Eels heap praise on 'passionate' Arthur
Parramatta players have praised the dedication coach Brad Arthur has shown in holding the playing group together through unprecedented turmoil throughout 2016 and are relieved he is tied to the club for at least three more years.
Between the salary cap scandal that ruined their finals hopes, saw the board sacked and stars Nathan Peats and Junior Paulo forced out to the well-publicised personal dramas that led to prized recruit Kieran Foran's mid-year departure, off-field issues ending star half Corey Norman's season early and an absurd injury toll particularly in the halves and outside backs, the Eels have faced more than their fair share of adversity this season but the players have stuck solid.
While their form has tailed off somewhat since entrenching themselves in the top four earlier in the year they have remained competitive, still boasting the second-best defence in the league and – with the exception of last week's second-half fadeout against Brisbane – have been right in just about every contest this year up to the closing stages.
Arthur was a special guest on Foxtel's 'Sterlo' program on Wednesday night where he told Eels legend Peter Sterling about his belief and pride in the playing group and praised their strength and commitment throughout a tough season.
On Thursday, amid preparations to travel to Canberra to face the in-form Raiders, the players spoke of a desire to continue to show the same fight and commitment Arthur had instilled in them as they look to finish the season on a strong note.
"I watched [the 'Sterlo'] last night too and he spoke really well. He's a passionate man," Eels forward David Gower said.
"He's passionate about this club and the direction we're heading. All he asks from us each day when we turn up is just to give our best, be accountable to him, be accountable to our mates and the boys next to you and I think we've done a pretty good job of doing that. That's why he's so proud.
"There's been times we've let each other down here or there but over the course of the year I think we've done a lot more where we've looked after each other and backed each other up and been accountable and we just turn up and have a crack. We want to have a dig for everyone: for the fans, the club, each other.
"We really enjoy playing for Brad and for the club. We all love playing for Parra."
Despite all he's had to deal with this year, Arthur told Sterling that he loved his job and loved coming to work. Gower said it was great to have a coach that was so invested in the players.
"If he was disconnected from the group I think you'd see there'd be a few more cracks but because he's so invested in the players both as people and as players it shows in the way we play and the way we're fiercely competitive towards training and games, we've stuck together through thick and thin," Gower said.
"There can't have been much more go wrong this year and Brad's been the rock throughout the whole thing and the boys have stuck solid throughout everything that's happened."
Winger-turned-centre Clint Gutherson is a fullback by trade who now finds himself at five-eighth to help plug the many gaps of the team's injury-hit backline and is emblematic of the playing group's mentality of doing what is required and what the coach asks.
Gutherson said the spirit and commitment evident in the team was something Arthur had helped build right through the year dating back to the last off-season.
"When you look at the person next to you and know that they're working for you you've got to work for them as well. It's a really big thing in our club," Gutherson said.
"Between us boys we are a tight group, we do everything together so it's when you get out on the field you know you're going to be there and you don't want to let each other down. It's a pretty strong group here and we're just going to keep working that for the last three weeks."
Gutherson said Arthur's contribution to that spirit had been "massive".
"As everyone knows he's been holding us [together] and keeping us at level terms and just telling us what we need to do to get through it. As everyone's seen we keep performing on the field and we're going to keep performing the last three weeks," Gutherson said.
"It's a massive credit to him and the coaching staff to keep us in that and it's a massive credit to the rest of the boys as well.
"We just don't really pay too much attention to it (the negativity) and whatever comes our way we sort of just deal with it and want to get out on the field and let it out and play some good footy."
Gutherson welcomed the vote of confidence Arthur had shown in the club and players by recently agreeing to extend his deal by two years through to 2019.
"You can tell every day he's in here early and he's the last one to leave. You know what you're getting from him and he does love the club. He puts everything into the club. He's at home and still working," Gutherson said.
"It's massive for the club and as a team moving forward into the next couple of years having him, it's a bit of security for us as a group and as a club as well."