With the Dyldam Parramatta Eels season officially coming to a close and the players taking the next few weeks off to rest and recover before returning to pre-season training in early November, we sat down with Eels Head Coach Brad Arthur to hear his thoughts on the 2015 season.
The Eels finished 12th on the ladder six points outside of the top eight, finishing the year with a 9-15 record, and Arthur opened up about his young squad, the experience brought to his side from Anthony Watmough and Danny Wicks, moments he looks back on with pride, the games that slipped away and what’s ahead for the Blue and Gold in 2016.
Youth and future stars
The Eels were faced with a string of injuries and setbacks throughout the year, fielding a total of 29 players in their NRL side, providing an opportunity for the youth of the Blue and Gold.
2015 saw debuts to John Folau and Daniel Alvaro whilst a handful of the lesser experienced players gained valuable time in the middle.
“We had a lot of new boys debut, Johnny Folau got a run and Daniel Alvaro, but we still had our boys Tepai Moeroa, Pauli Pauli and some of the other younger boys that gained more valuable experience,” Arthur said.
“At times they were a bit up and down but that’s them growing as footballers and only being 30 gamers that’s what happens.”
“Daniel Alvaro ended up playing 7 games for us, and his last game he got up to 45 mins, so it was a slow stead progress with him but if he has a big pre-season, who knows what can happen for him next year.”
2015 saw club debuts to the 300+ game veteran Anthony Watmough and the hard working Danny Wicks, both of which brought plenty of leadership to the Eels forward pack.
Arthur praised the two individauls for their efforts throughout the year, highlighted by their ability to play through injury and leave everything out on the field for their teammates.
“They contribute off the filed in terms of leadership, some standards and behaviours that we want to set around the place,” Arthur said.
“In terms of their football, Danny was really strong until he started to carry a few injuries and both of them played busted, which a lot of people wouldn’t know too much about and we just kept band-aiding them up until we got to a point where they needed to have some operations and get their bodies sorted for next year.”
“They played really tough, in particular Choc, who carried a lot of injuries every game and he kept playing for his teammates,” Arthur added.
“In that aspect, they showed a lot of leadership in terms of you don’t always have to be at 100% to take the field but once you get out there you need to do the best for your team.”
Key Moments of 2015
Reflecting on the season, Arthur highlighted three games that he could look back on with pride from the performance of his side.
“When we played Penrith on the back of four losses, we went out there and the boys really aimed up and were really physical. We got off to a good lead, they clawed their way back and got really close and we managed to hang on and kick away from them which was good for morale.”
“On the back of the Melbourne performance, we came back and played the Dragons at home and we did probably everything in our powers to try and lose the game in terms of the way we managed the back end, but defensively, they hung on,” Arthur added.
“There was a tackle in that game from Pauli Pauli and Junior Paulo which won us the game and it was a good moment for them as young fellas about hanging in and staying in the contest.”
“Also the Penrith game we played in Darwin. We were very scrappy, untidy with the ball, but defence we just hung on, hung on and hung on and to score a try with a couple of minutes to go to get the victory there.”
“They were three big efforts, to go with a few from the start of the year where we blew Manly and Souths off the paddock.”
The ones that slipped away
Finishing the year six points outside of the eight, Arthur spoke openly during the year about games where the Eels had let the wins slip away. Looking back at the year, Arthur knows they are mistakes that need to be learnt; turning the close games into wins.
“Out of 24 games, 20 of those we were either leading at half time or leading at some stage in the second half. On quite a few of those, we lost in either the last 10 or 5 minutes,” Arthur said.
“It’s definitely not a physical thing, it’s more a mental thing and also having the experience to control games and learning how to close them out and manage games. We put ourselves under a lot of pressure through ill-discipline (whether that be penalities, taking silly options or red zone errors).”
“We cost ourselves dearly, and out of those 11 games where we were winning the contest, we only had to turn a couple of those into wins and we might have been playing Finals football.”
“We need to learn from that and maintain the pride and the passion that we played with this year in the jersey, and the spirit that we had in our performances,” Arthur added.
“Now we need to learn to turn those close games into wins.”
Last year in pre-season training, Brad Arthur had demanded a more physical presence on the field. Heading into 2016, the Head Coach knows the side’s discipline needs to be improved.
“We need to improve our discipline,” Arthur said.
“If we improve our discipline on the field, in terms of penalties, some simple errors in critical parts of the field and game, and tidy a little bit of off-field discipline then I think it will really help us improve our performances and go a long way from turning those competitive efforts into winning games of football.”