Arthur: Forward battle is key

Dyldam Parramatta Eels Head Coach Brad Arthur says the Blue and Gold’s clash with the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Friday night will be largely won and lost through the forwards.

The Blue and Gold came off second-best with a 22-20 scoreline in Round 10, and Arthur says the match up between the two packs will be crucial.

“Their forwards probably got on top of our forwards last time,” Arthur said.

“We need to make sure that we aim up there and we’re very strong and physical through the middle.”

“They’re a physical forward pack so we need to be at our best through the middle third of the field; if we can maintain them there or try and get over the top of them, that’ll give us a good opportunity to get the two points.”

The Rabbitohs will be without Greg Inglis (Maroons) and Adam Reynolds (NSW Blues) while Eels centre Michael Jennings is also in Coffs Harbour on Origin duties, but Arthur says the absence of the South Sydney playmakers won’t make the task any easier.

“What that does is it gives them the opportunity to bring someone else in,” Arthur said.

“They’re always going to bring that extra enthusiasm (the new players) so I don’t think that makes it any easier.”

With rumours linking off-contract fullback Michael Gordon to the Sydney Roosters, Arthur admitted that a glut of young talent at the Blue and Gold left him with decisions to make through the 2017 pre-season.

"Flash has done a really good job for us and he’ll continue to do a good job for us while he’s here," Arthur said.

"He’s proved himself to be a handy acquisition and there was an opportunity for us to keep him for next year, but there were better opportunities at the roosters, so good luck to him."

"It’s a loss when you lose any player," Arthur added.

"But we’ve got some young kids in Bevan French and Clint Gutherson, who we don’t want to block their pathways; both of them want to play fullback at some stage."

"[Bevan] played in the Nines and then he had a few injuries so he didn’t play a lot of footy in the 20s. We gave him an opportunity against Newcastle, and he was the unlikely hero for us saving a try to win us the game."

"On the weekend, he done some really good things but he’s learning some lessons as he goes along. His job is to finish, and there was a try scoring opportunity which he fumbled there on the weekend, so it’s all part of the experience for him."

"He’s a fullback, but just to get him used to the contact and the physical aspect of NRL it’s probably best to put him on the wing. We’ve got a whole pre-season to get through, and he’d like to see himself be considered for fullback and so would Clinton Gutherson."

"Clint’s more of a creator than a finisher, and when we brought him in he’d only played a handful of NRL games, so we put him on the wing. He was coming off that knee reconstruction, and he’s found his feet and he’s getting a bit of momentum in the NRL."

"The last couple of weeks he’s played in the centres, and he’s gone from the left to the right to the left, he’s played a bit of fullback, so he’s pretty versatile for us."

The Eels kick off against the Rabbitohs at 7.50pm on Friday, June 17, at ANZ Stadium.