Ricky Stuart has put Canberra's NRL predicament firmly on themselves, insisting Craig Bellamy's decision to rest Melbourne players against Cronulla is entirely fair.
Canberra stand to be the biggest victims of the NRL's great final-round rest, with more than 25 stars set to be missing from the last weekend of the regular season.
Melbourne will rest seven players from Friday evening's clash with Cronulla, in bad news for the Raiders' finals plight.
Canberra must beat the Sydney Roosters on Thursday to have any chance of making the top eight, but will also need Cronulla to fall to wrap up their position in the finals.
But after resting Raiders players himself in the final round of last season, Stuart said Bellamy and other coaches were entitled to make that decision and others could not complain.
"If you've earned the position of rest players this week, well good on you," Stuart said.
"I was criticised last year for debuting young players who went out and beat the Sharks, there wasn't too much criticism after it.
"If we want to start criticising coaches for resting players to give themselves the best shot to win the semi final, it's pretty disappointing.
"Because you're doing everything you could possibly can to win a semi-final.
"We've got a game that wants to expand ... Don't you think it's a positive that we can actually rest players and given another young bloke an opportunity?"
Stuart said he could see some merit in the NRL introducing a pre-finals bye, a solution introduced by the AFL in 2016 to prevent players being rested en masse.
But he argued that could disadvantage some finals-bound sides, with the potential of affecting their form and momentum at a crucial time.
"If you could give every football player the opportunity to rest, you'd probably get a higher quality of game," Stuart said.
"Some coaches might disagree and think they don't want to break the routine ... Form going into the semi-finals is very important."
What Stuart can't get away from, however, is the position his Raiders are in.
He praised their resilience on Wednesday, after fighting back from several mid-season dramas and injuries as well as being as low as 14th on the ladder.
But he is adamant they are a finals team after two straight top-four finishes in 2019 and 2020.
"We are a semi-final team," Stuart said.
"We're disappointed with where we are on the table and relying on one game in another game's results, that's disappointing.
"But if we didn't have the strength in the playing group we would have been out of running two or three weeks ago."