Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is facing a potential NRL ban for his outburst against Penrith's Jaeman Salmon, with the 23-year-old's family speaking out in the wake of his ugly comments.
Stuart is facing fierce criticism after he decribed Salmon as a 'weak-gutted dog' in his post-game press conference following Canberra's 26-6 defeat at the hands of the Panthers on Saturday.
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NRL boss Andrew Abdo has confirmed the comments will be referred to the integrity unit, while Salmon's family has not ruled out legal action against Stuart.
On Sunday morning Stuart issued an apology for his comments via a statement, attributing his words to a 'family situation' that dates back to when Salmon and his own son were children.
In his statement, Stuart said he 'regretted' saying what he said.
"I was speaking as a father and not as a football coach. My reaction was to a family situation that I thought I had dealt with. Clearly I haven't," the statement read.
"I allowed my emotions to get the better of me and for that I'm sorry.
"There is a history between Jaeman Salmon and my family that I will not go into.
"I should not have brought it up after the game, but it just got the better of me. I am truly sorry."
The issue boiled over again when Stuart was asked about Salmon appearing to lash out with his foot in a tackle, with his boot connecting with Raider Tom Starling's groin and face.
In a statement of their own, the Salmon family said they were stunned that Stuart would bring up an incident that dated back more than 11 years.
"We were disappointed by the comments of Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart after what was a fantastic game of football for the Panthers and our son, Jaeman," the family said in a statement.
"We were surprised by Ricky's claim that he knows Jaeman personally as they have had no contact since Jae was 12 years old.
"We are calling on the NRL to take action as we believe Jaeman has been wronged in this situation.
"We will follow the correct procedures and let the NRL complete a thorough investigation."
Ricky Stuart comments referred to NRL Integrity Unit
The 23-year-old was given a grade-one contrary conduct charge over the on-field incident by the match review committee on Sunday and faces a fine of $1000 with an early guilty plea.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo also confirmed it will be a matter for the integrity unit.
Stuart has been fined more than $100,000 throughout his coaching career and there is some thought his latest comments could prompt a suspension.
"Clearly the comments are disappointing and we're going to take a close look at them," Abdo told Sky Sports Radio.
"It's a live matter, clearly it is very serious, we will take a look at it and understand all the facts.
"Whenever there is an issue like this we ask the integrity unit to take a look at it.
"And obviously as the decision-maker I need to involve myself and speak to the respective parties as well."
A coach has never been banned for post-match comments and even the late Bob Fulton escaped with a $6000 fine for his cement truck remark to former referee Bill Harrigan in 1987.
The explosive comments were put to a stunned Penrith coach Ivan Cleary, who threw his support behind his young half.
"I don't think I need to respond to those comments," Cleary told reporters.
"I know what Jaeman is like, he's valuable in our club and we love him and that's all that matters to us."
Discussing the incident on Fox Sports' coverage, NRL greats Corey Parker and Cooper Cronk said they both thought Stuart was out of line.
“Ricky Stuart has been coaching in the game for 20 years and absolutely disgraceful comments from Ricky Stuart,” Parker said.
“To publicly humiliate a player regardless of the situation on the field. That will be dealt with.
“He has got a position of power Ricky in the head coaching role. He has got a position of leading these men that look up to him to mentor in the right way and he has completely got that wrong.
“The words that he has used in regards to Salmon are completely out of line.”
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