Parramatta pivot Dylan Brown will stay in the centres for as long as required after a successful stint there in the Eels’ 39-2 demolition of Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.
When it became clear early last week that centre Tom Opacic (neck) had become the latest admission to Parramatta’s bulging casualty ward, coach Brad Arthur was left with no other option but to push Brown to the centres and promote son Jake to partner half Mitchell Moses.
“Brad obviously has a plan as a coach, and when you think about it, I work for Brad so whatever he says goes and I’m happy to do that,” Brown told reporters after the game.
“He’s obviously the mastermind of the team and he’s been coaching for so long, so whatever he says, I’ll do.”
Brown scored the third of Parramatta’s six tries and formed a productive makeshift left edge alongside Jake Arthur, back-rower Shaun Lane and winger Hayze Perham.
Capitalising on their forwards’ superior ruck speed and hooker Reed Mahoney’s incisive running and slick service from dummy-half, the Eels attacked Newcastle’s right edge with great success to build a 14-2 lead by half-time.
That advantage was stretched to 20-2 seven minutes into the second half when Brown, who ran for 131 metres and made six tackle breaks, took Mahoney’s pass to score Parramatta’s third try.
Dylan Brown reaches out to score
“The Newcastle defence is really, really tight so we found some joy out there,” Brown said.
“Jakey was unreal and I’m happy for him … and the kid can play, so I’m happy to play wherever I need to be for the team.
“There’s that many injuries so I had to go there, but centre’s fun. I enjoyed that.”
Factoring in the extra travel requirements and sensitivity around any neck injury, the Eels are unlikely to rush Opacic back for their trip to Darwin to tackle the Cowboys next Saturday but will reassess him before their blockbuster against the Panthers at Penrith on May 6.
That would give Brown at least another chance to play a little wider than usual.
“I’m not sure who’s back when but if I need to keep playing centre, I’m happy to do so,” he said.
Brown’s previous 60 NRL games had all been at five-eighth but Brad Arthur prepared for what lay ahead when he gave the Auckland-born 21-year-old half a game at centre in a pre-season trial against Penrith.
“I thought Dyl was excellent. He’s a footy player,” Arthur said after the win against Newcastle.
“We knew pretty early in the week, and we haven’t got another back available in our squad at the moment in our top 30, so that was the obvious choice and Dylan bought into it.
Arthur lauds team first attitude of Dylan Brown
“He did a good job, we had an opportunity to train for it, defensively he’s great, he carried the ball strong, and our first three tries were down that left edge.
“It’s not the ideal situation but we’re a squad … and it doesn’t matter about injuries. We’ve got to put the next bloke in, and he’s got to do a job.
“We weren’t preparing to have this many injuries and at the end of the day, Dylan Brown’s best position is six, but at the moment, he needs to help us out a bit there [at centre].”
Though naturally pleased with the results, Arthur said the Eels had no pre-conceived ideas about attacking Newcastle’s right-edge of Jake Clifford, Dane Gagai and Enari Tuala on Sunday.
“We don’t have too specific a plan. We know what works for us, we stick to that, and I like the boys to play eyes-up footy,” Arthur said.
“If there’s numbers on the left, we’ll go there, or if they’re short on the right, we’ll go there.
“The boys have got a pretty free rein. We’ve got some disciplines in our team that we need to get right, and when we get them right, I’m happy for them to play what they see.”