Ricky Stuart’s rebuild of Canberra has gone beyond the nation’s capital, with the Raiders coach also credited for Mounties’ historic triple appearance in the NSWRL competition.
Mounties, who have been the Raiders’ feeder club since 2012, will have three teams in as many grades in Sunday’s NSWRL grand final day in Sydney.
It’s a feat that hasn’t been achieved since St George has teams in all three deciders in 1985.
Mounties NSW Cup coach Steve Antonelli will field a team brimming with NRL experience against the Illawarra Cutters on Sunday.
They include Shaun Fensom, Sam Williams, Brenko Lee and Jeff Lima.
It’s a long list of stars that Antonelli says haven’t kicked stones all year, despite mostly playing reserve grade as Stuart led the Raiders’ renaissance.
Mounties will also feature in the Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield finals at Pirtek Stadium before its reconstruction.
Antonelli said Stuart had plenty to do with the club’s success this year, despite Canberra headquarters being a 500km round trip from Mounties’ base in Sydney’s western suburbs.
“One hundred per cent he can take some of the credit. He’s right behind the relationship and checks on his blokes every week,” Antonelli said.
Antonelli was handed a full-time job under Stuart last year, however was forced to spend half his week away from his family in Sydney to be with the Raiders in Canberra.
It’s just one of the small sacrifices Antonelli was willing to pay to help the club’s rebuild.
“I’ve learnt a lot myself so I can bring that professionalism back into Mounties. It’s one of the best relationships in the NRL I reckon,” he said.
“It’s an extension that people don’t see. This relationship with Mounties, Stuart looks after it.”
Antonelli praised Fensom, Lima and Jarrad Kennedy for their form despite their lack of time in the NRL.
“(Fensom’s) attitude is the best out of the lot of them. Him and Jeff Lima, and Jarrad Kennedy’s been there all year and the year before he played 24 NRL games.
“They’re the ones who could kick stones, but they’re the rock of my side at the moment.”