Ricky Stuart is given a one-game suspension and a $20,000 fine for calling Penrith playmaker Jaeman Salmon a “weak dog” during a fiery post-game press conference.
The Canberra coach was let go in five-eighth for kicking hooker Tom Starling in the Panther’s 26-6 win over the Raiders – but their feud goes back more than a decade and is linked to Stuart’s kids.
The unprecedented spray attacking Salmon’s character has been widely condemned in the sports landscape, but in Monday’s episode of NRL 360, host Paul Kent revealed that if the public understood the whole story, opinions would be very different.
He said he was trying to convince Stuart – his longtime partner – to shed light on the cause of the eruption “because if he would quickly reverse the overwhelming condemnation you’re dealing with.” But the coach refused.
Stuart’s resentment with Jaemon and his family has reportedly been simmering for 12 years after an incident at a junior rugby league match.
Jaeman Salmon (center) celebrates his Penrith Panthers debut with family and friends
A “childish act” by Salmon brought Stuart’s son Jackson to tears during a 2010 junior competition where Stuart allegedly confronted Salmon.
However, Kent claimed that speculation in competition circles had been the target.
“No one comes close to the truth, all those people who think they know don’t know,” he said.
Kent did reveal that it was “not one incident, they were ongoing incidents against members of Ricky’s family.”
Stuart has three children – Jackson, Jed and Emma, and is fiercely protective of his family.
Former player Braith Anasta asked if history had anything to do with Stuart’s daughter Emma, but Kent declined to disclose anything further.
Through his foundation, Stuart has raised millions of dollars for autism-related causes.
Jaemon Salmon (unseen, on the ground) faces a top-notch charge for breaching the conduct of Tom Starling (number 14)
Kent claimed things were so personal that not everything would make it into the NRL written report, even if it was to the detriment of Stuart.
But the rugby league journalist said the Canberra coach was “willing to live with the consequences” and accused the NRL of “hanging a guy for defending his family”.
“It’s not a football issue, it’s an extremely raw personal issue,” he said.
The week-long suspension comes for Canberra’s crucial match against St George on Sunday, which is a must-win for both clubs, with the loser poised to say goodbye to their final hopes.
Once the suspension is announced, Stuart will no longer be allowed to coach his team and will have to transfer responsibilities to assistants.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart faces one-game suspension and $20,000 fine from the NRL for his spray
The NRL Integrity Unit is still finalizing its report on why Stuart made the comments, but is expected to hand the document over to NRL CEO Andrew Abdo the following day.
Stuart is no stranger to a tirade, much to the chagrin of the NRL. He has amassed about $135,000 in fines since entering coaching in 2002 — including a $20,000 fine for storming out of a press conference in 2015.
The Salmon family released a statement Sunday evening pleading with the NRL to “take action”, condemning Stuart’s strong comments.
The kick in question happened in the 60th minute of the game, with Salmon’s foot making contact with Starling’s groin as the first tried to get up after being tackled – although it’s certainly not clear if it was intentional.
Stuart didn’t seem to care.
“Where Salmon kicked Tommy (Starling), it’s not on. I had a past with that child (Salmon). I know that boy very well,” he said at the press conference after the game.
“As a child he was a dog with a weak gut and he hasn’t changed now. He’s a weak-minded dog person now.’
Jaeman Salmon, photographed while on holiday on the north coast of NSW, has caught a destructive spray
It was one of the most explosive press conferences the NRL has ever seen – and there is no parallel in the sporting world that even comes close.
In the statement from the Salmon family, distributed by Sam Ayoub, Jaeman’s manager, they questioned Stuart’s claim that he “knew the child well.”
“We were surprised by Ricky’s claim that he knows Jaeman personally as they have not been in contact since Jae was 12 years old,” the statement read.
‘We call on the NRL to take action, because we believe that Jaeman has been wronged in this situation.
“We will follow the proper procedures and have the NRL conduct a thorough investigation.”