There are giant expectations on his shoulders but Jakob Arthur is ascending towards first grade with a single-minded determination worthy of any fairy tale hero.
Everyone knows the story about Jack & The Beanstalk. Jack, a destitute country lad, makes the gamble of a lifetime when he trades the family cows for a handful of magic beans and the promise of fortunes untold. When a colossal beanstalk sprouts from the beans overnight, the curious and enterprising Jack climbs the mutant flora and discovers the existence of a world in the clouds which is home not only to a giant but a golden goose and much, much more.
Our protagonist Jack outwits the fearsome giant who is out for the Englishman’s blood. In doing so he reclaims a trove of familial heirlooms headlined by the gilded goose which the giant had long since stolen from Jack’s family. The climax of the old tale sees the intrepid explorer of the skies fell the enraged giant by taking the old Trevor Gillmeister to the beanstalk and thusly reclaiming his family glory forever after.
For Jakob (Jake) Arthur, the hero of this particular story, the allegorical parallels to the fable of Jack aren’t exactly perfect but they twist themselves in a fascinating manner to give life to an exciting story in its own right.
As the eldest son of the Parramatta Eels’ head-coach Brad Arthur, one might argue that the opportunity provided by his birthright is akin to that of Jack’s magic beans. It is certainly true that his father’s station has afforded the young half a pathway in rugby league. However, to suggest it is why he is now where he is in the code is grossly disrespectful to the unrivalled commitment and dedication of the youth. Indeed, the single greatest benefit afforded to Jake as Brad’s son is that he inherited the toughness and determination that has taken his father so far in rugby league.
Jake’s path to the NRL is embodied by the beanstalk. A long and demanding climb that will ask everything of the young man and more. For Jake though, there is no giant awaiting him at the summit of the ascent. Instead, the giant is always with him, always weighing him down. A mountainous burden on his shoulders born purely from his surname. For Jake Arthur the scrutiny of fans and media alike is far more intense than almost any other prospect. The snide calls of nepotism and preferential treatment will always follow him regardless of his own legitimate talents. Just as Jack before him blotted out the blood-curdling taunt of ‘fee-fi-fo-fum’, so too must Jake ignore his detractors and remain resolute on his goal, on his golden goose as it were.
Intriguingly though, while Jake’s ‘golden goose’ lies in the possibility of a lucrative NRL contract down the road he is simultaneously the golden goose. As a talented young halfback that is confident in marshalling his team around the park and proficient in all three phases of attacking football (running, passing and kicking), Jake is already a coveted commodity. Throw in his elite conditioning, even by demanding NRL standards, and his plus defensive ability for his position and his upside is damn near impossible to ignore.
At 188cm tall and working his through the early 80s in kilograms, Jake Arthur is still a ways off being physically ready to handle the rigorous demands of the NRL. It is going to be a year or more until he is ready to be chopping down that beanstalk. Still, he possesses the sort of frame that can comfortably grow into a NRL calibre physique. Should he grow proportionately in mass relative to his height then he will be a truly difficult proposition for opponents as both a running half and a defender.
He has taken to the 2020/21 preseason like a seasoned professional, leading the team in fitness drills and excelling in field sessions as he directs his vastly more senior cohorts. It should also be keenly remembered that Jake piloted his school, Patrician Brothers Blacktown, to NRL Schoolboy Cup glory just prior to the summer of 2020. Jake shone brightly as the captain and general of ‘Patties’ meshing the flash and pizazz of a strong running and passing game with the suffocating constrictions of his accurate kicking and resolute defence.
So what exactly does 2021 have in store for the protagonist of this particular story? The ground is already out of sight for young Jake and the clouds are tantalisingly close, that is for certain. Despite being eligible for the newly ratified Under 19s iteration of the SG Ball (which begins this weekend, coverage right here on TCT!), I will be stunned if Jake plays a minute of that grade. Instead, Jersey Flegg (Under 21s) and perhaps even Canterbury Cup are calling for the young playmaker this year and I am unbelievably hyped to cover his progress through these grades over the year.
In a manner, Jakob Arthur is the symbolic figurehead of a rising wave of young talent at the club whose fortunes are almost inexorably interlinked up until first-grade. Arthur is the face, the protagonist, the symbol but there are plenty of others climbing beanstalks of their own. It is truly an exciting time for the Eels and I sincerely hope fans can enjoy it for it is. They have assembled a fantastic roster in the NRL and have a host of young bloods nipping at the heels of established talent. I won’t quite dub it a golden age until we secure the drought-ending premiership but we have it pretty damn good.
For Jake though, the intensity of the scrutiny on him will only increase from here on in but he hasn’t cowed under the pressure up until this point. I don’t expect him to falter in the future either because he is damn right chip of the old block. His story is still only beginning but as fans of the blue & gold we are intrinsically tied to his journey and you can bet that TCT will be there to document not only his ascent to the summit, but the respective climbs of all of Parramatta’s young prospects.