The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – April 8, 2023: Could Lewis Be Right About Jake Arthur?

“Jake’s pretty tall, he’s a big boy already. But as he puts some more size on, I think he’ll be a really nice ball-playing lock”

Has NSW Origin great Luke Lewis just foretold the future of Jake Arthur?

Writing about the 20 year old on the NSWRL official site, Lewis was full of praise for Arthur and his skill set.

“ I really like what Jakob Arthur can do. He’s got some really good footwork, he’s strong, he’s tough, he goes looking for the ball, always wants to get heavily involved.”

Given the Eels halfback’s form in the NSW Cup this year, this should come as no shock. Those who’ve caught him in action would be nodding along with Lewis’ assessment.

The eye test tells you that he’s performing well, and the stats back that up in a massive way.

Jake is the standout player in the NSW Cup for line engagements with 101. And it’s a gap to the rest as the closest to him is Zach Dockar-Clay with 55.

He also leads the competition for try assists (8), line break assists (7), kicks (58) and kick metres (1446). Arthur’s level of involvement, as referenced by Lewis, is reflected in his run metres (12th with 643) and his player in support numbers (3rd with 67).

It should be noted that these rankings are even more impressive as they are in comparison to all players, not just his peers in the halves.

Little wonder that Luke Lewis is liking what he sees. But it is his comment about Jake’s future which might draw the most debate.

“I do believe Jakob Arthur’s body shape though, will turn him into a 13.”

He’s not wrong. Standing at nearly 6ft3 and approaching 90kgs, Arthur is very different to the small, lightweight playmaker of his junior rep days. Given his age and frame, he will continue to add bulk.

Will Penisini, Jake Arthur and Bryce Cartwright

Lewis is well credentialed to identify talented young players who could transition from the backline to the pack. The 2010 Dally M lock of the year, and former IRL Lock of the Year trod a similar path in his stellar career.

After debuting in 2001 with the Panthers, Lewis played on the wing, centre, five-eighth and halfback before getting his first taste of the pack in 2009. The immediate success of his transition to the forwards was evident in the awards which came soon after, and his premiership title as a second rower with the Sharks in 2016.

Given the recent evolution of the lock forward position to what is virtually a fifth spine role, it’s not surprising that Lewis can see Arthur as a ball-playing 13. It would certainly be advantageous to have another member of the spine who can pull out a clutch play like this one in the final minutes of last weekend’s clash with the Dragons.

And as for Arthur’s capacity to handle a more physical role, his NRL tackle efficiency of 85.6%, as a teenager, (currently 88.2% in 2023 in NSW Cup) compares favourably to the career statistics of the code’s highest profile halfbacks.

Daly Cherry-Evans has a career tackle efficiency of 89.7%, Adam Reynolds 87.2%, Nathan Cleary 86.3% Jahrome Hughes 84.2%, Mitch Moses 79.5, and Sam Walker 79.4%.

Incidentally, there should be no comparison between the high defensive efficiency of forwards to that of the halves. Halfbacks have one of the toughest defensive roles. Positioned on an edge, they are often targeted, with attacking plans looking to isolate them. It’s not unusual for them to be asked to make one on one tackles on much bigger opponents.

Please also note that these averages are not reflective of how the above players have improved their tackle efficiency as they’ve become older and more experienced. One could expect Jake to improve similarly and he’d be coming off an already sound base.

But it’s not just Arthur’s defensive capabilities which are indicative of a positional switch

His try against the Dragons last week looked as much like a lock as it did a halfback. Consider how he steps right, then left before the first defender then carries his opponents over the line.

Luke Lewis’ crystal ball might signal some future point for Arthur, but a decision for the Eels current NSW Cup halfback might have to be made sooner than expected.

Jake is only signed till the end of 2024, so with Dylan Brown and Mitch Moses apparently both locked in long term at the Eels, unless the young half intends going old school and becoming a lower grade stalwart, any NRL halfback aspirations won’t be met for some time at Parra.

This current season was earmarked by Brad Arthur to be a consolidation and development year for his son. He was going to build up game time at halfback in NSW Cup rather than the limited minutes he was getting on the NRL bench. Right now, such a call appears validated as Jake is going from strength to strength.

But where does that lead?

The sort of performances and statistics that Jake is producing would be attracting the attention of rival clubs in an era where game managing halfbacks are as scarce as hen’s teeth. And with every passing week, Jake is building on that form.

Forget all about the father/son relationship here. Brad Arthur has committed to Moses and Brown for the long haul. If Jake has the intention of building a career as an NRL half, there’ll be limited opportunities at Parra for the next three to four seasons.

Perhaps his best option will be to change clubs. Right now, he can’t do much more than be the stand out half back in NSW Cup.

Or maybe, as Luke Lewis predicts, a positional change lies in store. But when?

Given the importance of having a back up halfback to the NRL, we won’t see Arthur playing anything other than number 7 this year. If there’s an injury to either Moses or Brown, he will be needed.

