Ricky Stuart has heard the voices of discontent predicting he and Parramatta mentor Brad Arthur are the two head coaches most likely to be axed in 2019 if their teams don't make the NRL finals.
And he's honest in his self assessment.
"Why wouldn't I be?" the Canberra coach told NRL.com of the commentary pressing against him. "I haven't made the eight in the last two years."
Arthur is off contract with the Eels this year but Stuart signed an extension in 2017 that takes him up to the end of the 2020 Telstra Premiership.
The doom-and-gloom directed at Arthur is based on the same hypothesis confronting Stuart – that both men have rosters solid enough to be top-eight finishers.
In Stuart's case he took the Raiders to within 80 minutes of a grand final in 2016 but with virtually the same personnel, his side has finished 10th in 2017 and 10th last season.
Granted that fans so easily forget injuries, salary cap pressures, and the like. Canberra were without international hooker Josh Hodgson for the first 14 weeks of last season and then missed goal-kicking captain Jarrod Croker for their last seven games.
Stuart, a former Australian Test coach who also guided Canterbury's Jersey Flegg team and the Roosters' NRL side to premiership success, is as defiant as they come.
"I'm sorry to disappoint anybody but I'm here for another two years," Stuart said.
"It's a situation in that it is what it is. There have been a lot of things happen to this squad that I haven't been able to control. But there's also been things I can control.
"I'm very happy with the roster I have now. The past couple of seasons there have been a lot of uncontrollables but that happens at this elite level.
"I'm not oblivious to that kind of talk that I'm under pressure.
"But it also doesn't scare me in the slightest. I can't work any harder to make this club as successful as I can. I can't do any more than my best. So time will tell."
Stuart is under no illusions about the fact his Raiders have not performed to their potential.
In both the 2017 and 2018 Telstra Premiership seasons Canberra lost eight games by six points or less. And that is while they finished in the top three in the NRL for attack.
"I've got to have a defence mentality [in 2019]. Being one of the top attacking teams in the NRL doesn't mean a damn thing if you can't defend it," Stuart said.
"So I'm taking a real defence mentality this year.
I'm sorry to disappoint anybody but I'm here for another two years.Ricky Stuart
"The players have had a very focused pre-season to get it right."
The Raiders have to plug a few holes as well. Props Shannon Boyd (Titans) and Junior Paulo (Eels) have gone, along with half Blake Austin (Warrington) to Super League.
Boyd doesn't have long to wait before facing his former Green Machine teammates. The Raiders play the Gold Coast in round one on Sunday, March 17, at Cbus Super Stadium.
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