Dyldam Parramatta Eels Head Coach Brad Arthur says his side is eager to hit the field at Suncorp Stadium on ANZAC Day as they take on the Brisbane Broncos.
Fresh from a 28-22 win over the Newcastle Knights, the Blue and Gold will take prop Richie Fa’aoso to Brisbane as 18th man, and Arthur says ‘Fus’ is keen to get another taste of first-grade after an unlucky start to his NRL return.
Fa’aoso was removed from the field under new NRL concussion guidelines after just 5 minutes in Newcastle, but has suffered no ill-effects during the week.
“He was probably one bloke that could’ve gone back on after the [concussion] test,” Arthur said.
“But his health is our priority. He’s been fine during the week and there have been no side effects. It was his first hit out and he just felt like he let the team down cause that’s the sort of player and type of person he is.”
“He can’t wait to get out there and try and get longer than 5 minutes [of game time].”
And while the Eels will have in-form halfback Ben Hunt to contend with, Arthur says his side loves running out in front of a parochial Brisbane home crowd.
“The boys actually like playing in Brisbane, they like playing at Suncorp,” Arthur said.
“I don’t think the crowd factor should be any hindrance to us.”
“It’s probably a good time to get them coming off a win for us, and we need to challenge ourselves about being consistent with our defence. We’re yet to put two weeks together where we’ve worked hard for each other in defence.”
“[Brisbane] are playing strong, they’re willing to work hard for each other.”
“He (Ben Hunt) has got a strong kicking game and he’s very dangerous when he carries the ball. We’ve just got to work hard from the inside and probably work hard against their ruck forwards and do a job there and win that battle to limit his opportunities.”
With an eye to defence, Arthur has retained Will Hopoate alongside Brad Takairangi in the centres for the Round 8 match up, after Hopoate began the season in the number one jersey.
“Things have changed and our needs are a little bit different with young wingers in the team,” Arthur said.
“We need him there for his experience.”
“Takaz (Brad Takairangi) adds a bit of experience on that left side for Johnny (John Folau) and Hop (Will Hopoate) adds that experience to the other side to Bureta [Faraimo]. They need people inside them that can talk and that helps them make better decisions.”
The lead up to Round 8 saw discussion in the Sydney media around the structure of the NRL draw, and the fairness of the opposition and travel burden placed on each club in the opening 7 weeks.
“It’s not ideal, but every team’s got to go through it,” Arthur said.
“And I know it must be hard for the NRL to come up with the right situation for everyone.”
But is it fair?
“What’s not fair is a couple of performances that we’ve put in for our fans,” Arthur said.
“That’s all that matters to us is making sure that where we play or who we play we try and give the best version of ourselves.”
The Eels kick off against the Brisbane Broncos at 8pm on ANZAC Day, Saturday April 25 at Suncorp Stadium.