Ricky Stuart is set to be given a one-match ban and fined $20,000 for calling Penrith playmaker Jaeman Salmon a ‘weak-gutted dog’ in a fiery post-match press conference.
The Canberra coach unleased on the five-eighth for kicking hooker Tom Starling during the Panther’s 26-6 win over the Raiders – but their feud goes back for more than a decade and is linked to Stuart’s children.
The unprecedented spray attacking Salmon’s character was widely condemned across sporting landscape but in Monday’s episode of NRL 360 host Paul Kent revealed that if the public new the whole story, opinions would be much different.
He said he tried to convince Stuart – his long-time mate – to shed light on what prompted the outburst ‘because if he did the overwhelming condemnation you are facing would swiftly turn around’. But the coach refused.
Stuart’s grudge with Jaemon and his family has reportedly been simmering for a remarkable 12 years, after an incident at a junior rugby league game.
Jaeman Salmon (centre) celebrates his Penrith Panthers debut with family and friends
A ‘childish act’ from Salmon brought Stuart’s son Jackson to tears at a juniors match in 2010, which allegedly saw Stuart confront Salmon.
However, Kent asserted speculation in league circles had been wide of the mark.
‘No one’s got close to the truth, all those people out there who think they know, don’t know,’ he said.
Kent did reveal it was ‘it was not one incident, it was continual 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 the history had anything to do with Stuart’s daughter Emma, but Kent refused to divulge anything further.
Through his foundation Stuart has raised millions of dollars for autism-related causes.
Jaemon Salmon (unseen, on ground) is facing a grade one contrary conduct charge for the alleged kick on Tom Starling (number 14)
Kent asserted the matters were so personal that not everything would be going into the written NRL report, even if that disadvantaged Stuart.
But the rugby league journalist said the Canberra coach ‘was prepared to live with the consequences’ and accused the NRL of ‘hanging a bloke for defending his family’.
‘It’s not a football matter, it’s an extremely raw personal matter,’ he said.
The one-week ban comes before Canberra’s crucial match with St George on Sunday, which is a must-win for both clubs with the loser set to kiss their finals hopes goodbye.
From the time the suspension is announced Stuart will be banned from coaching his side and will have to hand responsibilities over to assistants.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is facing a one-match ban and $20,000 fine from the NRL for his spray
The NRL Integrity Unit is still finishing its report on why Stuart made the comments but are expected to hand the document over to NRL CEO Andrew Abdo within the next day.
Stuart is no stranger to a tirade, much to the chagrin of the NRL. He’s amassed approximately $135,000 in fines since he moved into coaching in 2002 – including a $20,000 fine for storming out of a press conference in 2015.
The Salmon family released a statement on Sunday evening imploring the NRL ‘to take action’, condemning the strong remarks from Stuart.
The kick in question occurred in the 60th minute of the game, with Salmon’s foot seen making contact with Starling’s groin as the former tried to get up after being tackled – though it is certainly not clear if it was intentional.
That didn’t appear to matter to Stuart.
‘Where Salmon kicked Tommy (Starling), it ain’t on. I have had history with that kid (Salmon). I know that kid very well,’ he said at the post-match press conference.
‘He was a weak-gutted dog as a kid and he hasn’t changed now. He is a weak-gutted dog person now.’
Jaeman Salmon, pictured on a holiday on the NSW north coast, has copped a withering spray
It was one of the most explosive press conferences the NRL has ever seen – and there isn’t a parallel in the sporting world that even comes close.
In the Salmon family’s statement, which was distributed by Jaeman’s manager Sam Ayoub, they questioned Stuart’s assertion that he ‘knew the kid well’.
‘We were surprised by Ricky’s claim that he knows Jaeman personally as they have had no contact since Jae was 12-years old,’ the statement read.
‘We are calling on the NRL to take action as we believe Jaeman has been wronged in this situation.
‘We will follow the correct procedures and let the NRL complete a thorough investigation.’