'You're not up to it': Arthur's dressing-down sparked Mahoney's fire

Being told by his coach he wasn't an 80-minute hooker was the early-season moment that sparked Eels hooker Reed Mahoney into his stunning run of form.

Last year the young Queenslander was sitting behind Cam King and Kaysa Pritchard in the pecking order for the blue and gold No.9 jersey.

With King released to Featherstone and Pritchard on indefinite leave after a shocking run of injuries, plus utility Will Smith sidelined with a broken arm from the start of the year, coach Brad Arthur found himself with no 'Plan B' behind Mahoney.

Utility Jaeman Salmon spent the summer training at centre after floating between five-eighth, second row and fullback through the juniors but found himself on the bench spelling Mahoney in the early rounds.

In a one-one-one meeting early in the year, Mahoney insisted to his coach he could handle 80 minutes. His coach told him he wasn't yet up to it.

"Throughout the pre-season I wanted to be an 80-minute hooker," Mahoney told NRL.com.

"The first few rounds I probably wasn't up to 80 minutes fitness-wise and Brad pulled me in the office. I told him I wanted to play 80 minutes and he told me he wasn't confident in me playing 80 minutes.

"That day that he told me I wasn't too happy at myself, I wasn't too happy at Brad either.

"But he told me the honest truth and I knew it straight away. I'm doing everything off the field. I want to be able to play 80 minutes each week and it's been really good. Brad's honest feedback really turned me around that week."

The Eels' play-making stocks took another blow when 18-year-old five-eighth Dylan Brown was diagnosed with a stress-related back injury and has not played since round three, forcing Salmon to five-eighth. While the club pounced on journeyman rake Matt McIlwrick from the Rabbitohs, Mahoney has since been used as a sole 80-minute hooker – and thrived.

He was one of his team's best in the huge 51-6 win over Wests Tigers in round six, scoring a try and somehow topping the tackle count from either side with 44 despite his side bossing possession. He racked up 56 and 59 in the previous two games.

His decisive play out of dummy half, with crisp service to his forwards and halves with the occasional incisive run or deft kick, has been invaluable in the team's 4-2 start to the season.

"Against the Sharks I had an 80-minute performance and I've just got to be better each week," said Mahoney, who has now played three straight 80-minute games (barring a few minutes off the field with an HIA at the end of the loss to the Raiders).

"I think my best football is being decisive and playing what's in front. [Against the Tigers] I got a few opportunities to run but when Mitch and Jaeman want the ball you've got to give it to them, they're our playmakers and when they want it you give it to them. I've got to get the forwards rolling, that's my job.

"Last year I had Kingy and Kaysa there. I love to learn new things and try and better myself every week. Credit to those boys, they kept me in the loop with everything they were doing and me and Kaysa were fighting it out in the pre-season but unfortunately he's not mentally right at the moment. I just had to do my job and try and get better every week."

Easter Monday was a huge occasion for Mahoney for several reasons. It was the debut of the club's new home ground, Bankwest Stadium, marking their first true 'home' game in over two years.

What's more it was Mahoney's 21st birthday with all his family down from Queensland – the first time he had seen them all year.

"It was a pretty emotional 24 hours," Mahoney said.

"My family came down from back home. I haven't seen them since Christmas. My oldest brother couldn't make it, he's working away in the mines but the rest of the family made it and it was good to see them.

"My mum and dad, sister and brother and their partners, it was great to be a part of it and for them to be able to see the game."