Watmough ready for Manly: Arthur

Eels coach Brad Arthur says he's not a fan of rugby league theatre. 

"I just want to come to work, coach the boys and go home. That's me – simple," Arthur said on Thursday.

Only Friday night's grudge match against rivals Manly-Warringah will be anything but. On the eve of what will be one of the most anticipated season-openers of the weekend, Arthur admitted to sitting down with his fired-up new recruit Anthony Watmough to ensure the former Sea Eagle was focused on his new team and not how much he wanted to get the better of his old one. 

"I think a lot of the stuff said, even the stuff that was on 'Sterlo' last night, that [story] was done in November. It's water under the bridge now," Arthur said. 

"A lot of it's tongue in cheek, and Choc's very appreciative of his time at Manly. We've had a chat about [how] he just needs to channel his focus to his football team now moving forward, especially for this game. 

"Once this game's over and done with, there'll be no more talk about Manly."

The second-year Eels coach also said he didn't expect the Sea Eagles to target their former teammate. 

"They're too smart for that. They're a team of footballers. They're all good mates," he said. "If he runs into them, they might put a little bit extra into their tackle, but they're not going to go out of their way to get him and come out of their defensive structures."

Watmough's only appearance of the pre-season was in Parramatta's trial win over Penrith a fortnight ago, but Arthur declared the NSW Origin forward was ready to play. 

"He's been ready for a long time. We didn't play him in most of the trials, he was itching to get a run and we reduced to about 40-50 minutes at Penrith. He was probably a little bit rusty there too. But he's raring to go," he said.

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A former Sea Eagles assistant, Arthur was in no mood to discuss rumours of Manly targeting him for a return to Brookvale in place of current head coach Geoff Toovey. 

"I don't want to comment on rumours. But I'm committed to the 17 players that are playing this week and the 40 players that we've got to our squad. I'm committed to the Parramatta fans," he said. 

He was also unwilling to shed any light on a reported deal this week with Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran to come to Parramatta next season. 

"I don't comment, again, on recruitment. I'm happy to talk about what we need to do Friday night," he said. 

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However Arthur was happy to reveal that halfback Chris Sandow will enter the season "at the lightest [weight] he's ever been", despite missing almost a month of training after hurting his ankle in the Auckland Nines. 

"Maybe we could've played him in the Penrith trial, but we didn't see it was a necessity and it was more important to get him right for this game," he said. 

"Credit to him, he's down at 81 kilos, the lightest he's ever been. And that was including 3-4 weeks sitting on the sideline. He came back in our first conditioning session and he was leading the pack. It's a real credit to him and I hope he takes it onto the field."