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Tim Sheens and Ricky Stuart celebrate the 1990 grand final win.

Inside the dressing rooms at the old Sydney Football Stadium in 1991, Ricky Stuart was on a massage table waiting for the Raiders doctor.

The events that unfolded next, and again another seven times throughout that finals series, is still etched into Tim Sheens's memory almost three decades later.

It was about an hour before Canberra's semi-final against Western Suburbs and the crafty halfback was once again struggling to deal with the pubic symphysis injury that was threatening to end his season.

He'd already been told he needed surgery, but Stuart wasn't having any of it.

The alternative? Well, it still makes Sheens squirm to this day.

"I don't know how you are going to put this politely," Sheens told from the UK earlier in the week as he reflected on the three premierships during his time guiding the Raiders.

NRL grand final media conference

"But the only way he could play was with the help of needles. One before the game, and one again at half-time. But we're not talking about a normal injection. We're talking about what looked like a horse needle."

So there he laid. Legs spread. Hands gripping the table. With this "horse needle" injected in the area between his scrotum and his anus. Perhaps the perineum is the polite word Sheens was after.

"I wasn't sure about him copping this needle so I wanted to come in and have a look at it just to see how brave he was," Sheens said.

I certainly turned tail and scampered out the door.

"If anything would make you grab the table, that would make you grab the table. And I tell you what, when he grabbed the table I left the room. I'll never forget the bravery of the guy and his love for that club.

"Just for him to be out there – it said a lot about his competitiveness and passion for the Raiders. It showed during that period of time. I certainly turned tail and scampered out the door.

"That encapsulates Rick from the point of view of what type of character he is. He'd doing anything for Canberra."

Stuart is as Canberra as Mal Meninga and Laurie Daley.

But Sheens has admitted even he questioned the decision of the club to lure Stuart from rugby union all those years ago.

"I knew nothing about him prior to getting to Canberra," he said.

"I knew of a young Bradley Clyde and a young Laurie Daley, who Don Furner [senior] had done a great job in recruiting and developing, but I knew nothing about Ricky Stuart other than he was involved in rugby union.

"It was [chairman] John McIntyre who identified him, of course John is good mates with his dad, and pre-salary cap days he signed him. I said to him why do we need another halfback?

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"At the time we had quite a few at the club – Chris O'Sullivan, Kevvie Walters, Peter Jackson, Laurie Daley and a young Ivan Henjak. But John was determined to sign him given he knew how competitive the kid was.

"Long story, short, came to the club in reserve grade in '88 and by the end of '88 he was playing in my team in the semi-finals.”

Sheens still speaks to Stuart, and will do so again this week.

They are united by a bond Stuart is trying to replicate with 17 men this Sunday night.

"He knows what to do, and he will do it his own way, not anyone else's way," Sheens said.

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"That's how you're true to yourself as a coach. You don't change your personality, you are who you are and you coach accordingly. That's Ricky. Grand finals are big moments. They bond people for life.

"Mal said after '89 it was the best thing ever. It's just a unique feeling to win a premiership. With guys who aren't all rep players or internationals. Guys that are never going to wear an Australian jumper have won a premiership and walked away with a ring. Those sorts of things give a coach a lot of satisfaction."

Bateman clause for concern

After reported John Bateman's future at the Raiders may be clouded as he seeks an upgrade on his current deal, it has since surfaced there is a renegotiation clause in Bateman's contract.

However, understands that clause doesn't guarantee Bateman an upgrade, rather an understanding the Raiders will do their best to accommodate him.

The club isn't against upgrading the back-rower's deal, however the reality is a contracted player would have to move on for it to happen in 2020 – such is Canberra's salary cap situation.

There is no doubt Bateman, who won the second-rower of the year at Wednesday night's Dally M Medal, is worth far more than his existing contract, understood to be around $400,000 a season.

But Canberra have a contract and insist they won't be bullied by his new agent, despite the likelihood of a standoff in the coming months.

Either way, it's going to be an interesting off-season in the nation's capital when it comes to discussions around Bateman's future.

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Eels keen to sign Cronk

There was a story in The Australian this week about a tug-of-war for Cooper Cronk's services next year after he retires.

The Storm and Roosters are after him. The NRL wants a piece of him. Even the GWS Giants want him at their club similarly to Billy Slater's role with St Kilda in the AFL.

Well, it turns out there are even more options in the works. The Parramatta Eels have held discussions internally and are about to approach Cronk's management about the potential of the halfback doing some consultancy work with the club in 2020.

Dally M Medal red carpet

Tigers revved up for Lomax 

There were a few interested onlookers at the Dally M awards last night during the post-event function at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney.

It's already well known Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire recently met with Dragons back Zac Lomax about the potential of joining the club.

The pair were again spotted in conversation on Wednesday night. It was also nice to see former Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce having a long chat with old coach Trent Robinson.

Roosters skipper Boyd Cordner was one of the first out of the function, heading home as soon as formalities concluded to get the best preparation for Sunday night's grand final against Canberra.

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Smith retirement fears grow at Storm

There's a fear in Melbourne that the constant criticism and negativity aimed towards Cameron Smith from the media and public could force the Storm skipper out of the game.

A few weeks ago the Storm were confident the hooker would play on in 2020, however that confidence has diminished in recent days.


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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