Eels halves given licence to roam
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur is refusing to have his two gun halves locked in the cage of playing one side of the field each, instead calling on both Kieran Foran and Corey Norman to play what they see in front of them.
Eels fans got their first look at the brave new world in Saturday night's 22-8 trial win over Penrith at Pepper Stadium and while both sides were understandably rusty at times, it was the away side who looked superior in attack and defence.
The halves linked up well, passing to each other in attack on both the far left and far right fringes of the field and despite all the fanfare around Foran's arrival it was form-man Norman who was the dominant player.
Norman took the bulk of the long kicks for territory and continued on from his tournament MVP gong at the Auckland Nines with another mature display.
Foran meanwhile revealed he had been limited to two ball-work sessions in the week of the game after a pre-season interrupted by a hamstring injury. However he added he is back to full fitness and hoped two weeks of solid training ahead of Round 1 would have him firing in time to face a Broncos side coming off a World Club Challenge rout of Wigan.
"Brad's big on that," Foran said of the free-flowing connection between the two halves.
"He said that from the get-go. He doesn't like pigeonholing us into left and right halves, he likes his halves to swing and play whatever they see in front of them.
"He likes to play a really positive game like that and that suits both me and Corey. We've had limited time to gel as a combination but we'll work really hard over the next two weeks and hopefully get things sorted for Round 1."
Arthur said despite having to manage Foran through the off-season the early signs between he and Norman were "OK".
"They've got to get used to each other. When you're tired and under fatigue the combinations [are harder to produce], we haven't been doing a lot of work and the combinations aren't quite there so they'll get better as we go along," he said.
Arthur said Norman's recent dominance was predominantly down to fitness and strong training over the off-season.
"I just think he's had a really good pre-season. He's physically fitter and he's physically stronger and I think he's more dominant," Arthur said.
The Eels host Brisbane in the 2016 season opener at Pirtek Stadium on Thursday, March 3.