Was Raiders coach Ricky Stuart’s jab at netball a sexist comment? Probably, yes. But it goes so much deeper than that, writes Lisa Alexander.
Was Raiders coach Ricky Stuart’s jab at netball a sexist comment? Probably, yes. But it goes so much deeper than that, writes Lisa Alexander.

'Stuart’s disrespectful netball jab hurts all Aussie sport'

OPINION

The time has come for fans and commentators around Australian sport to stop taking lazy potshots at netball and women's sport to justify themselves.

And we can use this opportunity to educate those that don't appreciate the work that goes into the high-performance efforts of our elite teams.

When I sat down to watch NRL 360 on Wednesday night, I was interested to hear the debate about the rumoured rift between Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart and his star hooker Josh Hodgson.

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The pair are said to have had some robust conversations behind closed doors, to which co-host Paul Kent quoted Stuart as saying "if I can't be having tough conversations with my better players I might as well be coaching netball."

My first reaction to it all was just that sinking feeling of when will netball, and women's coaching in general, be taken seriously?

All high performance coaching is tough at times and it doesn't matter if it's men or women, it still can be tough - because you're dealing with people's careers and dreams, and it's certainly not any easier in netball.

What I heard on Wednesday was a disrespectful swipe that was trying to deflect from the issue at hand, which is the fact that there's a perceived issue at the club.

Is it a sexist comment? Probably, yes. But then what would the men's netballers think?

What I really want to say is that I think it's much more of an old school attitude towards coaching and sport in general.

It doesn't matter which sport, or which gender, we're talking about from a high-performance level - every coach and player will have had a rigorous conversation about performance.

It also happens between players.

You could look at Sandy Brondello, coach of the Opals basketball team, and ask if she might have had some 'tough' conversations with squad members this week?

Or any number of Olympic athletes, who I'm certain would've been challenged by their coaches to reach their best levels.

At the Diamonds, we preferred to refer to them as 'genuine' conversations - based on knowing people and having good, strong relationships so that you could handle what would otherwise be tricker topics.

I certainly know I had my fair share of genuine conversations with my athletes. That's why high-performance coaches have a lot of experience and practice in being able to do that and work on it.

It's a big part of what they do.

I'm also certain that former Diamonds coach Joyce Brown would've had some challenging conversations within that team environment, and that was happening 30 years ago.

 

"No I wasn't fired up f*** me!" - Ricky gets testy at press conference: NRL: Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart wasn't too happy during his press conference following his side's loss to the Knights.
"No I wasn't fired up f*** me!" - Ricky gets testy at press conference: NRL: Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart wasn't too happy during his press conference following his side's loss to the Knights.

 

At the very highest level you're dealing with a player's hopes and dreams. That's how you have to approach dealing with people, to help them understand and learn how they can get better.

It's not necessarily about professionalism in terms of money. It's about how much people have applied, and how much effort and energy they put into their sport and their desire to improve theirs, and the team's, performance.

Coaching at every level - even at community level - is not always easy. We want coaches to keep coaching in all of our sports, because it's important. Denigrating one group is not helpful for sport in general in Australia.

Originally published as Stuart's disrespectful netball jab hurts every Aussie sport