The Parramatta Eels pre-season is well underway and with just 52 days until the Eels opening clash of the 2018 season against the Penrith Panthers, Blue & Gold Members and fans should be excited about the thought of the season just around the corner.
Speaking with Big Sports Breakfast this morning (Thursday 18 January), Blue & Gold Head Coach Brad Arthur opened up about the team’s preseason, crucial depth, competition for spots in particular who will wear the fullback jersey, reflections on last year and looking ahead to the upcoming season.
“We have really good depth this year, and touch wood we can keep everyone healthy and that’s the key to give us that competitive edge for spots which makes a difference to your performance. We are really happy with our depth,” Arthur said.
“The boys have trained exceptionally hard, and I know it’s a cliché and every coach and every year, their preseason was better than last year, but we have been five years with our preseasons building and we have just gone to another level with the physical aspect of it, new staff, and hoping that gives us a bit of an edge.”
With Jarryd Hayne returning to the Blue & Gold in 2018, and Clint Gutherson still recovering from last year’s season ending ACL injury, Arthur discussed the depth in the squad and the battle for who will wear the number one jersey in the opening round.
“It is difficult and we have a lot of flexibility, which is great for us. Gutho, I think he won’t start the season, he wont be ready till a couple of rounds in. That will give Bevan an opportunity,” Arthur said.
“Bevan is fitter and stronger this time round and Jarryd’s attitude has been first class for us.”
“Bevan has done a lot of weights and put on a bit of size and strength in his upper body during the break, and he has worked really hard on his fitness,” Arthur added.
“He knows there is an opportunity to start the season at fullback and one of the demands of it is that he needs to be able to run a lot and get a lot of kilometres into your legs and not miss any opportunities.”
Arthur also discussed Hayne’s return to the Blue & Gold, his role and the flexibility in the squad.
“Jarryd’s training has been great and he has brought another edge to us in our skill acquisition and class factor with the football. He has been really good with his effort areas and attitude towards the conditioning,” Arthur said.
“Our expectation of him is that he isn’t going to come here and win a 2km time trial but if we are doing a 20-30m sprint he is going to be in the best couple.”
“They are all different athletes and I just want him to make sure he continues to work hard to give himself every opportunity to get the miles in his legs, so he can have those 20-30m sprints more often and be more effective with them.”
“He has been really good for us and he is going to give us that extra bit of class, but we won’t be reliant on him. He just needs to be Jarryd Hayne, play his role and fit into the team.” He added.
“He can play centres for us, if we get an injury in the halves he can cover that for us, he can play fullback. But we have a lot of flexibility with blokes covering our halves and that fullback role, so all those key spots, we are really comfortable with the depth we have there.” Arthur continued.
And when asked of the Eels halves, in particular Corey Norman and his form and role, Arthur said the five eighth would continue to improve with further stability and a greater partnership with halfback Mitch Moses.
“Mitch and Corey formed a really good partnership at the back end of last year, and with a bit of training and preseason together this year, which they didn’t get last year, hopefully they will be better with their combination,” Arthur said.
“Corey has had a great pre-season for us and some stability in the halves will definitely help him so there is more clarity around his role. He has had to chop and change a lot being the chief playmaker, organiser, and the person we rely upon all the time but now we have Mitchell who is more of a game controller in terms of a halfback.” Arthur added.
“Corey has the opportunity to do what he does best which is carry the football, play what he sees and take some opportunities off the back of what other people are creating instead of him having to create everything all the time.”
“Hopefully with Mitchell there, a steady fullback and some combination on our left and ridge edges, it will help Corey with his performances.”
And with the season now just under two months away, Arthur said the side has aspirations to continue improving, stating the side would learn from last year’s finals experience.
“Every team this time of the year has aspirations to be playing in that last week and we are no different to any other club and we are all equal first at the moment.” Arthur said.
“But our progression as a team and a Club is we want to make sure we are getting better each year, we have done that with a couple more wins each year, and if we do that again this year, that should look after itself and put us in a really good position at the end of the year.”
“We were really happy with the rounds through to 26, being 2-6 to start the season before winning 14 of our last 18 games so we were often criticised for our consistency but 14 from 18 to finish the year was a good effort for us.” Arthur said when asked of last year’s performance.
“The disappointment throughout the finals, we thought the energy and excitement probably took control of our emotions at times and we played a bit emotional. In the end, we feel we probably made it hard on ourselves and probably cost ourselves two wins.”
To hear the full interview, visit the Big Sports Breakfast website here.