“If I considered all the reasons why I wouldn’t pick him, there’s only one, and that’s because of his surname, which isn’t good enough.”
These words from Brad Arthur, as reported by Christian Nicolussi in the Sydney Morning Herald, provide an insight to a consideration that most coaches don’t have to face when selecting a team.
And Brad was spot on.
The name wasn’t a reason for not selecting his son, because Jake Arthur has done everything that any debutant needed to do, including earning the respect of his team mates.
To be honest, I had expected a contract upgrade even prior to his debut, such was his form.
What he has produced on match days in the Knock On Effect NSW Cup hasn’t happened by chance. Like others who reach first grade, it’s come from dedication to his craft, commitment to his conditioning, and a determination to reach his goals.
I’ve witnessed Jake’s hard work at Eels training literally since BA was first appointed as Parra’s NRL coach. During school holidays, Jake and his brother Matt would help out with fetching footies, carrying gear, cleaning up, whatever needed to be done.
And when the players hit the conditioning work, the boys jumped in.
Like other talented Eels juniors, Jake has put in the extra yards over past years as a member of Parramatta’s JETS program. This involved additional training sessions at the Old Saleyards facility. He joins other graduates of that junior talent identification and development program, including Dylan Brown, Haze Dunster and Oregon Kaufusi.
More recently, along with other pathways players such as Will Penisini, Shaun Russell and Sam Loizou, Jake became a member of the Eels full time squad. It came on the back of guiding Patrician Brothers Blacktown to the 2020 NRL Schoolboy Cup title. He hit the ground running.
At the conclusion of the preseason I wrote this:
“I have Jake Arthur in my top three of the preseason. As the coach’s son, he’s going to cop unwarranted barbs, but he’s got the temperament to handle it. It’s why I reported on him whilst keeping his peers out of the training report spotlight.
If Gutho were to be challenged in the fitness stakes, young Jake is the one to do so. Jake has taken the big hits at training that come with being a playmaker who digs into the line – the other players deliver what he would face in a game. Snake just gets up and gets on with the business of managing the team.
Quite simply, anyone who’s been watching the entirety of Parra’s preseason would be in little doubt about Jake’s potential.”
But now back to that surname – Arthur.
I’m so glad that Brad Arthur has allowed himself to become emotional and to acknowledge his pride in his son’s achievement. He might be the coach, but he’s also a father and his family has a passion for the Parramatta Eels.
I’ve written on the Arthur family connection to this Parramatta club before, and it’s worth revisiting on the day of Jake Arthur’s NRL debut.
Back on April 12, 1947, three generations of the Arthur family were among the 6000 to watch Parramatta play their first game against Newtown. Brad’s father, Ted, was only a baby. Ted was taken to the match by his parents, Lindsay and Joyce. Along with the young family was Brad’s great grandfather, Noel.
The Eels lost by 34 to 12 that day, but it would be the start of over 70 years of the family supporting the Eels.
The family’s passion for the Eels grew over the years.
Brad’s grandmother Joyce held executive positions on the supporters club committee whilst Ted became involved as an assistant coach and selector for Eels junior representative teams
Fast forward to another landmark game on March 16, 1986 when the new Parramatta Stadium was opened. As the Eels hammered the Dragons 36 to 6, three generations of the Arthur family were once again among the thousands cheering the team on, including a young Brad, his father Ted and his grandmother Joyce.
Brad Arthur would himself become graded with the Eels in the early 90s. Though his future did not include a first grade playing career, his coaching journey brought him back to the club that he and his family have always loved.
The generational ties to the Eels continued, and they were marked by special events.
When Parramatta Stadium hosted its final NRL clash between the Eels and the Dragons on August 29, 2016, it was another three generation event for the Arthur family. Ted and his wife Carol, were in attendance as the Brad Arthur coached Eels defeated the Dragons, 30 to 18. Brad’s wife Michelle and daughter Charlotte also proudly watched on as the Arthur boys, Matthew and Jake, fulfilled their ballboy duties on that night.
On Easter Monday, 2019, the three generations of the Arthur family, along with just on thirty thousand Eels supporters, watched the Eels demolish the Tigers at the opening of the new Bankwest Stadium.
Today, that extended family will be in attendance in Brisbane. There’s little doubt that some tears will be shed when Jake Arthur takes the field in his NRL debut in the Magic Round clash at Suncorp Stadium.
It’s little wonder that the Parramatta Eels have developed the reputation of being a club that recognises the importance of the family.
What the Arthur clan have embraced for over 70 years is at the heart of all footy clubs. Local rugby league clubs rely on the support of families, and in return, clubs become a community resource.
When Parra battles with the Warriors in this Magic Round clash, there’ll be forty thousand watching on from the stands, each with generations of support and most likely their own story to tell.
Today just happens to be Jake Arthur’s chapter.
PS – Go Jake!