Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has launched a withering spray at Panthers five-eighth Jaeman Salmon after he was seen kicking Tom Starling in the groin during Canberra’s 26-6 defeat on Saturday night.
In one of the most extraordinary press conferences in recent memory, Stuart labelled the Panther a ‘weak gutted dog’, which drew damning condemnation from NRL legends-turned-commentators Phil Gould, Brad Fittler, Cooper Cronk and Corey Parker.
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.
A fuming Stuart, who was also no doubt emotional at the side’s disappointing loss that might knock them out of finals contention, could not contain his anger after the spiteful contest.
Jaeman Salmon’s (unseen, lying on ground) boot makes contact with Raiders hooker Tom Startling’s (number 14) groin as Salmon is trying to get up from a tackle
‘Where Salmon kicked Tommy (Starling), it ain’t on. I have had history with that kid (Salmon). I know that kid very well,’ Stuart 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.’
The astonishing spray shocked Gould, who admitted he ‘can’t imagine anything that would make me say something like that’.
‘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,’ he said.
Ricky Stuart shocked the media when he called Jaeman Salmon a ‘weak gutted dog’ in the post-match press conference
Setting aside the explosive comments, Gould didn’t believe Salmon’s kick was an intentional act, and something that can happen when a player is trying to get up after being tackled.
‘That’s not an uncommon occurrence. His foot was caught between his legs as they’re getting up and he was trying to get his foot out of there,’ said Gould.
‘When I saw the incident I was surprised that they stopped the game and Jaeman Salmon was penalised. I just saw someone kicking out,’ fellow commentator Fittler added.
Jaeman Salmon (with ball in hand) stretches out to score a try in Penrith’s win over Canberra on Saturday night
Gould also confirmed that Stuart did indeed have a long history with Salmon.
Salmon played on the same junior team as Stuart’s son when he was coaching at the Sharks from 2007 – 2010.
Regardless of whether the kick was intentional or not – though all four commentators believed it wasn’t – Stuart’s remarks were widely condemned.
On Fox League’s post-match coverage, Parker was scathing of Stuart’s spray.
‘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,’ Parker said.
‘Ricky Stuart has been coaching in the game for 20 years … absolutely disgraceful comments.’
Ricky Stuart looks on during Canberra’s disappointing 20-point loss to Penrith
Cronk weas a little more circumspect, but he agreed with the sentiments that Stuart should not have called Salmon out.
‘The other part of this too is that Ricky is one of the greatest players of our game and I’m not sure what the history is. I have got no idea. But Salmon has played 40-odd games of first grade,’ he said during the Fox League coverage.
‘The balance of power is a bit out of whack there. I think he could have kept his emotions in check and played it another way.
‘But I just don’t like the fact an opposition coach publicly and personally has a crack at another player,’ said Cronk.
Penrith Panthers five-eighth Jaeman Salmon, who has also played for the Eels and junior footy for the Sharks, has found himself in the spotlight again.
Stuart has refused to apologise for the comment, telling Channel 9 journalist Danny Weidler that ‘he is not backing down’, according to a tweet by the veteran scribe.
Reports have also since emerged in the Sydney Morning Herald that Salmon would be seeking legal advice over the broadside, and wanted to speak out – but was warned against it by the Panthers.
The incident is just another chapter in the heated rivalry that has been simmering between the two clubs since Penrith star Jarome Luai hit Raiders forward high during a melee in 2019.