A decade ago Ricky Stuart sacked caretaker manager Brad Arthur from the Eels coaching staff — now a twist of fate has them facing off in a sudden-death final.
Eels faithful haven’t forgotten how Stuart walked out with two-years remaining on his contract, and Arthur will be desperate to beat the man who gave him the boat.
Friday night’s playoff marks the first post-season clash between Canberra and Parramatta.
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After winning the wooden spoon in 2012, Stuart was drafted in to rebuild the struggling club — but the Eels won the spoon again in 2013.
Meanwhile, Stuart had signed a contract with the Raiders and informed the club during a speech at the Eels’ presentation night, receiving a barrage of boos according to NRL360 co-host Paul Kent.
“It was a volatile time at the club, they had finished with the wooden spoon the year before he got there, they finished with the wooden spoon the year he was there,” Kent said.
“And then he turned up on presentation night and told them all he was going back to Canberra, and they all booed him.
“I remember talking to him at the time and I was surprised he was going to the presentation, given it was pretty much out he wanted to go. He said he wanted to front everyone and explain.
“Which happened, to an official him he was unimpressed with what he had done and he told the official what he thought of him.”
While the bitter feud remains, The Daily Telegraph’s Buzz Rothfield believes Stuart’s departure was a “good divorce”.
Raiders officials wanted one of their favorite sons to return home, while it was clear the Eels weren’t the right fit for Stuart.
During Stuart’s only season at the Eels, the infamous whiteboard session took place.
10 players were informed their services were no longer required after seeing their names written on a board, while others were told they needed to prove themselves.
“The officials left that club in a horrible mess, I remember they had a team meeting and about 10 players were told they were not required the following year,” Rothfield said.
“On the whiteboard… this was a good divorce, not many divorces are good, but the fact Canberra wanted Ricky Stuart home.”
But that history only serves to create “animosity” between the bitter rivals who will be desperate to mount a finals charge.
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The Raiders were able to best Craig Bellamy’s Storm in the first week of finals with a strong performance.
Meanwhile, Arthur’s Eels were beaten by their cross-town rivals the Panthers, now having to take the long route to the grand final.
While it was controversial at the time, Kent explained Stuart’s Eels squad clean-out actually benefited Arthur who was able to enter his role in 2014 with a clean slate.
“There is animosity from Parramatta people, Ricky told Brad he was not going to be a part of his coaching staff,” Kent said.
“Brad was the caretaker coach when Ricky was given the head coach role, he told Brad he wasn’t going to be a part of the staff.
“And Arthur left and went to Manly, out of that got the Parramatta job, it worked out for Brad Arthur.
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“Ricky, for all the lacerations he took for the way he told all those players they weren’t going to be a part of Parramatta’s future, he actually helped Brad Arthur.
“Because instead of taking three this year, three the next and three the year after and slowly weeding them out, it was done in one big go, 10 of them out of the club which allowed Parramatta to start again.
“The salary cap was in all sorts of trouble, and it was in all sorts of trouble after he left when the board were found to be cheating it.
“They were penalized, but Brad Arthur has done a brilliant job rebuilding Parramatta.”
“You say there is some bad blood on the Parramatta side… we all know Ricky can hold a grudge at times, I am sure he would love to knock Parramatta out of the finals,” The Australian’s Brent Read said.
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