Down the track, the emergence of a young halfback like Ethan Sanders into the lower grades might take away the current necessity of limiting Jake’s potential move to the forwards. Determining a time frame on that is well beyond my pay grade – if I had one!

Regardless, there’ll be plenty for Jake to weigh up when he considers his next contract.

Eels forever!


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35 thoughts on “The Spotlight – April 8, 2023: Could Lewis Be Right About Jake Arthur?

  1. Colin Hussey

    Great post sixties.

    Its good to see players who develop in progressive stages that end up with their abilities being stronger and better as they progress within the club and team.

    I have little doubt that Jake will go a long way in the game, one can only hope that he will develop within the eels structure & team.

  2. JonBoy

    The what happens to Jake question has been rolling around my head since the Dylan and Mitch extensions. I guess getting both signatures was important before making any for of decision with Jake or by Jake himself.
    I hadn’t previously contemplated 13, but on an edge I reckon works too. With some extra bulk he’d shape up pretty similar to Shaun Lane or maybe even a Wade Graham type with his silky skills and kicking ability.

    It’d be a real shame if he left the club so I do hope the Eels and Jake can make a mutually agreeable decision.

    1. sixties Post author

      I agree on that Jon. I can’t see him getting a run in the pack this year as it’s important to have a quality back up half back. But I think there needs to be some future planning around a transition to the forwards, maybe alongside a goal of adding a bit more bulk in the next offseason/preseason.

  3. Anonymous

    This post is one of your best for the season Sixties.

    It is difficult for me to fathom what went on with certain Eels supporters last season. When you consider the content of this post, the performances that he has delivered and the age of the player, it makes a mockery of supposed Eels supporters last season.

    On a positive note I have wondered where Jake might end up. For me he was getting too big for 7️⃣ and certainly considering other players ahead of him and other talent around the club a change of position was always on the cards.

    The two most obvious choices being 13 or Edge. I am with Luke Lewis here. The changing skill set of Locks these days makes Jake a natural for the position.

      1. sixties Post author

        Thanks John. I think he could well be a natural there too. And thanks for the kind words.

  4. Anonymous

    Jake just needs to put on the running spikes and get a sprint coach.
    Then he could be anything.
    Needs to lose the baby giraffe running style and actually learn to run at pace..
    He already has all the other attributes to make it.

    1. sixties Post author

      He does have a long loping style. I’ve seen him do the running mechanics work, but he’s never going to be a Mitch Moses style running half. Whether he needs to change or can change his style to be a success in the forwards, I’m not sure.

    2. Anonymous

      That loping style has him the leading no 7 in ko cup and leading in all stats , it think it fools the opposition , he seems to make space and time easily .

  5. Pou

    People talking about Jake Arthur too big for the halves, but he is shorter than Wighton and Doueihi, and the same height as Nicho Hynes. It’s fair to say he might not be quick enough, but he isn’t too big.

    1. sixties Post author

      I guess the issue is that people see his loping running style and that exaggerates his height. But you are right with height not restricting whether a player can be a success in the halves.

      1. Poppa

        I have never been a fan of JA , basically because he should not have been put into grade before his time, which he was.
        That said I always acknowledged his speed between the ears, with regards reading the game. Not surprising when he has been in the coaches box with his father for so many years.
        This is the real situation with JA, he should never have been put in the position he was, as soon as BA thought he had a really good footballer on his hands, he should have gone to another club to have his football developed independently.

        The danger and potential damage that this move could have cost both of them was never worth the risk and to quote Ivan Cleary, he said he could never have coached his son if he wasn’t as outstanding as he was.

        So this leaves us not in judgement of Jake, but in a position that potentially further embarrasses the club……. when you have a father involved the perception is always greater than the fact …….regardless of what some people may think, he will always have a stigma of bias (unless he does prove he is an unquestioned NRL player)……parents of other players, team mates and the like will all be effected at some point and it doesn’t need to be so. I know Jake bleeds Blue and Gold and god only knows so does his father, but that needs to be put aside until Jake is established and his fathers influence not seen to be interfering.

        For this reason the aspect has transgressed from its not a matter of judgement of Jakes skills or abilities but the influence his father has on his career…..yes there are precedents and you only know about the successful ones, I have had experience in sports where it can be a cancer and the loser ends up being the “kid/payer” and not the parent.
        You as fans and loyalists need to understand these things as well.
        If you haven’t experienced or seen it, it can get very divisive.

        1. Spark

          Well said Poppa. I agree with a lot of your points.
          As individuals, we see different things in different people. I know that sixties really believes that Jake is a top notch player whereas I’ve never seen it.
          Sixties observes him at training as well as in games whereas I only see the finished product.
          If Jake was such an accomplished player or one who is ready to blossom , why didn’t he have multiple clubs clamouring for his signature ?
          As we know, good playmakers are like gold.
          Now it could have been that his management told all and sundry that he was going nowhere but teams like the Tigers and Knights would have really benefited from an decent playmaker if one was to come close to being on the market.
          I tend to think that the reality lies somewhere in the middle.
          He’s probably not as good as a halfback as sixties believes and probably not as bad a halfback as what I perceive either.
          One think is for certain though, and it’s something most people agree with and that is he was promoted waaaaay too soon to the top grade and that is all on BA.
          All the talk of nepotism and the like is terrible for young Jake but BA definitely didn’t do Jake any favours in this regard.
          As for Jake developing into a top class lock – yep I can see that , he definitely has the ability between the ears and the desire but as the NSW cup exists purely to feed the NRL side – put him in there now !
          Forget about any aspirations of being a halfback and learn to play the position.
          Every week he sits in the half spot is a
          week wasted in his development as a lock and holds back someone like Api , Lynn or Sanders.

