Parramatta Eels coach Brad Arthur hits back at crazy NRL speculation

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has hit back at “crazy” speculation his job is under threat, but admits the Eels need to return to form in the lead-up to the finals series.

It’s beginning to feel like Groundhog Day for Eels fans – the side sat atop the NRL ladder for the opening nine rounds of last year’s season, before dropping three of seven games ahead of the finals. The end-of-year yips have carried into 2021, with Parramatta only managing one win since round 15.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Arthur shouldered the blame for Parramatta's slump, but said it would take the efforts of his entire squad to turn the Eels’ season around.

“We’re not happy with our performance at the moment. We’re a team that needs 17 players contributing. We can’t win games with 10 or 11 blokes contributing,” he said.

“I take full responsibility for that. That’s my job to make sure we’ve got 17 blokes on the same page every week and they know what their job is and they’re executing their role.”

In his eight seasons at Parramatta, Arthur has become accustomed to the scrutiny that comes with a head coaching role.

The club missed out on September footy in his first three seasons in the top job, before finishing last on the ladder in 2018, the year after he guided the Eels to a top-four berth.

“We hadn’t even played a game at the start of the year and there was already some conjecture around my position,” he said.

“I’m fully aware of the responsibilities that go with being a head coach and I’m prepared for any consequences that go with that when the team’s playing poorly.

“There’s 12 teams right now that sit below us, so if you want me to be real honest, I think it’s crazy that we’re sitting here talking about my job.”

Parramatta Eels coach Brad Arthur hits back at crazy NRL speculation

Camera IconThe Eels have conceded 80 points across their last three games. David Hossack / NRL Photos Credit: Supplied

That number of teams below Parramatta could well shrink in the coming weeks – the Eels’ horror run home has been well-documented, as has the form of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, who sit just two competition points behind them in sixth.

The Eels face three of the competition heavyweights in the Storm, Panthers and Sea Eagles in the final weeks of the regular season, and if pundits are to be believed, the side could find itself outside the top four following those clashes.

However, Arthur said he had not discussed the media scrutiny with his playing group.

“We never ever discuss (media speculation) as a group, we discuss the things that we can do and we’re in control of, which is what we do on the field. That’s all we can do,” he said.

“At the moment, the focus has got to be on us playing the footy that we’re comfortable with and if we walk off the field and we’re comfortable with the footy we play, I’m sure the results will change.

“All I know is that I’m doing the best that I can and the players are doing the best they can.

“Our form’s down a bit but we can easily turn that around.”

To do that, the Eels must take their physicality to another level, Arthur said.

“It’s really important that for us to be at our best, and for us to showcase what skill we do have and what type of team we have, we need to turn it on physically,” he said.

“You need to enjoy doing it. You just can’t go out there and be told to do it, you need to enjoy to do it.”

Parramatta has a date with destiny when it faces the Sea Eagles this weekend. A win would be the Eels’ first against a side in the top-six since round nine, but a loss would put their top-four hopes in serious jeopardy.

Arthur said the Eels are resisting the temptation to focus their entire game plan around Sea Eagles talisman Tom Trbojevic, the form player of the NRL.

“The boys know what sort of player he is. Everyone in the competition knows that he’s one of the best in the competition,” Arthur said.

“They know most of his traits. I don’t need to show them too much; obviously we need to have some focus around him but they’re a very good team and we can’t just try and isolate Tommy.

“If we can do a good job on their forward pack, that might minimalise the opportunities he gets. But at some stage, we know that he’s going to break a tackle. We know that he’s going to come up with a bit of class.

“We’ve just got to be prepared to have a real positive reaction and the reaction’s about being together; whatever we do our response has got to be together.”

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