Robson targets enjoyable end to career
Returning Eels halfback Jeff Robson says he isn't the slightest bit fazed by the club's off field dramas – he just wants to enjoy the last couple of months of his NRL career and hopefully take some pressure off Parramatta's last fit playmaker Corey Norman.
Norman has been in sublime form personally but a season-ending injury to Kieran Foran – who has since asked for time away from football – as well as to back-up halfback Luke Kelly, combined with medium-term injuries to next-in-line half Mitch Cornish and makeshift pivot Brad Takairangi have carved a swathe through the blue and gold playmaking ranks.
With 2009 Parramatta Grand Final halfback Jeff Robson languishing in reserve grade in Auckland while missing his wife and young daughter, it made sense for coach Brad Arthur to bring the retiring 33-year-old home.
Robson arrived in the nick of time for a club that has also lost its first and third string dummy-halves in Nathan Peats (mid-season switch to Titans) and Kaysa Pritchard (knee), given the last remaining No.9, Isaac De Gois, was concussed barely 15 minutes into Friday night's gutsy win over the Roosters.
Robson hadn't anticipated his blue and gold return to be spent providing service from dummy-half but after playing a key role in the heart-stopping win he told NRL.com the spirit among the team in the face of so much off-field turmoil was incredible.
"I was really impressed by the way the boys turned up for each other [on Friday]. Under the pump, lost a few boys due to injury and concussion. Roosters played some really good footy there and we just hung in and scrambled and it was really nice to get the win," he said.
The spirit among the players was something he noticed as soon as he arrived back at the club, he added.
"They're a great bunch of boys, a lot of characters in there and light hearted but when it comes down to training everyone's on and very intense and I've really enjoyed my past week that I've spent with them and look forward to the next eight or nine weeks leading into the finals," he said.
The finals are still a mathematical possibility for the Eels despite losing 12 competition points as part of their salary cap penalty, though they would need an unlikely eight wins from eight games to ensure that happens. Although Robson was part of the club's stunning late-season surge to the grand final in 2009 he isn't looking further ahead than next week in what he says is definitely his last year in the top grade.
"I just want to enjoy my footy with this playing group. They're a great bunch of guys and I've really enjoyed my last week that I've spent with them so I'm just really looking forward to the seven or eight weeks left," he said.
"Brad [Arthur] stresses that a lot with the way he coaches is to go out there and enjoy yourself and enjoy your footy and I think that showed [against the Roosters] with the boys turning up for each other and not wanting to let each other down. I'm really glad that I'm allowed to be a part of this team."
As someone who lived through Cronulla's 'year from hell' in 2014, Robson wasn't the slightest bit fazed about Parramatta's off-field turmoil – especially given the chance for him to return home and provide greater support to his wife and young daughter, who has autism.
"Not really [worried about the salary cap] to be honest, I've played at this club before, I played all my junior footy here, I know what it's like to play for Parramatta, it's a great club and Brad's a great coach," he said.
"I was happy when the opportunity came to come back here. I was really pleased to get that opportunity.
"Obviously [the Warriors] got a lot of depth over there in their halves and me playing reserve grade and living away from my family sort of made it pretty hard for myself, especially when I could have been living over here in Sydney playing reserve grade.
"My wife works full time and I've got an autistic daughter so I had to weigh up things. I really enjoyed my time at the Warriors but I think I've made the right decision coming back and being with my family.
"Me being around and taking a bit of stress off my wife and I also can't thank the Warriors enough for my time that I spent there and for being so understanding and granting me the release."
No matter what happens through the rest of 2016, Robson is adamant he won't be swayed into going around again next year.
"Yeah it is definitely [my last season]," he said.
"I'm not getting any younger and I don't think I can handle another pre-season. I'm really looking forward to playing some good footy with this group and seeing what happens."
In the short term Robson is hoping to provide a service to the club by taking pressure off Norman – though if the former Bronco is feeling targeted as the lone playmaker it didn't show in his stunning, match-winning effort against the Roosters in which he set up all four of his team's tries.
"I look forward to the next few weeks, building a bit of a combination with him and hopefully taking a bit of pressure off him. He's been under a lot of pressure the last couple of weeks playing in a side that's pretty much had one half. I've been there before and it's not very easy," Robson said.
"I know how hard it is to try and run a team by yourself. A lot of clubs are smart these days, they notice these things, they load up on you and it makes it extremely hard to put on points and score tries."
Norman told NRL.com he was looking forward to having another fit and experienced half around.
"It is really good [that he's signed], 'Robbo' brings a lot of experience and he's really good off the ball with the chat and he's going to steer this team around really well so I'm looking forward to working with Robbo," Norman said.