The Dyldam Parramatta Eels were crowned the 2016 Downer NRL Auckland Nines Champions on the weekend, after a 22-4 Grand Final victory over the New Zealand Warriors.
For Eels Head Coach Brad Arthur, the weekend was an enjoyable one with the Blue and Gold squad gaining plenty of confidence and reward for the hard work during the pre-season.
“It was a really enjoyable weekend. I think our defence and resolve, after the first game where we were pretty ordinary and we lost, we had to win every game from then on,” Arthur pinpointed as the most rewarding factor when speaking with Triple M.
“Every game from then on was a knock out game and that’s pressure that we haven’t handled well in the past so we have done a lot of situational training throughout the pre-season and that paid off for us over the weekend.”
“I know every team trains very hard in the pre-season, and every club is the same and just itching to get out there and have a game, but it reinforces the work that we have done that we are on the right track,” Arthur added.
“One of the pleasing things for us throughout the tournament is that every game we got better whereas over the last couple of years, as the games have gone on we faded and probably run out of juice, but I think we got stronger the more we played.”
With plenty of focus around the new recruits to the Blue and Gold squad during the off-season, Arthur praised his squad at the Nines, many of which have been involved with the Eels for the past few years.
“It is really important that a majority of the boys that played over the weekend have been with us for two years now and they have been putting in the hard work and that was a bit of reward for that,” Arthur told the Big Sports Breakfast.
“People want to talk about us recruiting pretty well but most of the boys that played, that was their third year of the Nines and they did a really good job for us.”
However one of the new faces who starred was young outside back Bevan French, who topped the tournament’s try scoring list, finishing the weekend with eight tries, and named in the Nines Team of the Tournament.
Looking at his season ahead, Arthur provided some insight into whether the 20 year old would line up for the Blue and Gold.
“Bevan has worked really hard in the gym, doing weights at least five times in the gym, sometimes six sessions in the week. He has gotten a lot stronger, and it might be hard on those legs of his to put any weight on, but he certainly has plenty of pace there. If we can thicken him up through the chest and shoulders, that will help him out,” Arthur told Triple M.
“If he is up to it and good enough, all it does is give me an opportunity to put more pressure on the rest of the boys. If Bevan is right for Round One, and that’s the way we want to go we will, but we definitely are not going to rush him. It is a different format, 13 on 13, but he will have a big future at our club and when he is ready, he will definitely get some time.”
With the season just a few weeks away, there has been plenty of discussion in the media about the risk of injuries during the Nines.
With injuries affecting some of the other NRL clubs involved, Arthur confirmed the Blue and Gold squad came away from the tournament relatively unscathed.
“It’s hard but that was us last year. We did some things a bit different this year in preparation for the Nines, and whether it was luck, good fortune or good management, we got through pretty well having to play all six games,” Arthur told the Big Sports Breakfast.
“We have a slight hamstring strain to John Folau but apart from that, we are all good. Last year I think we had 32 games missed from players who got injured in the Nines.”
And now that the Nines weekend has passed, Arthur has his focus and attention purely on the season ahead.
“I love going to training and being around the boys. What really excites me is that the fact that these boys we have brought into the club, the new recruits, we are going to see the developments of that through our young boys and the experience they gain from it.” Arthur said on Big Sports Breakfast.
“Blokes like Tepai Moeroa, Junior Paulo and even Semi Radradra, they haven’t reached 50 games yet so their best footy is still ahead of them. We are hoping that the addition of our new recruits can help with that.”
“For us, its really important that the boys, no matter who they are playing against or what grade they are playing, they really come out and play with a bit of pride and passion for the jersey and their fans. It is also really important that we try and keep our squad really healthy, you need to have your best players on the field for the majority of the season.” Arthur added.