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Connection is key: Brad Arthur

Brad Arthur has emphasised the importance of team unity ahead of the Eels’ opening trial game of 2024 against the Raiders.

On the back of a disappointing 2023 season, which was disrupted by the absence of key players through injury, suspension and representative duties, Arthur discussed his focus on maintaining a tight-knit squad.

“We’ve worked heavily on being connected,” Arthur told Fox League in a pre-game interview.

“Last year with a limited pre-season, we lost quite a few players from our Grand Final team… our connection wasn’t great and that’s what let us down on the field. Then we had 23 weeks of suspensions.

“Our connection is really important this year, and that’s what we’ve worked on for (the last) 13 weeks.”

This approach was reflected in the Eels’ build-up to the 2024 season, which included three separate team camps in Wiseman’s Ferry, Shelley Beach, and Gerringong.

Arthur said these experiences have helped build connection among the squad, and between himself and the playing group.

“We’re talking about being a connected group; I’ve got to make sure that I know the players inside out,” he said.

“I’ve had some blokes here for eight to nine years, and when you get away with them, you spend some time with them, even having a beer with them when (we) went to Gerringong, you learn a lot more about them.

“I’ve tried to make sure that we’re all equals and we’re all human and that we get on with the job.”

Arthur has named a blend of youth and experience for the trial match, with Shaun Lane captaining the new-look team.

As the back-rower prepares to bounce back from an injury-ridden 2023 campaign, Arthur opened up on Lane’s pre-season to date and how he plans to utilise him against the Raiders.

“He’s completed every single session this year,” Arthur revealed.

“He’s looking really fit… We’ll just give him half an hour today and then he’ll be firing for us for Round 1.”

The trial team includes six members of the Eels’ 2023 SG Ball Grand Final winning side: Blaize Talagi, Ethan Sanders, Charlie Guymer, Matt Arthur, Josh Lynn and Saxon Pryke.

Arthur said this week has presented an opportunity to prepare the Eels young guns for life in the NRL.

“We’ve treated this week as much as we can like an NRL game,” he said.

“Especially for those young guys so they learn and gain some experience on what preparation is like going into an NRL contest."

Kick-off between the Eels and Raiders at Kogarah is set for 5:55pm.

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Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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