Ricky Stuart fumes at the “Muppets” while clamoring for the star player to rest

Canberra manager Ricky Stuart has targeted those who doubted his decision to rest future 300-player Jarrod Croker after his decision was confirmed by Friday’s narrow win over the Wests Tigers.

Last week’s loss to South Sydney was Croker’s 299th top-flight game and the veteran center would become only the second man to reach 300 Raiders games when the team met the Tigers.

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But after the Rabbitohs game, Stuart announced he would be leaving Croker out of the clash against the Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium.

That way, Croker could celebrate his milestone game in front of home Canberra fans the following week.

“What I did was the right thing for all of our Canberra fans,” said Stuart.

“They would have bought their tickets, the poor fellows would have had to come here after work to see Jarrod play at 300. But no, I did the right thing.”

After a tough injury streak, Croker has been among the Raiders’ top 17 since he was called up to the first class in the sixth round, leaving Stuart facing criticism for fielding an undermanned team against a rising Tigers side.

Ricky Stuart was furious at questions about his decision to rest Jarrod Croker against the Wests Tigers. Credit: Fox Sports and Getty Images

But when Harley Smith-Shields switched to center in Croker’s place, the Raiders’ left edge stayed in sync as the team clinched a 20-19 win.

Stuart believed that Croker’s departure had reached a level of leadership unknown to his detractors.

“When you take on a leadership role, you have to take a risk,” he said.

“I could have taken it from any of you (the media) here tonight if we had been beaten. But I was willing to take the risk. That’s leadership, not those other Muppets pretending to know.

“These Muppets that got me hooked, they’re all guys who read textbooks and talk about leadership and leadership and go out and talk at corporate events, but they can’t do it.

Jarrod Croker had to watch the Raiders play the Tigers from the sidelines. Credit: Getty Images

“They’re not the people I want on my football team, they’re not the people I want with me in the trenches. There wasn’t a player tonight who didn’t want Jarrod to play his 300th home game.”

“I’ve been upfront and honest (about Croker’s hiatus), which was probably wrong about being upfront and honest. I might as well just lie.”

Croker is only the second Raiders player to reach 300 games and the first to do so on home soil after distant relative Jason Croker reached the triple century at Suncorp Stadium against Brisbane in 2006.

Stuart announced the importance of the upcoming milestone.

“This will be one of the biggest events we’ve had for a player in Canberra,” he said.

“We don’t get anything, the Raiders don’t get anything, we are fighters.

“We’re happy to be proud of it but we’re going to have a great event this week and Jarrod Croker deserves everything he gets next weekend.”

The Matildas are preparing for the Women’s World Cup.

The Matildas are preparing for the Women’s World Cup.

James Brien

James Brien is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. James Brien joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: jamesbrien@24ssports.com.

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