The Eels are firmly in the finals this season, but their ‘wide open’ Premiership window is closing quickly – and their fatal flaw was exposed again this weekend.
A 30-12 hammer blow by the Rabbitohs was just the latest example of their maddening inconsistency this year, with the Parramatta club failing to replicate the sort of form that has seen them beat top teams like the Storm and Panthers this season.
Pressure is mounting at the club to get things right, but there is plenty of debate about who should be blamed for their shaky form.
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In a passionate discussion about NRL 360Fox League pundits took a closer look at the Eels and questioned the role of coach Brad Arthur and his players in the current situation at the club.
Exposing the troubling inconsistencies, Paul Kent said: “The problem is Parramatta has had win-lose-win-loss all year. You cannot go through the final win-loss-win-loss and win a match! So until they find out, they’ve been harassed.
“They are the only team to beat Penrith this year, they have beaten Melbourne. And yet they lost to the Bulldogs and Tigers, who both finished last at the time.”
James Hooper replied, “There is a bit of Groundhog Day about this argument. We went down this road last year, around Brad Arthur and he is the coach who finally takes them back to the promised land.
“In its current form, Paul is right. You can never win the competition (with this inconsistency).
Hooper added: “The window is wide open at the moment, I don’t think the window will be open for the next five years. They must strike now.”
The Daily Telegraph’s veteran journalist, Paul Crawley, praised Arthur and his “fantastic” work with the Eels, but said “the pressure is on the head coach” to get the best out of his team when it comes down to it.
Crawley said: “The point is we are at a very different level to (Justin) Holbrook or Trent Barrett or Michael Maguire or clubs that can’t win. He did a fantastic job.
“He has hand-built the roster brick by brick, to the point where it can beat Penrith and beat Melbourne. But for some reason they haven’t been able to get it together when it really matters for a few years now. And the problem is, consistency just isn’t there.
Arthur said after the weekend’s game that it was not an effort issue. But in the next breath, he says we have people not doing their jobs today, and we need 17 people doing it at once. That is the job of a coach. It’s a coach’s job to get them ready for that game every week. Brad Arthur must be that person!
“He’s had nine years to get it right,” Crawley continued. “They won’t be a better team next year if they lose” [Marate] Niukore, [Isaiah] Papali’i, Reed Mahoney, Nathan Brown, Ray Stone. They don’t get a better team.
“This is their year, they have to grab it now.
“I’m not saying Parramatta will even be able to find a better coach on the market to replace him. But Brad is under pressure this year to do well.”
Kent agreed that there was no coach available who could do a better job than Arthur, saying “there’s no doubt about that” but targeting the players for their inconsistency.
“If you talk about the lack of attitude… it’s up to the players,” he said. “I’m sick of [it]† It’s too easy for players to sit back and let all the criticism drift to the coach. It is almost all concern and no responsibility. Someone in the club has to stand up, whether it’s Clint Gutherson or Mitch Moses, who I see as the two leaders of the club, and say, ‘Guys, enough is enough.’”
Kent added: “I don’t think it’s the coach. I think it just depends on the players. It is up to the players to control their attitude. The attitude is what is missing.”
Host and former NRL veteran Braith Anasta said: “It’s been a similar core and core there for a long time – for similar results. They can get it done, and the coach put them in a situation where they can get it done, and they’ve done it a few times.
“It’s the players who have to take it to the next level. They have to take this team to Premiership glory… it’s up to the players now.”
“It’s up to the players to silence us all and prove we’re all wrong,” he added. “They have the ability to do that, now they have to deliver.”