Eels' resilience brought Brown to club
An outsider may have looked at the dramas engulfing Parramatta's 2016 season and thought it may have been the last place an aspiring rugby league player would want to go – but for former Rabbitohs prop Nathan Brown, the way the players and coach handled those tough times showed him that it was exactly where he wanted to be.
Among the litany of things that went wrong for the Eels last year, unquestionably the biggest was the deduction of 12 competition points after it was found the club's administration had been rorting the salary cap.
But through that and a mountain of other issues, the playing group stuck solid under coach Brad Arthur and continued to put in their best each week, eventually winning enough games that they would have made the finals if not for the penalty.
To do so despite not only the off-field distractions but also the loss of key players such as Keiran Foran, Corey Norman, Nathan Peats and Junior Paulo for large chunks of the season impressed City Origin forward Brown, who had nothing but praise for the way the club had welcomed him since he joined.
"They still could have played semi-finals last year if they'd kept their points and they went out each game with hunger to win even after they were playing for nothing which is pretty inspiring if you ask me," Brown told NRL.com of his decision to join the club.
"Everyone respects Brad highly and all the boys are tight which you want coming into a new club. They've been outstanding, all the boys and the staff."
The players spoke last year of the bond they shared which helped them push the dramas aside and made it easy to want to play for each other, and that remains evident, according to Brown.
"Our bond that we have together with the boys on and off the field, that's what you need. Especially coming from another club, the boys have been outstanding," he said.
"Top four is our goal and I'm sure we'll get there."
Along with the club's resilience, it was their impressive coach that helped draw Brown across.
"'BA' (Arthur), I'd heard a lot of good things about him and as soon as I met him the way he wanted to play footy is the footy I like to play," Brown said.
"All the boys have got around me and made it an easy decision to come to Parra. He's been outstanding the way he likes to play footy and it suits my game."
Brown plugs a significant gap for the Eels; the sudden retirement of Danny Wicks meant prop forward could have been their weak spot with a shortage of back-up for captain Tim Mannah – but the recruitment Brown plus Suaia Matagi and Frank Pritchard ensures the Eels have depth in every spot.
But despite Brown's impressive breakout 2016 season, one in which he often walked off the park having been the best performer in a pack that included a host of Burgess brothers, he insists he has no guarantees about his spot in the side for Round 1.
"Brad hasn't said anything like that, the boys have still got a couple of trials, we don't know who's going to be there Round 1 but I'm looking forward to it," he said.