Mature Norman no longer in cruise control
From a talented but laidback kid who was "a bit rats" to one of the most consistently damaging playmakers in the NRL, Eels five-eighth Corey Norman knows he's come a long way.
The former Bronco says he has been pushed to take more ownership of both the team and his own performances under coach Brad Arthur as he looks to bring more discipline into his life to try and reach his potential.
"That's one of the big things Brad [has instilled] the last two years: 'Do you want to be a player that's just kind of cruised through his career and been good here and there or do you want to play for rep sides?' So that's probably the best thing that Brad's been pushing," Norman said.
As a teenager coming through the Broncos system in the late 2000s, Norman had talent to burn but from his NRL debut as Brisbane fullback in Round 1 2010 through his first season at Parramatta in 2014 he has carried a perception that his effort or focus fell short of what was required for him to reach his potential.
That turned around in Norman's breakout 2015 season when he was a shining light for Parramatta and the now-25-year-old has hit new heights in 2016, steering his side to the Auckland Nines trophy with a player of the tournament effort before outshining Kiwi superstar Kieran Foran (in itself a lofty effort) in his team's strong 5-2 start to the year.
Norman in part credits the influence of the hard-nosed Arthur for driving him towards his best football on a consistent basis, and also believes he has matured significantly as a player.
"That was probably my nature, I was a bit laidback. Especially at the Broncos with all those great players I kind of sat back and thought 'look at all these good players'," Norman said.
"I guess I was a bit rats back then but now with someone pushing me and pushing me, it's good."
Norman said being surrounded by star power (Lockyer, Parker, Thaiday, Folau, Gillett and Te'o are just some of the superstar names that accompanied Norman's on the team sheet for his debut) should make an emerging player improve but he found himself with a tendency to let the stars do their thing.
"Sometimes you'd turn up and go 'look at all these great players around me', you can probably not have the best night and they can cover you," he said.
"I probably wasn't hard enough on myself, probably too laid back, probably like I said before a bit rats. It's a bit disappointing looking back but that's just the way it is and I'm trying to make the most of it now."
Norman certainly is making the most of his time under Arthur at Parramatta these days and the former Storm and Sea Eagles assistant isn't the type to let a player cruise along.
"He's trying to help me grow every day and when you get older you get a bit wiser and a bit smarter and that kind of stuff, it's just one of those things that's happened," Norman said.
"It helps that the side's going really well as well with your own performance and we've got a good side this year.
"It's little stuff, preparation outside of football, at home, getting into routines and stuff like that. I'm taking it on board and it's working."
Norman concedes the kick up the backside was something he needed.
"I could just sit back and go 'oh yeah' but it's good and I've enjoyed Brad pushing me to grow up and be a bit more responsible and mature a bit more and take a bit more ownership of this team.
"Another thing is staying in the game. When you're coming through you kind of tend to drop in and out of games and if you're staying in the game, when opportunities arise you're there to take them and your football goes to another level."