Ricky John Stuart
“If there is one attribute of Stuart’s extensive repertoire of talents which has long cried out for recognition, it is the incalculable contribution he makes to every team-mate’s performance. The Stuart Effect produces such an astonishing cumulative result, translated it can mean the difference between struggling and winning by 20-30 points. Operating at first receiver, he has a marvellous field vision and a football brain which speed-reads opportunity like no other player. This innate quality means he can create time- that priceless commodity so vital to the consummate playmakers in all ball sports, and the hallmark of the truly gifted.” Warren Ryan in 'Ashes to Ashes’ (1995).
Ricky Stuart was a precociously talented footballer. He was always earmarked for big things. He was always the star of the team. A perception of him being a bad loser was misplaced. Stuart simply hated losing and that is what made him such a prolific winner. While Stuart is well remembered for a long and decorated career in rugby league the simple fact is that he was a Wallaby, and a Wallaby destined for great success, before he became a Kangaroo.
Born in Queanbeyan, Stuart was educated at St Edmund’s College - alma mater to Wallabies including George Gregan and Matt Giteau. While he played three years of 1st XV rugby (1983-85) and won two Waratah Shields (1984-85, the second as captain) Stuart, to the apparent disappointment of the school, also played rugby league and it was his performances for the Queanbeyan Blues that earned him selection in the Canberra Raiders’ S.G.Ball side.
Despite the distraction of league Stuart put together an extremely impressive representative rugby CV. He was chosen for the ACT at U12, U14, U16, U17 and Schools levels and from there was picked to start at halfback for Australian U17s and Australian Schools in 1984. The following year Stuart captained the national schools team on their undefeated tour of the U.K. and Europe however speculation about his future refused to die down. Interviewed on his arrival at Sydney Airport, Stuart declared he would not be switching to rugby league. He said his eyes were set on a Test cap and "I’d give my right arm to play for the Wallabies.”
Over the next two seasons Stuart’s goal for gold was firmly on track. He represented Australian U21s in 1986 and again in 1987. In the first of those years Stuart won the Graham Gordon Memorial Trophy as the Best and Fairest U21 player in the ACT competition. In 1987 Stuart made his senior debut for the ACT, at halfback, in the 18-18 draw against France and then showed his versatility by shifting to fly half for the 58-15 victory over South Korea.
Although Nick Farr-Jones and Brian Smith won selection for both the Australian Rugby World Cup squad and the subsequent tour to South America, Stuart did not have to wait long for his opportunity to emerge. In the opening match of the Argentine leg of the tour, the 22-22 draw with San Isidro, Farr-Jones suffered a second-degree strain of his medial ligament and Stuart was called into the squad as cover. Stuart said his ambition was "to do well on this tour, secure a place and play Tests.” Stuart’s debut match was at fly half in the uncapped fixture against a Santa Fe Selection (W 37-18) where he and Farr-Jones "combined splendidly". He started two additional matches including the 35-13 win over Rosario, after which it was written that he “showed many touches of class”, before he was an unused reserve for the first Test vs. Los Pumas. At the end of the tour, Wallaby coach Alan Jones boldly said, “There’s no doubt Ricky Stuart is our next test five-eighth.”
In 1988 Stuart left Canberra to play rugby for Manly in Sydney's Shute Shield competition where it was not long before league came calling. Warren Ryan, then coach of the Balmain Tigers literally threw the cheque book at Stuart to leave the young half stunned at his apparent worth. However, Stuart had previously "shook hands on a promise" to speak with the Canberra Raiders before any code switch was made. The result was a call to Canberra, a meeting with Raiders’ executives and a return home to the ACT as a professional, all before he had played a full first-grade game for the Marlins.
Stuart went on to enjoy an illustrious NRL career with the Raiders (1988-98) and Canterbury (1999-00). He won three premierships with Canberra (1989, 90 & 94) and in 1990 was awarded the prestigious Clive Churchill Medal as man-of-the-match in the grand final. Stuart played 14 State of Origin matches for New South Wales (1990-94) and nine Test matches for Australia (1990-94). In 1993 he won both the Rothmans and Dally M Medals for the best player in the competition and was a two-time Raiders player of the year (1992-93).
His coaching career began with immediate success in 2001 when he took the Bulldogs Jersey Flegg team to a premiership. A year later Stuart became the first coach to win a first grade premiership, with the Sydney Roosters, in his debut season. Stuart has gone on to coach four NRL teams - Roosters (2002-06), Cronulla (2007-10), Parramatta (2013) and Canberra Raiders (2014-21). He also coached at representative level with NSW (2005 & 2011-12) and Australia (2006-08). Fittingly, in 2018, Stuart was inducted into the NRL Hall of Fame.
Outside of sport Stuart has been a very active member of the community through the Ricky Stuart Foundation, established in 2011 to raise money and awareness for families dealing with autism.
Represented Australian U17s and Australian Schools
Captained Australian Schools against New Zealand Schools and on their undefeated tour to the U.K. and Europe
Represented Australian U21s
Represented Australian U21s. Stuart played three uncapped matches on the Wallaby tour to Argentina and Paraguay - vs. Santa Fe Selection (W 37-18), vs. a Paraguay Invitation XV (W 44-9), and vs. Rosario (W 35-13).