Dyldam Parramatta Eels Head Coach says there is no room for distractions – not even from the best player in the game – as the Blue and Gold head to Townsville to take on the North Queensland Cowboys.
The Round 8 match up is the Eels' second clash with the Cowboys after a gutsy 20-16 win in Round 2 at home at Pirtek Stadium, and Arthur predicts that the basics of possession and completion are the keys to a competitive performance on Saturday night.
“This will be our fifth game against top eight teams,” Arthur said of his side’s start to the year.
“It has been a really hardened start to he season for us but it’s exactly what we need. This challenge couldn’t come at a better time for us.”
“They’re good right from 1 to 17, and it’s very hard to go and isolate one player in particular. [If] you focus on him (Johnathan Thurston), there’s so many other areas where they can hurt you.”
“I think they’ve been averaging about 58-60 percent possession at home games and if you let them do that you’re just asking for trouble.”
“I think we need to make sure that we focus on being our best. We can’t really control too much of what they do; it’s what we do. For the past two weeks we’ve completed at above 80 per cent, and we’ve scored 58 points and only conceded 16, so if we can compete at a high percentage and try and get 50/50 possession we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
“While our effort’s been really good, some of our execution at times has been a little bit off. Against the good teams you can’t afford to not execute at your best.”
Arthur admits that while planning to nullify Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston isn’t the answer to toppling the 2015 Premiers, second-rower Beau Scott will fall into his customary role applying pressure to the North Queensland playmakers.
The new Eels recruit was impressive in the Blue and Gold’s Round 7 win over the Sea Eagles, despite heading into the game with some doubt around his fitness.
“Beauy loves chasing JT a bit,” Arthur said.
“But that’s his job, it doesn’t matter what had he comes up against. Back rowers have got to get stuck into the halves and put a bit of pressure on them.”
“He went into that game [last week] with a question mark over his hamstring and nearly didn’t get through warm up, so my response was there wasn’t much wrong with his hamstring once he chased [Tom Trbojevic] down!”
“It was probably a turning point in the game,” Arthur said.
“If they score there that would’ve put them two tries clear of us.”
And with the NRL yet to reach a resolution in its investigation into alleged salary cap issues at the Eels, Arthur remains focussed on the footballing challenge ahead.
“If it drags on for 2 weeks, 10 weeks, we can’t change our approach to what we do,” Arthur said.
“I’m really proud of them (the Eels team). They’ve done a tremendous job of shutting it out and just worrying about playing football, and that’s what they do best.”
“My preference is to worry about the Cowboys this week.”
The Eels kick off against the Cowboys at 7.30pm on Saturday, April 23, at 1300SMILES Stadium.