It’s probably the strongest admission you will ever get from an NRL club chairman.
But Parramatta boss Max Donnelly has conceded: “I didn’t think culture was a problem but you have got to question it.”
On the day troubled forward Kenny Edwards is due to front court after allegedly doing a runner from police after being spotted driving while suspended, Donnelly opened up to The Daily Telegraph.
In a wideranging interview, Donnelly hit back at suggestions from Ray Hadley that Brad Arthur had lost the dressing room and addressed Jarryd Hayne’s future beyond this year.
“I certainly deny anything like the coach has lost the dressing room,” Donnelly said.
Asked specifically if he believed Arthur was the right man to lead the club long-term, Donnelly said: “At the moment I believe he is and he is contracted until 2019.”
Donnelly is the administrator who was brought in to clean up the Eels’ salary cap scandal mess.
But problems on and off the field continue to tear at the club’s reputation.
You only have to look at the success of their cash-strapped rivals the Wests Tigers to see how quickly a club can turn things around after years of underachieving, if the right people are appointed in the right positions.
While the Tigers don’t have near the rivers of gold Parramatta’s wealthy Leagues Club provides them, the Tigers have made a strategic choice under new chief executive Justin Pascoe and coach Ivan Cleary to base their recruitment strategy around character and players willing to buy into team culture ahead of talent and reputation.
The likes of Russell Packer and Benji Marshall are the perfect examples of the type of players now driving the Tigers’ culture.
With that put to Donnelly, he said: “I can’t argue with you but I don’t think there is the (culture) problem you are suggesting at Parramatta.
“There may be something in it. But (chief executive) Bernie (Gurr) runs a pretty good front office.”
Parramatta hold the longest premiership drought of all NRL clubs, having not won the title since 1986 under John Monie.
They also have the second biggest junior catchment in the NRL behind Penrith yet continually struggle to produce and retain local talent.
Their two best young talents, five-eighth Jaeman Salmon and back-rower Maraka Niukore, came from rival clubs.
Arthur has also been criticised for his recruitment and retention policy, dating back to Anthony Watmough and Kieran Foran, deals that ended in disaster.
But Donnelly denied recruitment was a problem.