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Ricky Stuart has explained why former Wallabies coach-turned radio announcer Alan Jones was in his coaches box for the Raider’s Magic Round win over the Bulldogs.
Broadcast cameras captured Jones nestled behind Stuart throughout the full 80 minute contest.
Jones was a mentor to Stuart as he came through the rugby ranks while Jones was coaching the Wallabies in the 80s, and even picked him as injury cover on a tour.
Stuart said Jones had messaged him earlier in the day asking to come along.
“Alan texted me yesterday and said he was doing a lunch up here [in Brisbane],” Stuart said.
“He said I’d love to come along and support you. I rang him up and said ‘that will be great, I’ll get you some corporate tickets if you want to come along’.
“He said ‘no, shit no, I’m with you blokes. He said: ‘I don’t want to be in corporate, I’d rather sit on my lounge chair at home’.
“And I said, ‘oh great, well sit up in the (coach’s) box’.
Jones went into the Raiders shed after the game and gave a brief speech.
When Stuart collapsed three times during 1998 while playing for the Raiders, he said it was because of Jones he survived after doctors didn’t think it was serious.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, now-Raiders chief executive Don Furner visited Stuart, and would later call the late John Fordham – who was Stuart’s agent – to pass on his concerns.
Fordham then called Jones.
“Turns out I had encephalitis, which is swelling of the brain,” Stuart said.
“If it wasn’t for Alan. Honestly. He organised for Kerry Packer to supply his private jet and get it to Canberra immediately to fly me to St Vincent’s Hospital. I was gone. I was very ill. If I didn’t get to St Vincent’s, I don’t know what the outcome would have been.
“Donny saw the situation and how ill I was. I went to Canberra hospital three times and got sent home three times. My body was failing.”
“He’s a special person to me and many, many people.”