Stuart, Pay put mateship on hold
THEY were roommates on the 1994 Kangaroos tour, shared a coaching box for four years in Canberra, and were even planning to sneak a quiet beer together last night.
But there will be no room for sentimentality when best mates Ricky Stuart and Dean Pay go head to head tonight in a must-win game for their respective Raiders and Bulldogs.
In a classic Thursday night Master versus Apprentice clash in the nation's capital, Stuart will try to register Canberra's first win of the season against rookie head coach Pay.
Stuart was happy to push hard for Pay to succeed Des Hasler at the Bulldogs, declaring before he landed the job: "If he doesn't go, I'll be the winner because I know how good he is at his job here''.
The Raiders coach told The Daily Telegraph last night: "I want to beat 'Deano' tomorrow night, he wants to beat me, there's plenty of emotion and passion there, but I know our mateship will outlast any competition against each other.
"I'm very fortunate rugby league has given me some very, very close mates, and Deano is one of them. We played Origin together, we toured together as roommates.
"When he left here, I never lost a mate, but I lost a very good coach, a loyal sidekick and someone I respect and trust as though he's part of my family.
"It will take time for Dean to get where he wants to be, but I can already tell the players are playing for him.''
Stuart is desperate to avoid a fifth straight loss, and had a simple reason he was confident his players could turn it around.
"Because that wasn't us last week (against Manly),'' said Stuart, who is desperate to hear the team song finally sung after full-time.
"And we've got an opportunity to show we are proud of the jersey this week.''
Pay, who still speaks to Stuart on a regular basis, said there were mixed emotions coming up against "Sticky", but emphasised the Dogs were just as desperate for a win.
"We're 1-3 and they're 0-4, so we both need this win,'' Pay said.
"I've learned a hell of a lot off him, just about managing your roster, starting from scratch and building a team that can be competitive.
"We just want to make sure we're better than what we were last week. We weren't far off, we let ourselves down in a couple of areas, and at least we're moving forward and getting better.''
Pay said Moses Mbye would definitely start at No.1 after overcoming a heavy concussion during the Good Friday loss to Souths, while Stuart said his team would run out 1-17.
Adam Elliott, who will start in the No.13, went the knuckle with Junior Paulo the last time the clubs met in a trial, which earned the pair 10 in the bin.
"But he came over (when we returned), winked at me and put his hand out,'' Elliott said.
"It showed a sign of respect, and I respected him for doing it. It won't stop us from ripping in this week, but there are no hard feelings between us."
LIVE stream the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership on FOX SPORTS. Every game of every round LIVE in HD, with no ad-breaks during play! Get your free 2-week trial now >