Eels embrace entertainers tag
It's hard to imagine that a Chris Sandow chip-and-chase on halfway from his side's first set of the game was at the top of Brad Arthur's game-plan against the Broncos but the Eels coach insists that his players will continue to be given the freedom to play what they see.
Rather than trying to constrain Sandow in a set structure as seemed to be the failings of both Stephen Kearney and Ricky Stuart, Arthur has introduced his cheeky and enigmatic No.7 into a team with a strong framework from which it builds. The result has been successive wins against the Panthers and Broncos.
Sandow was back to his electrifying best as the Eels chanced their hand on numerous occasions on Friday night, scoring two of the tries of the season as they opened up a 10-0 lead after 34 minutes and then fighting back late to eventually win 25-18 at Suncorp Stadium.
Will Hopoate's first try for his new club, an eighth to the NRL's leading tryscorer Semi Radradra and a Jarryd Hayne special midway through the second half exemplified the attacking weaponry at Arthur's disposal and, despite some errors, he has no intention of stockpiling it for future use.
"We need to be positive with the footy, we need to back ourselves," Arthur said after his side improved their record to 3-2 after five weeks, a win total that took them 22 weeks to surpass in 2013.
"We've got some skill there so we need to use it; we just need to be smart about how we do it and when we do it.
"At times we put ourselves under pressure – we'd score a try and then didn't complete that set and they'd score straight away. That's where we need to be a little bit smarter about how we do it."
Five-eighth Corey Norman left his former home ground a victor and is excited about the scope the side's playmakers have been given to trust their natural instincts, including his halves partner in Sandow.
"There's just something about me and 'Chritty', we just play well together," Norman told NRL.com. "We work a bit better together and off the field we always talk and we're a bit closer and I think that's coming out on the field as well. At the moment me and Chritty are starting to form a good partnership.
"We've got our plays but Brad's big on that if we see something you just do it and we'll fold back into our structure after that. He's given us a bit of leeway and its coming with a few errors but we're backing our defence and it's good.
"The last couple of weeks it's shown that our attack is starting to grow and we're starting to get some good metres out of our own end and that's from playing good footy."
With his ability to play so late at the line and create space for men out the back such as Sandow, Norman and Jarryd Hayne, lock forward Joseph Paulo provides an integral link between the muscle in the middle and the entertainers on the edge.
Norman describes him as a half stuck in a forward's body but Paulo is relishing his new role and responsibilities in a team he says is still defining their identity.
"You know when Chrissy's at his best is when he's just running across the field showing, taking them on, chip-and-chase on the first set of the game," Paulo said. "Or 'Haynesy' is at the back just running and then you've got guys like Semi [Radradra] and Hoppa (Will Hopoate) who are threats on the edges.
"The big boys are doing their job and I think for us it's just something that Brad's really put in place and we're just trying to find our identity as a team.
"Brad's really given me free rein to make sure I'm pushing the forwards around and pretty much being a link in the middle with the guys on the edges.
"If I can get the forwards in the middle going obviously I'm just lucky to have that skill from when I played five-eighth and just trying to employ that.
"There were a few errors in the first half so I was a bit disappointed but I'm slowly learning my role and balancing running and ball-playing out there.
"We're still working on it but I know we're just really enjoying our footy at this time."