Brad Arthur has put the Parramatta Eels’ inconsistent form down to the attitude of his playing group and says things won’t turn around until senior players commit to lifting their game.
The Eels are the only team to beat both Penrith and Melbourne this year but have fallen into a pattern of losing games they’ve been expected to win.
On Easter Monday, Parramatta became the first team to lose to the Wests Tigers this season and have since lost to the Cowboys and Roosters, both of whom sat lower on the ladder at the time of the defeats.
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Arthur rejected suggestions that poor preparation had been to blame for the Eels’ losses, instead blaming the side’s attitude on game day.
“If I flog them all week or we do nothing all week, it doesn’t matter. Against Penrith, we had seven blokes who didn’t train all week,” he said.
“It’s about our mentality and attitude when we go to the game. It falls on our senior players.
“At the end of the day, the rest of the team will follow their leadership and their mentality. We need all our senior players to step up.”
Ahead of Friday’s clash with the Manly Sea Eagles, Arthur said the Eels had to kick their bad habit of starting games slowly.
In its last five games, Parramatta has scored the first try only once and won the first half only once – both against the lowly Newcastle Knights.
The situation reached critical mass over the weekend; the Roosters scored three first-half tries to lead the Eels 21-6 at the break. Parramatta fought back but ultimately went down 31-24.
“It’s frustrating because I felt like for 60 minutes we were pretty good … we just need to give the game respect with our start,” Arthur said.
“We’re not respecting the game with the way we’re starting. We need to be better in that.”
Arthur said the Eels would also have to contain their emotions this weekend when inspirational co-captain Clint Gutherson runs out for his 150th NRL game.
Gutherson has played all but five of his first grade matches for Parramatta and earnt State of Origin selection on the back of his form for the club in 2020.
Arthur said Gutherson was as much an “on-field coach” as a member of the playing 13.
“It’s so comforting to have a leader who believes in the same principles and philosophies around the game that I do,” Arthur said.
Arthur said Gutherson’s influence on him stretched beyond the confines of rugby league.
“I feel like he’s helped me to be a better dad and a better person,” Arthur said.
“He takes the edge off me a bit.
“It’ll be a really emotional game for us, but it’s something we’re going to have to put aside. We can’t play that game on emotion, we’re going to have to play it on true spirit and effort the way he plays.”