The judgment was final and the verdict was swift.
Today Ricky Stuart has been officially sentenced to three years hard time at the maximum security institution that is the Parramatta National Rugby League Club.
His crime? Masquerading as a successful rugby league coach. He was found guilty on all counts. The verdict was unanimous.
A stoic Stuart stood stony faced as Chief Justice Roy Spagnolo began his final summation, but was unable to conceal his obvious revulsion and horror as the sentence was revealed. Courtroom attendees claimed that Stuart looked ‘a broken man’ as the bailiff put a blue and gold scarf around his neck.
Distraught members of the Stuart family sobbed as Spagnolo delivered his decision, with one family member vocal in pleading for leniency, claiming that Ricky did not deserve such harsh punishment.
Spagnolo disclosed that it was Stuart’s mismanagement during his final years at the Sydney Roosters, followed by middling performances throughout his tenure with the Cronulla Sharks that really shaped the outcome.
Stuart’s team put together a compelling case and argued vigorously in Stuart’s defense. They cited his premiership win as a rookie coach in 2002, followed by consecutive grand final outings in 2003 and 2004, as obvious examples of Ricky’s high caliber coaching ability.
Prosecutors countered that even Nathan Brown would have been able to lead that star studded Roosters line-up to victory, but quickly withdrew their statement when reflecting on Brown’s record with the St George-Illawarra Steelers.
The crux of the defense was Stuart’s most recent outing as NSW State of Origin coach, where the Blues took Queensland to the absolute brink of defeat across the three game series.
The prosecution strenuously objected, calling for any evidence from State of Origin to be declared inadmissible. They claimed that any sporting event where Paul “Fatty” Vautin had a credible coaching record be deemed irrelevant to points of law. Spagnolo agreed, throwing out the vast majority of Stuart’s defense strategy, and with it any chance he had of winning the case.
In his closing remarks the prosecution referred to Stuart’s delusional belief that Jarryd Hayne would excel as a five-eight as a prime example of Stuart’s complete and utter inability to accurately evaluate talent. A court reporter would later claim this was the hammer blow that sealed Stuart’s fate.
In the judge’s final review Spagnolo created some controversy by openly declaring his excitement at seeing Hayne playing in the halves for the Eels next season, drawing sniggers from the jurors and courtroom gallery alike. Spagnolo was swift in wiping this statement off the record.
Outside the courtroom Ricky’s management team voiced their disappointment at Spagnolo’s verdict, but defiantly declared that they will be investigating all available avenues with which to fight the decision. A close confidant of Stuart’s was convinced a loophole would be found, citing the precedent set when Daniel Anderson, and more recently Stephen Kearney, successfully applied for early parole.
Eels fans supporting a stay of execution had established a picket line outside the courtroom. As news of the guilty verdict quickly made its way outside they could be heard wailing in anger and disbelief, unsure of the full ramifications of the decision but knowing it could only mean more misery.
An appeal is expected to be lodged as early as next week.