The impending addition of Michael Jennings to the Parramatta roster for 2016 will complete an impressive recruitment drive by the Eels. Make no mistake, the confirmation of Jennings is merely a formality and the classy centre will be joining the Eels on a four year deal almost immediately.
The Blues Origin speedster undoubtedly puts the icing on the most impressive list of recruits in recent memory. It’s quite a list – Kieran Foran, Beau Scott, Michael Gordon, James Hasson, Cameron King, Kieran Moss, Rory O’Brien, Mitch Cornish, Kelepi Tanginoa, Scott Schulte, Clinton Gutherson, Matthew Woods, Honeti Tuha – a group of players possessing class, experience and promise. Add this to an existing player group which has threatened to break into the top 8 in the last two years, and most Parramatta fans could be excused for getting a little excited. The quality and depth is very impressive.
Unquestionably, this would mark the conclusion of the recruitment for 2016, Therefore, it is opportune to examine what may have been the best signature in recent times – that of the coach, Brad Arthur.
Towards the later part of 2013, it seemed a fait accompli that Jason Taylor would take over the reigns at the Eels. At the final moment, Steve Sharp made an executive decision to instead place his faith in a Parramatta man, Brad Arthur.
Arthur, the player, had been an uncompromising, intelligent and gifted junior representative and graded footballer for the Eels. Talk to his team mates from back in the day and they readily point to his dedication, leadership and footy smarts. Unfortunately, BA’s fit frame did not suit the power required of forwards nor the pace required of a back. Yet a move to the Panthers and career shortening injuries would prove to be a blessing in disguise as Royce Simmons guided the still youthful Arthur into the coaching game.
Fast forward nearly two decades, following successful stints in country, NYC and NRL assistant coach positions, we find the self described “Parra boy” in charge of a potentially resurgent Eels. Which leads me to the point of this editorial of mine.
At the conclusion of 2013, Arthur inherited a dual spoon squad. Ricky Stuart famously stated that the team and the supporters had to expect big losses – and there were plenty of those. Brad Arthur immediately set about changing that mindset. As performances improved and word of the Parramatta mentor’s methods spread, something significant happened. Quality players were increasingly interested in joining the club.
So now we enter 2016 with a squad primarily assembled by Arthur. The club have played their part, with the provision of quality, professional facilities at Old Saleyards. Likewise, Daniel Anderson has played his part in finalising deals. However, I am in no doubt that the major factor in the strongest Eels squad in recent times is the coach. Importantly, I include the high quality of the support staff in my praising assessment of the squad.
A number of the players recruited actually approached the Eels or indicated to their managers that Parramatta were their preferred choice. Talk to the players and their praise of Arthur’s coaching is a consistent feature of the conversations. Watch him put the players through their paces at training and the respect with which he is held becomes evident.
Perhaps the best way for me to conclude my post is to say that Arthur would not like this focus on himself. He would emphasise to me that he has won nothing yet, that matches aren’t won on paper or on potential and that there is plenty of hard work ahead for the Eels to make an impression this year. Yet I am emboldened by the impact of the man who was born to coach Parramatta. Arthur has changed the quality of our recruitment from ridicule to envy and for that he must be acknowledged.
Credit to the Parramatta Eels for all images used.