Meninga to help Stuart at Raiders
Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has called on his old club and Kangaroos teammate and current Australia coach Mal Meninga to work with the NRL side in 2018.
As Stuart sifts through ideas on how to get Canberra back into the top-eight after a disappointing 2017, he particularly wanted someone to help mentor club captain Jarrod Croker.
"One of the greatest captains we've had at this club is Mal," Stuart told NRL.com. "So I asked Mal how he was placed next year and if he'd be interested in doing something with Jarrod, and the other players.
"Mal told me he has a lighter year next year and offered to be involved with the club in any program we wanted him to be.
"I said that would be great, and he said 'Well, I am a Raider'," Stuart said, adding that Meninga was now back living in Canberra, where he helped win premierships in 1989, 1990 and 1994.
"So, it's another opportunity for him to stay in touch with the game because there's not a lot of international football on."
Meninga winds up Australia's World Cup campaign when the Kangaroos take on England in Saturday night's final at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. The next Test match for Australia after that is not until October 2018.
Stuart and Meninga have remained close after more than 150 first grade games together at the ''Green Machine'' as well as their Kangaroos duties. They opposed each other as Origin coaches in 2011-12.
"I often ring Mal to discuss football talk. I was talking to him about our leadership group here at the club and how I've got a very good, but a very young captain," Stuart said Thursday.
"Jarrod has all the integrity and respect of his fellow players. He's a local boy achieving all the goals he wants, in regards to playing. He's a wonderful club man with an outstanding character as a person. So that's why he's our captain. But I need some help in making Jarrod a great captain."
Stuart said the arrangement with Meninga was on a "where and when needed" basis.
"I will use Mal wherever I can. But it has the added advantage of helping senior players in my team," he said.
"I can't think of a better person to mentor members of the NRL group, and especially Jarrod. He deserves that because he'll not only grow into a bigger and better captain, but grow as a player too.
"I'm very fortunate to have that link with Mal. We're pretty similar blokes that we both love the club and would do anything to help it. Mal is going to be a great asset."
Although the Raiders have a healthy dose of internationals in their squad – Josh Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead (England); Jordan Rapana, Joe Tapine (New Zealand); Josh Papalii, Junior Paulo, Joey Leilua (Samoa) – the fact Canberra has no current Australian players means Meninga could not be accused of favouritism.
"We haven't got any current Australian players in this team so it's not a bias type of thing. I'm not treading on anyone's toes," Stuart said.
"What I've got is a great resource that can come and mentor my captain. Being an ex-Raiders captain and long-standing player he can take an overview of some our plays, our defensive and attacking work.
"Any advice he gives is an added bonus."