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“You don’t have to be born in Canberra to feel as though you’re a Canberran.”
Ricky Stuart has a deep affection for the city that supported him through so much of his life and career.
He’s been at both the giving and receiving ends of our community, as a father, a rugby league player, a coach, and at the head of a charity – the Ricky Stuart Foundation.
“I was told a long time ago that Canberra people look after their own. I really believe that,” he says.
“And you don’t have to be born in Canberra to feel as though you’re a Canberran. You just have to be a part of the community and buy in.”
Born in Queanbeyan and growing up in Narrabundah, he left Canberra in 1998 for a stint in Sydney, coming home with his family to coach the Raiders 14 years later. It was then he realised how much he loved his city.
“It was a great opportunity to be able to come back and coach a club that my heart’s set in. It’s where I started my career and it’s done so much for me,” he says.
“I appreciate Canberra so much more now because I now understand what I missed.”
Canberra’s liveability is attractive to the young players that Ricky recruits, but he used to have to pitch it.
“When I first came back and started recruiting, we had to sell Canberra.
“We’d talk about less stress, no hustle bustle, and the free style of living here. We talked about the easiness of travelling from work to home or socialising. You really can’t understand it until you experience and live in it.
“Now I don’t have to go out and talk and sell Canberra to any type of recruit because the 36 boys I have here in our top squad sell it for me. They’re the best advertisement.”
With a positive club culture driven by leaders that Ricky says are some of the best he’s seen, Raiders is a desirable club to play for.
“It’s not hard to keep players at this club and we generally don’t lose the players we want to keep.”
Outside of footy, Ricky runs a foundation raising awareness and building homes for people who live with autism. It was inspired by his daughter, Emma, who needs round-the-clock care.
He says Emma, and others who need care, get it at a high standard in Canberra.
“We’ve been able to put Emma into independent living with the assistance of Koomarri. She has 5 beautiful carers on a rotational basis.
“The community here is just wonderful in regard to taking care of one another. And the way I’ve seen Koomarri, the community, Black Mountain School, take care of Emma and her friends – they have a great sense of belonging.”
The small but mighty Ricky Stuart Foundation is excelling thanks to local government and community support. The foundation has built 2 homes for children living with disability.
Ricky is now looking at building another home for adult independent living in Jerrabomberra.
“We’ve been so successful for such a small foundation. It’s because of the assistance through Canberra and this region.
“It goes back to Canberra people looking after their own.”