Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart could be facing legal trouble for his extraordinary post-match remarks about Penrith Panthers playmaker Jaeman Salmon.
Stuart launched a stunning tirade at Salmon after the Panthers five-eighth was placed on report for a kick aimed at Raiders hooker Tom Starling during Saturday evening’s 26-6 victory.
Salmon lashed out with his boot after he was tackled by Starling in the 60th minute of the Round 21 contest.
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“The James Fisher-Harris and Joe Tapine tackles are accidents and in this collision game I understand that,” Stuart told reporters in the post-match press conference.
“But where Salmon kicked Tommy (Starling), it ain’t on.
“I have had history with that kid (Salmon). I know that kid very well.
“He was a weak gutted dog as a kid and he hasn’t changed now. He is a weak gutted dog person now.”
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Salmon is seeking legal advice and potentially considering defamation charges.
The 23-year-old was reportedly keen to speak to the media after he was made aware of Stuart’s comments, but the Panthers advised him otherwise.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was asked about Starling’s tackle and Stuart’s comments in his post-match press conference.
“I don’t know, it is hard to see on our small screen,” he told reporters.
“I can’t imaging Jaeman would have deliberately done that, but I honestly didn’t see it.
“I don’t think I need to respond to those comments (from Stuart).
“I know what Jaeman is like and he is valuable in our club and we love him, so that is all that matters to us.”
Rugby league icon Phil Gould was stunned by the broadside, revealing Stuart’s son had played with Salmon in Penrith’s junior system.
“When Ricky said he’s known this kid for a while, he has,” Gould told Channel 9.
“Certainly Ricky on reflection saying he’s not apologising and he’s standing by what he said is rather extraordinary because I’ve never heard a coach say anything like that at a press conference.
“I can’t imagine anything that would make me say something like that at a press conference.
“Ricky’s going to have to have very good reason and I don’t know how he substantiates that … I think Jaeman Salmon would have action against him for remarks like that.
“I know his team’s been knocked out tonight and that’s probably the end of their finals charge … but he’s too experienced a campaigner to react so emotionally in an environment like that where he has been so many times throughout his career. It’s not as though he’s a rookie.”
Former Brisbane Broncos captain Corey Parker also thought that Stuart overstepped the mark.
“The optics don’t look great from Ricky Stuart,” he told Fox League.
“He is in a position of power and being a coach. He is clearly frustrated. His team is on life support at the moment in regards to their season.
“Is he bringing the game into disrepute by saying what he did? I’m not sure.
“If a player said that to another player is it OK? It would then strike up a feud between two players and we would really enjoy that.
“The fact that Ricky Stuart is the head coach of the Raiders and saying it about a player I don’t think it looks great.
“However, I am not 100 per cent sure if he is bringing the game into disrepute. I’m sure it will be a talking point for a week the comments coming from Ricky Stuart.”
Parker believes Stuart could face a sanction from the NRL over the public outburst.
“I can’t think in my time of an incident that has happened like that where a coach has gone after a player or said some things about a player,” he said.
“It will be really interesting to see what comes of it over the next couple of days.
“But the optics aren’t great, particularly being in the position that Ricky is being a head coach.”
Stuart has racked up more than $120,000 in monetary penalties over his 21-year coaching career, including a $20,000 fine in 2015 for walking out on a press conference and refusing to speak to the media.