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Stuart facing ban for rant, McCullough may retire but Dragons set to miss out on Verrills

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart is facing the possibility of becoming the first coach in premiership history to be suspended over a post-match press conference tirade.

Many coaches have been fined five-figure amounts over the past few decades for unacceptable comments when fronting the media, including Stuart, who has repeated offences on his record.

Following his extraordinary spray on Saturday night when he attacked Panthers five-eighth Jaeman Salmon’s reputation, the NRL is set to come down hard on the Raiders mentor.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo is set to announce a breach notice on Monday which could result in Stuart being banned from attending Canberra’s Round 22 home game against the Dragons on Sunday.

He would not be able to communicate from a remote location, as some coaches have done this year when stuck in COVID-19 isolation.

After Salmon had lashed out with his boot towards Raiders hooker Tom Starling during Penrith’s 26-6 win on Saturday night, Stuart fumed: “I know that kid well. He was a weak-gutted dog as a kid and he hasn’t changed now. He’s a weak-gutted dog person now.”

He tried to douse the flames on Sunday by issuing an apology: “I regret saying what I did on that platform after the game. I was speaking as a father and not as a football coach.

“My reaction was to a family situation that I thought I had dealt with, clearly I haven’t. I allowed my emotions to get the better of me and for that I am very sorry. There is a history between Jaeman Salmon and my family that I will not go into. I should not have brought it up after the game, but it just got the better of me.

“I am truly sorry that I have caused my family and the game unwarranted attention.”

The drama stems from an incident at a junior match in the Sutherland Shire more than a decade ago when Salmon was playing in the same team as Stuart’s son.

Despite the coach’s carefully worded apology, the Salmon family issued a statement of their own, calling on the NRL to take action.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 06: Raiders coach Ricky Stuart looks on during the round 21 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Penrith Panthers at GIO Stadium, on August 06, 2022, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart looks on during the round 21 NRL match against Penrith. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

“We were disappointed by the comments of Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart after what was a fantastic game of football for the Panthers and our son, Jaeman. We were surprised by Ricky’s claim that he knows Jaeman personally as they have had no contact since Jae was 12 years old.

“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.”

Penrith put out a statement on Sunday to say “With respect to the comments made post-game Saturday night, the club is monitoring the situation. Salmon’s wellbeing is the club’s priority, and Panthers is ensuring he is supported at this time.”

The NRL Integrity Unit investigation is expected to result in a hefty fine for Stuart as well as an unprecedented ban.

Their loss to Penrith means ninth-placed Canberra are two points adrift of eighth spot but they have a favourable draw in the final four rounds, playing teams below them on the table while many of the sides directly above them will face each other.

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

McCullough may retire but Dragons no certainty to sign Verrills

Veteran hooker Andrew McCullough could be hanging up his boots at the end of the season, but the Dragons are looking unlikely to land their main target to replace him, Roosters rake Sam Verrills.

Gold Coast are leading the race for Verrills’ signature with the premiership-winning hooker looking elsewhere following the Roosters’ acquisition of Kiwi international Brandon Smith from the Storm.

According to a Sydney Morning Herald report, McCullough is considering retiring despite being under contract for next year.

Moses Mbye has filled in at dummy-half this season so he could be an option for the No.9 jersey while the Dragons have also sounded out Verrills and Wests Tigers hooker Jacob Liddle, who is eyeing the exit with Panthers star Api Koroisau heading to Concord.

The Titans have been keen to bolster their inexperienced spine following this season’s disastrous campaign and have already signed Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran.

Verrills is only 23 but scored a try in the Roosters’ 2019 Grand Final win and could give the Titans much-needed creativity out of dummy-half. Erin Clark, better suited at lock, has been used for most of this season by Justin Holbrook while Aaron Booth suffered a devastating knee injury last week which will likely sideline him until midway through 2023.

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