Arthur: 'We're all playing for our futures'
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has put his players all but in charge of their preparation for this Saturday's clash with North Queensland, conceding his struggling side is now playing for pride and possibly their futures in the Blue & Gold.
The Eels sit in last place, four competition points adrift of their nearest rival Canterbury, leading into their home game with the Cowboys which is being played in Darwin.
The dire situation has prompted Arthur to rejig their lead-in to the round-14 fixture.
Senior figures including Clint Gutherson, Tim Mannah, Corey Norman and Michael Jennings ran this week's video and analysis sessions with little input from Arthur, while the players were also left to their own devices for Friday's 40-minute captain's run.
With a restructured schedule in the Northern Territory, their heaviest training session came earlier in the week to allow a more relaxed lead-up to game day, to the point players took to training barefoot at TIO Stadium.
Following a 30-4 last-start loss to Newcastle that Gutherson labelled "embarrassing", Arthur has put the onus on his team's leaders in a bid to restore pride in their performances.
"We're not worrying about calculations, whether we can make the eight or we can't, at the moment we just need to have a bit of pride in our logo and our jersey, in ourselves," Arthur said.
"That's what tomorrow night's about and then from there we need to try and make sure we get some results go our way."
Parramatta's dreadful campaign after a top-four 2017 finish has a roster overhaul in the offing and pressure mounting on the coach and high-profile figures including Norman and Jarryd Hayne.
Asked if individuals were playing for their futures Arthur said: "We all are. I think every week, every club, every player is playing for their future."
Norman returns from a foot injury under a fierce spotlight, having been hit with $30,000 breach for drinking while injured earlier in the season amid reports the club is trying to offload him before his contract expires at the end of 2019.
Arthur has repeatedly denied talk that Norman is being pushed out and revealed the besieged playmaker would be pushing through the pain barrier to play against the Cowboys.
"Normy's doing his best - he's not going to be at 100% fitness but he's desperate to play for his teammates and that's what is needed," Arthur said.
"He loves playing. He's done everything possible to get himself right for this trip. At the start of the week, they told me he was only a 30% chance.
"He's worked really hard and I'm sure his foot is not 100% and there's bits he's not telling us about. But he's going to soldier through and that's what his teammates need."
Both Norman and Hayne (hip) are confirmed starters after getting through the captain's run unscathed.
Livewire dummy-half Reed Mahoney - their 2017 under 20s player of the year – will make his Telstra Premiership debut from the bench after being granted an NRL exemption given injuries to regular hooking options Kaysa Pritchard and Will Smith.