The Parramatta Eels are preparing to take on the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Thursday 29 June for Round 17 of the NRL Telstra Premiership, and Blue & Gold Head Coach Brad Arthur says his side are not taking the opposition lightly.
Despite their recent record, and injuries to key forwards James Graham and Greg Eastwood, Arthur says the Blue & Gold will still have their hands full against a big Bulldogs side.
The Eels enter the clash with their own injury concerns, however will enter the clash fresh off a bye.
“We were the last team to get a bye so it probably come at a real good time for us with the injuries that we are carrying. We have a couple that should be back within the next week or two and that bye and the bye in two weeks takes a couple of games missed by them so it has come at a good time,” Arthur said.
“We gave the boys a couple of days off, they have come back fresh, but we will have our hands full tomorrow night.”
“They are big losses [Graham and Eastwood] and they are coming off a loss and going to be hurting and this is probably the time when they seem to find a bit, when their backs are against the wall.” Arthur added.
“Des is pretty good at getting them up for that. They are one of the most successful clubs over the past decade so we know exactly what we are going to get from the Bulldogs and a Des Hasler coached team.”
“They are still going to have one of the biggest packs of the competition so we are going to have our hands full.”
The Eels have moved into the top eight after their Round 16 bye, and whilst the players spoke during the week about their charge towards the Finals, Arthur is not thinking too far ahead.
“We have put ourselves in a position where we can control what we get out of the rest of the year.” Arthur said.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves, it is still a long way to go. We can go up or we can easily go down.” He added.
“We just have to keep working hard and what worked for us with the games that we have won, we need to continue to do that. We are a pretty simple team and that’s how we need to play.”
The Eels were dealt blows to their side in the lead up to the clash, with season ending injuries to Kaysa Pritchard and Beau Scott, and the Head Coach felt for both players, in particular Pritchard who was beginning to find his feet in his position.
“I am shattered for Kaysa. He was under a bit of pressure early in the piece and was finding it a bit tough early to play 80 minutes and do his job, and it took a while for him to start to warm to the role but I thought over the last month he has been one of our most consistent, better players,” Arthur said.
“I am more disappointed for him, he worked hard in the pre-season, but there are ups and downs in their career and it will make them better.”
“I knew at some stage, I didn’t know it was going to be this bad, but I knew the way the Kaysa plays, there was going to be a week where he wasn’t going to be available. It was just inevitable. In the back of our minds, our first preference and our only preference was to give Cameron King an opportunity.” He added.
“He gets a few injuries because he plays the game at the toughest level. There is no holding back and that is one of the things he has had to learn. His last few games he managed his 80 minutes and he doesn’t have to be doing everything flat stick for the full 80 minutes.”
King will become the Eels 790th Blue & Gold player, and opportunity that the hooker has worked hard for over the past 18 months.
“Cam is just excited to get a chance. He has been waiting for 18 months now at our club and probably at stages at the end of last year, we could of made a case to give him a run, but because of where we were at with the salary cap we weren’t able to do that.” Arthur said.
“He probably deserved his opportunity at the end of last year so he has had to wait his chance but time has come for him to aim up.”
“He has had a lot of injuries, and it just shows to any young footballer if they persist and keep working hard, at some stage the time will come. They just have to make sure they haven’t been getting around kicking stones and when their time comes they are not ready. I am sure Kingy will be ready tomorrow night.” He added.
“When he first came here, in his first pre-season, he was right up there with Gutho and Flash for pre-season trainer of the year. He trained really well, was tough and committed and has continued that mentality right through to now.”
And whilst there are forced changes to the Eels forward pack, Arthur looked towards the positives in the Eels back line.
“It is probably the first time in a while that we have had the same backline for two weeks straight and the same combinations on the left and right so that is a positive for us,” Arthur said.
“For the moment, and what is best for the team, that is best for the team [Gutherson at number one].” He added.
“Bev was coming off a pretty bad injury and he bounced back really well. His confidence is sky high at the moment, off the back of last week’s performance, and it was a pretty brave performance for Bev.”
“I thought his defence was pretty good and it’s not something he is noted for, everyone goes on about how he can score tries, but I thought he stopped a couple for us last week.”