Stewart rejects A-League job

Stewart rejects A-League job
I’ve never put money before a contract. — Rams coach Darren Stewart (above)

If you were offered a job in your hometown that pays 10 times more than your current salary, would you take it?

Most people would say "yes" immediately.

But Darren Stewart, coach of Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League club Woodlands Wellington, is unlike most people.

The New Paper reported last Thursday that the 47-year-old, who took over the reins before the season started, was on the radar of A-League team Newcastle Jets.

Stewart, a former Australian international defender who played for the Jets' predecessors the Newcastle Breakers, was supposed to fly home yesterday.

But he scrapped the plan after remarkably turning down the offer to be their coach.

He told The New Paper yesterday: "Woodlands have been unbelievable to me since I've joined them.

"When I met two members from the club's committee on Thursday, they said they'd support me and that it was an amazing opportunity. They even offered to pay for my ticket home.

"But I went away for a couple of days after that and realised that walking out on a commitment is not me."

Tough Decision

Stewart showed TNP his lengthy e-mail reply to Jets CEO Robbie Middleby and football adviser Ray Baartz, where he wrote that he had to take the "tough decision" not to "abandon my principles in the light of personal preference and opportunity".

Baartz and Middleby replied separately saying they respected his decision, with former Manchester United player Baartz commending Stewart on his "honesty and integrity".

Stewart's reluctance to break his Woodlands contract is all the more remarkable, considering the wage increase that came with the Jets job.

He declined to share details, but TNP understands he stood to earn a six-figure annual salary at Newcastle - worth at least 10 times more than his current contract with Woodlands.

Stewart, who has spent most of the last 15 years in Singapore as an S.League player and then coach, said: "I've never put money before a contract.

"When I was playing for Johor, I knocked back an offer to play for Selangor which would have tripled my salary.

"And, as a Newcastle player, I also turned down a few offers from bigger clubs for bigger money, because of loyalty.

"I'm probably a lot poorer for it, but that was the way I was brought up."

With a chuckle, he revealed that his close friends and family labelled him "crazy" for turning down the offer.

He said: "A lot of people, like my dad, say I'm an idiot.

"But I was brought up by him! And on the principle that if you offer someone a handshake, you don't walk out on them.

"Even my son told me: Dad, just get on the plane!"

Stewart, however, makes no secret of the fact he still harbours the ambition of coaching the Jets one day.

"That thought will never go away," he said wistfully.

"I was born there, my mum and dad are not young any more, my family and all my mates go to every Jets game.

"The desire to coach the team is up there, but I wouldn't abandon a group of people for money.

"There was just something in my heart that said, 'Don't go back now'.

"But maybe one fine day... you never know."

This article was published on April 8 in The New Paper.

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