Henry's admiration for Arthur's Eels
As coach of the Gold Coast Titans for the past two years Neil Henry knows a thing or two about outside distractions.
Following the club's departure from the failed Centre of Excellence, the Titans had to twice relocate their training base to temporary facilities prior to the start of the 2015 season. Meanwhile players were sacked for off-field indiscretions and eventually the NRL assumed ownership of a club no sponsor wanted to be associated with.
Which is why ahead of Saturday's clash with Parramatta at Cbus Super Stadium Henry is in a better position than most to empathise with the turmoil that Eels coach Brad Arthur has been forced to confront on a weekly basis this year.
Such has been the fallout since the revelations regarding Parramatta's salary cap rorting, there has barely been a Brad Arthur press conference that has focused on what has been happening on the field.
Amidst the incredible saga that has played out at Parramatta, under Arthur the Eels have somehow still managed to win more games than nine other teams in this year's Telstra Premiership but any slim hopes of a finals berth go on the line against the Titans this week.
With his team sitting in the top eight Henry and Arthur could both be considered Coach of the Year contenders for vastly different reasons and the Titans mentor has no doubt the example set by the Eels coach has allowed his players to continue to perform.
"As the leader it's how he handles things. If your coach is looking stressed and under pressure that rubs off on the players," Henry told NRL.com.
"He's obviously been able to focus on footy and winning and competing and improving the players and giving them feedback and being supportive of what they're going through but also saying that there are parts they can't control.
"There are bits they can [control] around player behaviour but ultimately when you get out onto the field no one is going to have any sympathy for you there.
"That's where your competitive nature needs to take over and it's you against the other guy and your team against another team.
"He's obviously got a good group of men around him in his coaching staff that have taken the same attitude and gone on with their preparation of this team.
"It's a credit to how they've gone."
On the back of a horror off-season prior to the 2015 season the Titans lost their opening three games of the year with a charity partner adorning the front of the jersey yet found a way to fight back.
At the end of Round 14 they were sitting inside the top eight but Henry says any sense of a siege mentality only remains effective while the results are coming on the field.
"It's a fine line between it being a distraction and it being a positive," said Henry, who has the Titans on course for a first finals appearance in six years.
"It can be a siege mentality at times but that only works while you're getting the job done. Then when you're not you've got to look at how you can improve and how you can be competitive.
"I was very proud of the boys at the time to be able to put distractions to the side and get on with the task at hand.
"We couldn't control what people were saying about the organisation, we couldn't control the ownership, we couldn't really control where we were going to train but what we could do was control our reaction to things and how we performed, how we prepared and how we competed.
"If you're showing a brave front and a competitive front it says a lot about the character of the team."
The Eels showed tremendous resilience to shock the Panthers and lead 18-6 at half-time last weekend but the loss of Michael Jennings through injury on top of the absence of Corey Norman meant they couldn't keep pace in the second half.
When the Titans and Eels last met in Darwin in Round 14 Gold Coast got out to an 8-0 lead but were unable to finish the job as Parramatta won 22-12 and Henry is expecting the Eels to show similar desperation on Saturday.
"While there's hope of a finals berth – and there's still a slight chance – you can cling onto that as motivation. The test will come when that is completely out of the question, whether or not you can still maintain the same focus, energy and intensity," said Henry.
"I thought if we could have got another try that maybe it would have been too hard for them up there.
"There was an 80-metre try against the run of play and that was a real turning point and gave them some confidence around that game.
"I thought they could have been taken there but they bounced back and we didn't complete too well in the second half and they got the win.
"It will be up to us now to make sure we don't replicate that sort of effort on Saturday."