Jarrod Croker of the Raiders.
Jarrod Croker of the Raiders. PAUL MILLER

Stuart hands discipline duties to club leaders

FORGET a spray from Ricky Stuart - it's the players dishing out the discipline in Canberra.

While a tongue-lashing from coach Stuart is a scary prospect, the hairdryer treatment the players want to avoid is from Jarrod Croker, Sia Soliola and Josh Hodgson.

With Croker the sheriff in Canberra, Soliola and Hodgson are his deputies.

And when it comes to setting the culture and training standards, it's the trio that has taken charge.

Unlike a game where the coach delivers the message and it's up to the players to execute it, it's the players who are driving what they want the Raiders jersey to stand for.

The vision is simple, really. It's a club built on pride, passion, respect for its history and a team with strong family values.

With Croker and Stuart calling the shots, it's Hodgson and Soliola who are enforcing the vision and allowing Stuart to do what he does best - coach.

"Ricky's spoken to us and given us a bit of leeway in terms of how we speak to the boys," Soliola told foxsports.com.au.

"He's let us take charge of a few areas.

"In the past, Ricky's probably tried to do it all himself, he's great in the way he manages us as players and individuals.

"He's got us players, his foundation (Ricky Stuart Foundation) and his family. We're fortunate to have him as a friend, mentor and coach.

"We want to nurture the boys and get them to the next stage and becoming leaders of the club as well."

The question is, why the power shift?

According to the players, it's simple. The message is often far more effective when it comes from your peers.

Regarded as the Raiders' spiritual leader, Soliola revealed the ultimate goal is for the players to be responsible for issuing punishments for those who damage the brand.

Soliola knows how important the club is to the community and how off-field dramas from a select few can really damage the club's image.

So the goal is to have the senior players take control of disciplining wayward players.

"That's the ultimate outcome we're trying to achieve," he said of the players protecting the brand.

"We're still in the process of getting to that stage but that's how we envision the Raiders. We all have a lot of responsibilities as a whole.

"We have a responsibility to the brand.

"We'll get to the stage where it's just driven by our boys. It's more effective that way."

Stuart has long been regarded as a hard task master and while for the most part he still is, Soliola revealed his former Roosters mentor has mellowed a lot since their days together in Bondi in the mid-2000s.

It's something Soliola noticed as soon as he arrived in Canberra in 2015 from St Helens.

He and teammate Blake Austin experience it every week throughout the season when the coach lets them leave training early to watch their children play local league on a Saturday morning.

That's just one example of the Raiders' family club mentality.

"He said he wasn't what he used to be," the 33-year-old revealed of Stuart's pitch to bring him back from the Super League.

"He's a lot more understanding. I'm a bit more understanding of what he has to go through now, being one of the older boys.

"His management's the biggest thing to change - from the staff to the 20s.

"There's a great understanding with us as players.

"It's nice to know we have someone like Rick who has the welfare of his players first and foremost."

With Croker sidelined with a dislocated knee cap for the first four weeks of the season, Soliola and Hodgson are likely to captain the club in his absence.