“They are pretty harsh words. This is unprecedented, for mine, I have never seen a press conference like that,” Geyer said on Triple M radio.
“There’s a reason we don’t see it, it’s because you’re not allowed to say what he said.
“There’s stories coming up about what happened 12 years ago in an under 12s game… I get that, I was a coach once myself. But they were 11 years of age.
“I don’t get Ricky Stuart’s side, I really don’t. He’s a 55-year-old male who’s coached over 500 games, he’s been in the game for so long. If that was his son how would he feel, if someone said that about his son?
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“The NRL have no option, I’m afraid they’ve got no option. There’s a precedent that needs to be set.
“If a coach or a player goes out next weekend… I want them deterred from saying something so bad about a person.
“If that was my son I would be filthy. I would be knocking on (Stuart’s) door the next day, put it that way.
“I think he’s got to be suspended. (Salmon) has been defamed. Everyone saw that, all junior league players saw what Ricky Stuart just said about this kid.”
The NRL is expected to make an announcement on the situation on Monday afternoon, or Tuesday.
Stuart on Sunday acknowledged he should not have used his public press conference to air personal grievances.
The Raiders on Monday issued a statement saying the club will accept any punishment handed down to the coach.
“As a club we do not condone the comments made by Ricky in Saturday night’s press conference and we are currently in dialogue with the NRL and cooperating with all their inquiries,” club chief Don Furner said.
“We will accept their findings and any sanctions they hand down.
“Being a head coach is a high-pressure job and comes with intense scrutiny from fans, media, and public and we understand emotion is high following a match.
“However, as a club we acknowledge that coaches also have a responsibility to ensure they conduct themselves professionally when making public comments.”
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