Kirsten Tapine's Instagram crack at Ricky Stuart was the most glaring example ever of a spouse publicly criticising their husband's coach, NRL great Brad Fittler reckons.
Tapine, the wife of Canberra Raiders back-rower Joe Tapine slammed Stuart for benching her husband for most of a loss to South Sydney.
"You have an international player warming your bench for 50 minutes … Your interchanges are killing us!!!" she wrote. "Refs call count means jak (sic) when coaches are (rubbish bin emoji)."
Stuart "let him (Tapine) know what he thought" of the Instagram barb at a combative training session this week, according to Nine NRL reporter Danny Weidler. The Mole reported that rival clubs – including the Roosters, Bulldogs and Panthers – were waiting to swoop if he suddenly found himself on the outer at Canberra.
Yet both Fittler and fellow legend Andrew Johns feel that the Raiders are only a couple of wins away from leaving behind the matter, plus issues with English stars Josh Hodgson and George Williams.
"That was full-on. It's hilarious," Fittler said of the Tapine-Stuart spat on Wide World of Sports' Freddy and The Eighth.
"A partner has come out before but that was pretty direct. The world's going mad. A wife coming out and complaining to a coach, that's, the world's going crazy.
"He's obviously putting pressure on them, without a doubt. Leaving [Josh] Papalii out and coming out and talking about the reasons why, he's putting pressure on his team.
"He's obviously feeling like they haven't come back this year with the right mindset and he's trying to find out who wants to play."
The Raiders have lost four in a row but have a good chance to reverse their fortunes.
"They've got a good run. They've got the Knights this week, the Knights are vulnerable, then they've got the Bulldogs next week in Magic Round," Johns said.
"Two wins, all forgotten. They win this week, win next week, they're all in love. No marriage counselling."
Hodgson on Wednesday confirmed that he had stood down as Canberra captain, amid reports that he believed Stuart had fed to the media negative information about his form. The "infuriated" English hooker and Stuart had a "heated" confrontation over the matter, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Hodgson is out until at least next weekend with a calf injury, with Tom Starling starting at hooker. Johns believes that Hodgson's major knee injury of last year remains a factor.
"He's coming back from an ACL. You've got to consider [that]," Johns said.
"ACLs, they say nine to 12 months [recovery]; that's rubbish. To get back to anywhere near full fitness, it's 18 months. To get your confidence back, getting your speed and power back, but the big thing is confidence.
"World class player. He'll come back, he just needs a bit of time."
Johns said that he expected Raiders halfback George Williams to see out the season, despite a homesickness issue that could end his time in Australia.
"George Williams is saying he's homesick, his partner's pregnant," Johns said.
"I think he'll play out the season. It depends on COVID if they can get back to the UK."
The Raiders are running ninth with a 3-5 record, despite expectations that they would be a premiership contender this season.
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