Ricky Stuart responds to controversial remarks about netball’s toughness

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has offered a backhanded apology for suggesting NRL mentors “might as well be coaching netball” if they can’t have tough conversations with their players, saying: “I hope netball take it as being good publicity for them.”

Stuart’s comments prompted furious netball players and figures to declare the Raiders coach should be “embarrassed” for making the remarks.

Australian Diamonds shooter Sophie Garbin called Stuart’s view disrespectful.

“It’s 2021 and comments like this are still getting said about women in general and there’s no need for it,” Garbin said.

“Netball deserves respect. We’ve got over a million girls playing and to get to the top level is really tough.”

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart caused a stir when he said NRL coaches who can’t have tough conversations with their players might as well coach netball. Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images

Speaking at his weekly press conference, Stuart said his remarks about netball were not intended to upset.

“Look, I respect all sports and it was an off the cuff comment,” Stuart said.

“I’ve had a laugh about it. I’ve had some journalists ring me last night and we had a laugh about it, but they turned to their pen and flogged me today.

“Look, I respect netball and I’m sorry if I offended any girl or boy that plays netball.

“All sports are tough, and I understand that.

“As John Fordham once said to me, any publicity is good publicity as long as they are spelling your name right.

“I hope netball take it as being good publicity for them.”

In other news, Stuart revealed plans to unleash a two-pronged hooker attack against Canterbury on Saturday, with starting No.9 Tom Starling to share game with a returning Josh Hodgson.

The Raiders are desperate to revive their season against the Bulldogs following five straight losses.

Josh Hodgson’s return from a calf injury is huge for Canberra. Photo: Matt Blyth/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images

Stuart couldn’t be happier to have Hodgson back from a calf injury, even if he is starting off the bench.

“I hope to get him (Josh) on the same time as Tommy (Starling),” he said.

“There might be a period there where I can give Tommy a break, but I know over the years when I’ve had him on the bench, and he moves into the game with Josh, it is a good combination.

“So, that is a big change as well.”

Stuart believes Hodgson will still be hugely influential for the Raiders despite relinquishing the captaincy.

“Hodgo has been great,” he said.

“That experience that has come in is very timely.

“Coming back from his calf tear, you can see that he has got a bit more energy in the sessions.

“He has got a good voice around the meetings and at training, and he brings that little bit of enthusiasm and the boys enjoy playing with him.”

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