Stuart issues ultimatum to misfiring Raiders
Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said several players are on their last warning as they look to break their winless start to the season when they face the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles on Saturday night.
Stuart confirmed Blake Austin won't be a late call-up to the final 17, which is set to be boosted by the return from injury of Joe Tapine with Aidan Sezer pairing Sam Williams in the halves.
The coach backed Austin to fight his way back into first grade but said the 2015 Dally M five-eighth of the year may not be the only demotion if costly late errors continue for the Raiders.
"It's not only Blake, there's pressure on a number of individuals," Stuart said.
"What's been letting us down is some individual's choices in certain parts of the game that's affecting the whole team.
"So, unfortunately, Blake has to cop that medicine this week, but if we don't have other individuals start to aim up and contribute to what level we need, they'll be following Blake."
Canberra could just as easily be entering round four with a 3-0 record, with their combined losing total just five points.
However, Stuart said the players must take a greater ownership of their performance late in games.
"I feel it's an individual thing that people are making poor choices, especially in defence," he said.
"We need people to stand up and to win tight games you've got to be a tough person mentally and at the moment we need to better in that area.
"Individual efforts and concentration in back ends of games have let us down at the moment."
Stuart did not want to comment on NRL referees' boss Bernard Sutton's summation during the week, that he was "very comfortable" with the no-try call against Junior Paulo in the 52nd minute last weekend against the New Zealand Warriors.
He was critical of the interpretation of the obstruction rule this season after his side lost to the Warriors, saying refs were being forced to "guess" at critical times.
Sutton said the refs were not confused as to what constitutes obstruction despite a number of contentious calls early in the season.
In a huge boost for Canberra, Tapine returns via the bench, after injuring his finger in the round-one loss to the Gold Coast Titans.
"He's a wonderful player and we missed him because we had to play a couple of people out of position," Stuart said.
"He's excited to get back on the field again after missing some time."
Ata Hingano will also make his Telstra Premiership debut for the club with the Canberra coach paying tribute to his work ethic to force his way into the side after only signing earlier this month.
Stuart believes Trent Barrett's Sea Eagles will be a tough ask as they look to bounce back from a 34-6 thumping at the hands of the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
"Ever since I have been involved with the NRL, Manly has always been a very tough day," Stuart said.
"I've seen Trent's media this week, he's disappointed with their performance last week against Souths, so they'll be better than they were last week."