The question that needs answering

Can this squad go any further?

That's the question that club management has to know the answer to if the Parramatta Eels are to break their nearly four decade premiership drought.

After an embarrassing capitulation to the deadlast Bulldogs, the Eels have, for the second time this season, been beaten by the team coming last. Those two performances following previous wins over heavyweights the Melbourne Storm in Melbourne and a then-undefeated Penrith Panthers side that hadn't lost at home in three years.

Clearly the issue is not talent. A lack of talent doesn't see you beat Melbourne in three consecutive matches, nor does it see you hand Penrith a loss at their fortress of a home ground. Lack of talent doesn't see six current or former Origin players in the squad, nor does it see your make three consecutive finals series.

Parramatta suffer from a menatlity issue, and it's a problem they have had throughout Brad Arthur's tenure. They have the capacity, ability and mentality to rise to an occasion. To beat a more fancied opponent.

But the moment they seem to be facing a weak team, they seem unwilling and unable to take that same winning attitude into these matches. Instead they go sideways, they lose direction, they lose cohesion, they lose that mentality and ultimately lose the game.

That is not the mark of a premiership winning side and it has been an issue for the club for years upon years.

They apparently enlisted the help of a sporting pyschologist last year, although it's unclear if they have continued down that path this year. If they haven't the question must be asked, why?

But also, why was this side, known for its inability to string coherent matches together, given five whole days off before a match against the last placed side? What message does that send the players? It's fine, they're coming last, we don't need to be as dilligent.

Sure, rugby league is a brutal sport and some time away from training is probably good for mental health. But nearly a week off in the middle of a season where you've been far from clinical?

You're meant to earn those breaks and if that Tigers game on Easter Monday was anything to go by, this squad was far from earning that break.

Now the question needs to be asked, can the Eels get any better under the current head coach?

Brad Arthur is not a bum, even though many seem to think that he is. When you consider the job he has done to drag this side from its lowest ebb in virtually 30 years to now be a consistent finals side, all the while dealing with boardroom instability, a salary cap investigation, a club in administration and ultimately new leadership speaks to the fact he is a good coach.

A winning record better than 50 percent is, statistically speaking, incredibly rare in rugby league.

In fact, when you look at the list of Eels coaches and heir winning percentage, removing those who coached for one season or less, Brad Arthur ranks seventh out of 28 all time for winning percentage. And he's won the second most number of games in the club's history with 105, only behind Brian Smith's 138.

But this brings me to my next point.

The only man ahead of him for games coached is Brian Smith. Under Smith, the side made one grand final, won two minor premierships and played in four preliminary finals. It may not have handed Parramatta their fifth title, but it was the most consistent the club had been outside 1976-1986 and its most successful outside the Jack Gibson/John Monie years.

Brad Arthur has managed four finals series in five years. The side should make it five out of six. And he came from an incredibly low base. Probably lower than Smith who had the benefit of the Super League war dropping talent into Parramatta's lap. Talent they otherwise wouldn't have attracted or been able to afford.

But coaches are ultimately judged by what they do in September and the success they deliver, which hasn't occurred in the Arthur era.

The ultimate danger for the club is they allow this to continue, content with being a nearly there team while its best players either age into retirement, or depart to look for a crack at the big time.

So far there is nothing to indicate the Eels have at all improved on last year. And that is ultimately what this is about. Can this side get any better under its current coaching set up?

Sure, there is a risk getting a new coach. On average most coaches only add a single win to a team in their first season. But for the Eels, that single win could mean a preliminary final. There's also something to be said for the fact the Eels are in a different position to most clubs that dismiss a coach in the fact they are a bonafide top eight team.

Most clubs sack a coach when they hit rock bottom, meaning the poor person who sticks his hand up to the fill the roll has a bad squad to work with, or salary cap problems.

Cronulla are the most recent club to sack a coach whilst in the top eight, and they improved. Or you could look at the Cowboys who copped it for a season as they turned over their squad and now sit in the top four.

Yes, the risk is there that the wrong coach is sought and all of the hard work is burnt up in a fiery mess.

But the risk is also there that the status quo remains with the side never able to really challenge for the premiership and the club slowly loses its attractiveness in the player market or even to its own juniors who decide there are other clubs in Sydney who can win it before the Eels.

That's the task now for the administration.

To truly ask themselves if Brad Arthur can do something he hasn't been able to do for nearly a decade, or if it's time for some fresh ideas.

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  • Great blog 

    it was the cattle yesty I believe( maybe they had too much dodgy grass in the prior week ) but generally this cattle would get further with a diff farmer I believe . Agree with all your points and it's not worth playing it safe to risk us being back out in the wilderness and an unattractive option for players- 

    time to cut the cord 

  • Great blog, Super. Yes, it's time for fresh ideas. The next question is: would the board entertain this, seriously? 

    But, let's sidestep that to: who would you take a punt on to take over? 

    We have mental and cultural issues. And do we think the problems lie only in Arthur; would a new coach be enough of a solution?

    Even Gibson and Bennett failed at the Sharks and the Knights. Coaches need the right support structures, and of course the right players. 

    • Bennett at Newcastle was always doomed. He wasn't suited to a club with an owner like Tinkler. Two very stubborn personalities who weren't going to get on. Even then he got them to a preliminary final which is the only time they have managed that without Andrew Johns in their entire history.

    • Good questions HoE. I don't feel BA can detach himself enough from his emotional ties to players to fix what needs to be fixed. The front office are also a joke if they are thinking we can attract and retain a premiership winning squad without TPAs and without life after football benefits.. I believe they understand this and can only assume the board have placed a very low value on winning premierships vs being a profitable there abouts good enough kind of club with a low risk profile. 

  • A much more eloquent and subtle way of saying what this site has said non-stop since 6pm Monday night. BA's time is up and the club needs to admit that today and make well planned moves to bring about swift change. If we don't act we will die on the vine.

    • B I N G O

      The writing is on the wall people

      Time for change

  • It seems we're not prepared to roll up the sleeves all year round.

    Our only chance is to rely on an end of season purple patch.

  • Didn't see anyone barking out instructions on the field so not sure if there aren't any off field issues! Lying with straight faces is a normal now so we hope the boys only issue is they don't like Monday footie!

  • I think the mental aspect has been around since long before BA showed up. Seems to be amplified when you consider the distance between the Eels best and worst performances.

    • Yes, the mental aspect has been around since before BA.

      BA has had 9 years to turn it around.


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