Stuart wants to see Sharks win
Photo Source: AAP
Ricky Stuart is one of 18 coaches who promised, and ultimately failed, to take Cronulla to the promised land.
But should his replacement Shane Flanagan be the one to finally lead them there, if they topple Melbourne in Sunday's NRL decider, then Stuart will only be glad for him.
Rumours of bad blood between Stuart and Flanagan had circled in recent years, and it reached fever pitch when Stuart criticised the Sharks' style of play a fortnight ago.
But the newly crowned Dally M coach of the year rejected any suggestion of ill-feeling between the pair, and said any perceived animosity was made up by the media.
"There's nothing in the relationship with Shane and I. I'd love to see Shane win a competition and experience it as a young coach. I think it'd be great for him," Stuart said.
"I have a soft spot for Cronulla in regards to their growth and development as a club. I'm friends with (chairman) Damien Keogh and I'm friends with their deputy chairman.
"There's a relationship there with the club. I would love to see them win a grand final."
However, Stuart admitted he had a foot in both camps for this year's grand final, having also grown a strong friendship with Melbourne counterpart Craig Bellamy.
In an association that stems from their playing days at Canberra, the duo are renowned for their post-game tradition of bringing a beer into the loser's sheds after their teams clash.
Stuart, who made the finals once in his four seasons in the Shire before dramatically leaving in 2010, said he was torn on who he wanted to see win on Sunday.
"I know what it means for the Cronulla supporters in being involved in the game this weekend. It's something that they've hung for, for many years. It'd be lovely if it happened," he said.
"Lovely for Shane, Paul Gallen and Mick Ennis. Mick who's retiring and Paul who hasn't won a competition before.
"But for Craig Bellamy (too), who's my mate. I can't say it any more honestly. I haven't got a team to win. I just know there's a great feeling and storyline there for either group of people."