Ricky Stuart

Ricky refuses to take credit for Papalii's form

The saying goes that behind every good man is an even better woman and Stuart believes Masepa Papalii is that someone.

The pair were sweethearts for several years before tying the knot in late 2018. Season 2019 not only saw Papalii shift from lock to front row, it gave the 27-year-old a third Mal Meninga Medal (for the Raiders' best player) in four years.

Papalii scored six tries, made 61 tackle busts, 31 off-loads, ran for 3830 metres at an average just shy of 150 in each of his 26 games.

Stuart blasts 'soft' Raiders

After last week's one-point loss to the Warriors – the third straight narrow, late loss from a winning position – Stuart attempted to divert the post-match narrative from the team's performance onto the match officials.

But after their worst performance of the year to date, Stuart admitted he had protected the players from criticism for too long and used the word "soft" no fewer than 10 times to describe a first-half capitulation that at one stage included three tries conceded in five minutes.

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The unstoppable grunt factory led by massive front-row pairing Shannon Boyd (122 kilos) and Junior Paulo (123 kilos) routinely won the battle of the middle of the field that year.

Throw Josh Hodgson’s wily dummy half play into the mix and a powerful, athletic backline and Stuart had found an intoxicating recipe for rampaging attacking football that took his side to second on the ladder and a preliminary final with the Storm.