Ricky Stuart has offrered high praise for inaugural Canberra Raiders coach and former Kangaroos mentor Don Furner Sr after his death following a long illness.
The NRL club confirmed Furner, whose son is current Raiders chief executive Don Furner, passed away aged 87 on Monday night.
Furner coached Canberra between 1982 and 1986 before guiding the Raiders to their first grand final with co-coach Wayne Bennett in 1987.
“He had such a massive impact on the club and was around the club for many, many years after he finished coaching here before he did get quite ill,” Stuart said on Tuesday.
“His ability to recruit and manage players in the early parts of the Raiders foundation years was years beyond himself.
“The amount of Sydney players he attracted to the club here early which was wonderful for the club because it’s very hard to rebuild a club but it’s even harder to start a club.
“There was some very quick success here under Don Furner.
“Winning that first grand final (in 1989) I still remember the joy they got out of what they had built and achieved and it was only seven years.
“It was five years to make a grand final and seven years to win a grand final. That’s unheard of, that comes off the back of great management and great coaching.”
Furner coached Australia between 1986 and 1988 and his other son David coached the Raiders between 2009 and 2013.
Stuart, who grew up with Furner Jr and has known the family almost all his life, revealed Furner Sr was the reason he played rugby union before switching to league with the Raiders.
“I remember being offered a contract here. Then Don told me to go and try and achieve the most you possibly could out of rugby union and then come back and talk to us and that was probably the greatest piece of advice that you could get as a young boy,” Stuart said.
“That was the man-management of Don; it wasn’t about the Raiders it was about the person. He gave me great advice and I always cherished that.
“He was a fun man to be around and I was very fortunate to have spent a lot of my childhood days at the Furner household and with old Don there as a father, he was a character and loving father.”