Arthur's 'crazy' Gutherson gamble pays off

Arthur's 'crazy' Gutherson gamble pays off

"I know a lot of people thought I was off my head and crazy for signing him. And I knew a lot of fans thought that too."

It took Brad Arthur less than 72 hours to sign Clint Gutherson. And a damned sight longer to convince the Eels and their long-suffering fans it was the right move.

Told he wasn't a part of Manly's rebuilding project five months after extending his stay on a two-year-deal, Gutherson lobbed at Parramatta for the 2016 pre-season.

Though still in the final stages of recovery from his first ACL rupture, by the end of his first week in Sydney's west he was already being seen by Arthur as a future club captain.

By the end of Gutherson's first month for the Eels, he had 11 errors, not much else to add to his name, and the faithful baying for his blood.

Parramatta's future King was their biggest pariah. Not for the first time, Arthur saw the forest for the trees, and backed his man.

"A lot of coaches when I first came to Parra probably would've dropped me," Gutherson told NRL.com.

"I didn't start off too well on the wing, I copped a bit of abuse and that.

"But Brad stuck by me, he saw something in me and I'm thankful that he did. If I'd been dropped back then you never know what could have happened.

"To this day you think about that and you want to repay him for sticking by you and sticking solid. He's been massive for my career and I'm just thankful for it."

Arthur remembers having to "fill everyone around me with confidence in him - 'just give him some time, he'll be right'."

With Parramatta sitting last and speculation suggesting Arthur had lost the dressing room a few weeks back, Gutherson and his teammates returned the favour with interest.

"When we get asked about it we get revved up because BA has done so much for each of us, you can't help but get frustrated and defend him," Gutherson said.

"There's nothing to those things and we all blew up when it was put in the team chat straight away. We know what goes on inside our place, and the outside talk, it is what it is, but it still shits you."

For Gutherson, the bond with Arthur was first forged when Manly severed another.

After making his NRL debut in the same round-26 game in 2013 as Jake Trbojevic, the young pair thought they'd be in maroon and white together for the next decade as the club's future.

They were trumpeted as much in April 2015, headlining a triple re-signing announcement that also included Tom Trbojevic.

Out the other side of Geoff Toovey's sacking, Bob Fulton swept a broom through the club and Gutherson with it.

"Unfortunately I got tapped on the shoulder and my manager called me and said, 'You can stay but you probably won't play, you'll probably be playing reserve grade'," Gutherson recalled.

"… I went and saw Brad the next day at Parra. He showed me around and told me what he thought I could be as a player and where he thought I could get to.

"I went home that night, slept on it, and asked for a release the next day to sign with Parra.

"I've never met (Fulton), but I wouldn't mind thanking him for letting me go.

"He's probably done me a favour in the long run. With Tommy Turbo at the back I might not have had the chance to play fullback at Manly or even at Parra.

"It gave me the opportunity to look elsewhere and I'm thankful in the end that Fulton did."

By the end of Gutherson's first season at the Eels, Arthur raised the prospect of the captaincy. The respect from his peers, the extras and commitment to Parramatta's cause, had not gone unnoticed.

Another 12 months on, the conversation rolled around again. The 23-year-old went home, slept on it once more, and the next day was co-captain. 

Never mind his recovery from a second ACL rupture, the type of debilitating injury that typically takes a player 18 months to truly overcome.

"The timing was right for where we were at as a club and as a team," Arthur says of elevating Gutherson alongside Tim Mannah and Beau Scott.

"With Gutho he's pretty calm and takes everything pretty easily. If I thought it was going to be something that messed with his headspace, I definitely wouldn't have.

"But that's why I was comfortable with him playing, he was ready to play mentally long before his body was right to play physically.

"With a lot of those injuries it's mentally that takes longer for them to play rather than the other way around off the back of those horrific injuries."

Once Gutherson had got through that long-awaited comeback against Canberra, the announcement was made. A week later - against Manly, of course - the King was officially crowned.

I've never met (Fulton), but I wouldn't mind thanking him for letting me go.

Clint Gutherson

Friday night's clash with Canterbury pits the famous western Sydney rivals in a scrap to keep their seasons alive.

One will likely be sitting in last place by the end of the weekend, the other a couple of wins away from the top eight.

Knowing full well how far a bit of belief can go, from the Sea Eagles scrap heap to Parramatta captaincy after all, Gutherson is all in.  

"We've got to start winning, we simply have to," Gutherson says.

"It's getting closer to halfway through the year and we're in last spot, it's desperate for us. We had a good couple of runs last year, we can draw on those. I think we won nine of 10 games or something late in the season.

"So the confidence is there that we can. We just have to start winning."