King Arthur and his Parramatta Eels

A coach in the NRL – there is probably no job in the world that I would want less, other than professional tipster. After my efforts last weekend, I should not be able to make tipping predictions ever again.

Back to coaches. When a team is going well, the players are hailed as Messiah’s and the role of the coach is largely forgotten. However, when a team is struggling, even though it is not a coach on the field that is dropping balls and failing to find touch, it is often their position which comes under scrutiny. Just look at the Dragons and the Sharks. In recent weeks it has been their coaches which have come under fire.

Coaches are not only responsible for strategy but are now responsible for team morale, player welfare and ensuring that the team is working as a cohesive unit. More than ever, our clubs are being seen as businesses and whether a team is winning or losing on the field has dramatic consequences. Coaches are under more pressure and has more public scrutiny than ever before.

One team that has changed coaches almost as often as often as Fui Fui Moi Moi used to change his hairstyle in recent years is the Parramatta Eels. Since Michael Hagan left the Club in the mid 2000’s, we have been coached by (just to name a few), Daniel Anderson, Stephen Kearney, Ricky “Blew it” Stuart and more recently Brad Arthur.

Since Brad Arthur has taken over, I cannot stress the significance of the changes which I have seen at my club. This change has been partly our new coach, but of course, has been supported by a more stable board arrangement and a happy and committed training group. Despite these factors coming together, the role of the coach cannot be understated.

With the signing of Kieran Foran announced earlier this week and this signing being the final puzzle piece to fall into place, I am confident enough to say that the Eels are a Club on the rise. This is, in part, thanks to our magnificent coach.

It started with results. In 2014 the Parramatta Eels posted more wins than they had in their 2012 and 2013 seasons combined. Despite a number of key injuries, the Eels managed to finish just outside the 8, a dramatic improvement on the wooden spoon which we had collected the year before.

Whilst it is still early in the 2015 season, the team’s positive results from last year seem set to continue. I have tipped Parramatta to make the 8. We have shown our attacking prowess on the field and that even without Jarryd Hayne, we will be a force to be reckoned with. What will cause the Eels problems this year are injuries (we saw the effect of that on Friday night) – so watch this space.

While Arthur has managed to achieve results on the field, the biggest change of all has been the perception of Parramatta off the field. Parramatta is no longer seen as a Club where players come to die (or where players come and then plateau). Parramatta is no longer seen as the joke of the NRL.

Before Arthur, poor results, issues at a management level, having very few representative players and constant instability when it came to coaching staff meant that Parramatta was seen as a Club that killed careers. To lure any sort of talent to the Club, the Club had to pay massive overs, which had an impact both on depth in positions at the club and resulted in players perhaps being signed to deals which saw them overstay their welcome.

Neither Stephen Kearney or Ricky Stuart had much success on the recruitment front and in fact, Stuart will be remembered for letting players go rather than attracting them to the Club.  

Now, Parramatta are seen as a Club on the rise. Last year we managed to lure Anthony Watmough to the Club as well as other more minor signings like Beau Champion and Reece Robinson. However, the cherry on top came this week when Kieran Foran committed to Parramatta from 2016 onwards.

One of the big reasons for Kieran’s move has been the appeal of playing with Brad Arthur, the very same coach who helped lead Manly to a Grand Final in 2013 as an assistant coach. Foran has spoken extremely highly of Arthur and as a Parramatta fan, this is so pleasing to see.

This signing is massive for Parramatta – I liken it to having almost the same significance as the late 1990s when the Parramatta Eels managed to recruit Dean Pay, Jimmy Dymock and Jarryd McCracken to the Club. Foran has committed to a future at Parramatta and for Parramatta fans, this future is looking pretty bright and shiny.

I want to say a big thanks to Brad Arthur for helping to make it happen. I want to say a big thanks to him for the change he has helped bring to our playing roster. I want to recognise his talent as a coach and to say that I look forward to the next couple of years with him leading my Club into the future.

So to a man in a position which rarely gets the credit that it deserves, but often receives much of the criticism, King Arthur – I’m very pleased to have you as the coach of my team


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