Brad Arthur prepares for 8th season: On talent alone, Eels should make the finals


EELS coach Brad Arthur is preparing for his eighth season in charge when the NRL 2021 season kicks off on Friday, March 12, against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.

The Eels had their final hit out, a 16-6 trial game loss against Penrith on Saturday at Panthers Stadium.

Last year’s grand finalists, Penrith were solid in defeating the Eels in a hard-fought trial.

Arthur, 46, took over as Eels head coach in 2014, and from 176 NRL games, has a 50 per cent win record, 88 wins and 88 losses.

The experienced mentor, has taken the Eels to three of the past four finals series, 2017, 2019-2020.

Last year the Eels made the top four but were knocked in successive games in the finals series, losing to premiers Melbourne in Brisbane, and Souths at Bankwest Stadium.

Parramatta, a rugby league heartland and their legion of fans, are hungry for premiership success.

The Eels last won the title in 1986, under coach John Monie, 4-2, over Canterbury, in a tryless grand final.

In 1986, Bob Hawke was Prime Minister of Australia, At Talaq won the Melbourne Cup and Ronald Reagan was the US President.

Times have moved on and changed in the world.

But one thing for sure is, the thirst needs to be quenched by Eels fans.

The last time they reached a grand final was in 2009, losing to Melbourne Storm.

Coach Arthur has stated in the media in recent weeks, the squad has prepared well and trained with desire this off season.

Arthur is under contract for another two years.

The Eels mentor said he was satisfied with the effort by his squad as he rotated plenty of players in the trial against Penrith, after the local derby clash.

”I think both teams were real tired at stages and the quality of our attacking shape was off at times,” Arthur said.

”But i think that was because of the speed of the game.

”We had a plan to get the players off a lot earlier than we did, but I thought they needed the match fitness.”

Blend of youth and expeerience

The coach conceded his starting 13 versus the Broncos was pretty much settled.

He said he is finalising his four interchange players on the bench and will do so next week when official team selection is announced.

Eels forward Marata Niukore (correct spelling) played in the trial but he is suspended for the opening round and is not available for selection.

The Eels once again will rely on skipper and fullback Clint Gutherson, halfback Mitchell Moses, five-eighth Dylan Brown, and their mobile and forceful pack, led by Nathan Brown and Junior Paulo again in 2021.

The squad boasts a good blend of youth and experience.

Moses has said in recent days throughout various media reports he wants to become a dominant play maker and enjoy a lengthy and successful time at the Eels.

Moses switched to Parramatta mid-season from the Wests Tigers in 2017.

On talent alone, they should make the finals, and coach Arthur, will be under the pump if they do not reach the top eight.

In the off season the Eels have shed 14 players from their squad last year, some have retired, the rest have joined rival NRL clubs or the British Super League.

New recruit Bryce Cartwright, the former NSW and Penrith forward and Gold Coast Titans player, had been impressing all and sundry at the Eels in the off-season, until a fortnight ago, but he broke his jaw in a training mishap, and is out for six weeks.

Cartwright was granted a lifeline by the Eels after being shown the door by the Titans.

Arthur said it is a shame Cartwright is out injured, as the coach said he was pressing for selection in round one.

The Eels have recruited eight new faces in 2021.

And as always the Eels boast one of the biggest junior league talent nurseries in the country, where they source players through the junior representative system into grade.

Match kick-off again the Broncos is 8.05pm, NSW time, and Channel Nine will televise the game. The Eels’ opening home game is round two, versus defending premiers Melbourne, on Thursday, March 18, at Bankwest Stadium at 8.05pm.


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