Arthur: My Eels have backbone
A win and a Jarryd Hayne-less Parramatta team have rarely been mentioned in the same breath ever since the superstar burst onto the Origin scene eight seasons ago.
To be precise, it's happened just four times in 29 games.
Yet that's precisely what happened after a drought-breaking 22-12 victory over the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
"Yeah, that's great, but we haven't talked about it and I'm not real big on records and what happened last week," said coach Brad Arthur post-game.
What he is big on, and he's been banging on about it since he arrived at Parramatta last November, is toughness and defence – a couple of words that also haven't been used to describe the Eels in recent years.
Yet those were exactly the words the rookie coach used to describe the win on Sunday – their fourth win in five games. In fact, Arthur went so far as to say that these Eels are starting to look like the real-life ones – complete with backbones and everything.
"I thought we played tough today. It was probably not something we've been known for. And we're slowly developing a bit of a backbone," he said.
"Our defence on the tryline for repeated sets, we showed a lot of desperation and a belief there and stuck to our principles on our tryline and made our tackles. That was pretty important that we continued to turn them away and frustrate them. They had 20-30 more plays attacking our tryline than us."
Arthur got a strong performance from surprise fullback Chris Sandow, who was a late fill-in for injured Ken Sio. Twice the once-troubled playmaker broke the line in the first half to help set up a 10-0 halftime lead, while showcasing his trademark zip throughout the game.
"Chrissy done a fair bit of training down there at fullback. He was very good in attack today and that's what he shows at training," he said.
"Obviously Chrissy's strength is to run the footy, so we thought why not put him up at fullback and bring Luke [Kelly] in? Corey can control the game, and Chrissy can run, and he did that obviously.
"Jarryd's really good defensively getting the numbers and our tryline defence right, but Chrissy's job was to run the ball."
Arthur also praised a forward pack that responded to a challenge laid down by the coaching staff to do a job on the more renowned Bulldogs one.
"Our forwards took it personal and got physical. They knew they'd been a bit up and down this year. They've had some really good performances, some really tough performances, and we could've been better on other occasions," he said.
"Today they backed up their effort last week because I thought they were really good last week against two Australian front-rowers and they were pretty good again today against one of the biggest packs in the comp. Our boys rolled their sleeves up and they got physical."
But the most pleasing aspect in the end for Arthur was that word, toughness. Toughness to overcome a game without their main man. Toughness to go on down a man. Toughness to hold on when the opposition went set after set after set on their goal line.
"It just shows [what happens] if you turn up with a right attitude and you're willing to roll your sleeves up and have a go," he said.
"Our execution at times wasn't great. We turned the ball over – they had more possession than us as well. We can play a lot smarter and be a lot better, but I can't teach them how to be tough. They've got to want to be tough and want to take the field with a good attitude."