        2. sixties Post author

          Poppa, I’m not sure where you are coming up with these “embarrassment” calls. But I certainly don’t want to revisit the nonsense of the abuse that Jake copped last year.

          And Jake has had approaches from elsewhere. To be honest, if was n his position with all the garbage that some supporters threw his way, I’d be taking up an offer for a contract away from the club.

          Look, BA has shown his hand with the extended contracts to both Moses and Brown. Changing positions will ultimately as much up to Jake as anyone else. I’ve spoken to him about his preferred position and it’s definitely halfback, so maybe a change doesn’t happen.

          Whether Jake changes position or not, I think he has to make a decision about staying or going. He will deserve a first grade spot that he possibly won’t get at Parra.

          1. Poppa

            Probably a bit different to where both you and Sparks are positioning yourselves, if it was a case of selective judgement about being good enough and discussing where he is playing and his position. It’s not!
            You see the point I am making is that his father is the coach and virtual sole selector in the club… can you expect anyone to be subjective about their son. It really is a no win situation for both of them in this early stage of his career.
            Finally sixties you are taking umbrage of what you saw and the way he was treated and your disgust in that situation. Essentially that is exactly the thing I am talking about.They should neither be subject to do that.
            Righty or wrongly the Nathan Brown exit was blamed on the same unwashed people believing it was a vendetta against him for ctiticising BA in selecting his son. Whether this was correct or not is the perception that this was taken. Some people believe it, personally i would not know, its the perception of this that is embarrassing,
            You might argue as untrue and probably be right but you cannot hold out on this for either of their positions without understanding this as not being where we need to find ourselves as a football club and team..

          2. sixties Post author

            My point is simple Poppa. BA has always put the team first. He has committed to the current halves, so his own son is earmarked to not get many opportunities for quite a few years. I won’t go over old ground, as I’ve documented too many times the behind the scene reasons why Jake was on the bench throughout the back end of the season.
            Anyway, for different reasons we are maybe both suggesting that Jake might end up testing the waters elsewhere.

  6. Milo

    Some good points here Sixties and I didn’t realise how good his defence stats were. He would def have the skills for lock, as it depends how he fills out. I thought a 5/8 was also an option

      1. Poppa

        Just as a matter of interest I see him as a 7 and you are right his skill is in managing the game……the forward bullshit is just another way of justification of his ability, which should not be the discussion unless proven.

        1. sixties Post author

          Not quite sure what you’re getting at here Poppa. The commentary is about Lewis’ call and whether Jake fits into the evolution of the 13 into another spine position. That change has suited other former halves who can play that role – see Connor Watson, Dylan Walker etc.

          1. Poppa

            The point I am making is it is not about positions, cant seem to get through he should not be coaching his son, it is soley about that!

  7. Sec50

    I have have always thought that as Jake fills out lock is a no brainer with his obvious skills. Hoping BA thinks the same thing. That he has retained his confidence after last year is a credit to him.

    1. sixties Post author

      Given the crap that when had to deal with Sec, I agree. But that’s how his mindset works. He blocks out the outside noise and gets on with the job. That ability will take him a long way.

      1. Poppa

        It may take him a long way Sixties, but I know plenty of young sportsman that show that ability to block things out, but underneath it hurts like shit.
        The quandry is not about subjective judgement’s. In BA’s mind I’m sure he is harder on his own son, than he maybe is with another player…..a very usual trait in these circumstances that again in the long term does no justice to either party.
        I find your defense of him as admirable, because you believe in him and his father, this also becomes difficult for you because will also cop criticism for that same reason. My guess is you have already and that in turn is a shame because no one doubts your integrity that really knows you. I hope it works out for everyone.
        Maybe a stint in ESL could do him well and create independant opinions.

  8. Offside

    Anyone who has seen enough footy can tell Jake won’t have a long career as a NRL half but you can see the kid had the makings of a footballer a Wade Graham like transformation wouldn’t be out of the question.
    The question remains does Jacobs dad think the same?

  9. Spark

    Perhaps BA should just stop mucking around and put him there now so that he can develop in that position ?
    No use leaving him at halfback and then ask him to play in the lock position at a later time.
    Whilst he’s sitting in Cup, it’s the perfect time to develop him in the lock role.
    Bring Saunders up to Cup so that if we have an injury at NRL level we have two players that can be promoted.

        1. sixties Post author

          Ethan Sanders is still involved in the SG Ball campaign. He will play Flegg when the SG Ball concludes.

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