Brad Arthur.
Brad Arthur faces a testing next four NRL games, which could decide his future at Parramatta. Image by Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby league

Arthur enters defining month at under-pressure Eels

Jasper Bruce May 7, 2024

Ryan Matterson has rejected suggestion Parramatta could find themselves in the same situation as South Sydney with Brad Arthur entering the defining month of his 11-year coaching tenure.

Pressure on Arthur reached boiling point ahead of the Eels’ round-nine bye, with the side dropping four of their previous five games and slumping to 12th on the NRL ladder.

Parramatta failed to make the 2023 finals and they risk falling behind the pace again as clashes with heavyweights Brisbane, Melbourne and Cronulla await in May.

The Eels’ other opponent in the next month, Souths, sacked their coach Jason Demetriou last Tuesday amid poor performances on a similarly tough stretch of games.

Like Parramatta, the Rabbitohs failed to play finals in 2023 after years of sustained success, and began the new season slowly.

“That’s what you sign up for when you sign an NRL contract,” Eels second-rower Shaun Lane told AAP of the Rabbitohs’ coaching call.

“It might have such-and-such years written on the contract but everyone has to be held accountable for their performances. We’re no different.”

Disappointed Parramatta players.
 Ryan Matterson (C) and some Eels teammates after conceding a try against Canberra. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

On the surface, Parramatta face a similar predicament to Souths but Matterson said unlike Demetriou’s Rabbitohs, the Eels had it in their power to snap out of their slump.

“The difference there is we’re turning up and we can win those games,” Matterson told AAP.

” I don’t feel like we’re far away. I think Brad’s job is pretty secure here because the boys want to play for him.

“We’re turning up, we’re playing tough football.”

Eels chief executive Jim Sarantinos publicly defended Arthur in the face of pressure earlier in the season.

But losses across the next four games could leave Parramatta 3-9 at the halfway point of the year, their finals hopes again in doubt.

Captain and fullback Clint Gutherson is set to miss all four with his knee injury, while a foot fracture will keep influential halfback Mitch Moses out of at least the Broncos game this Friday.

The Eels’ playing group have addressed their current situation and remain confident as rookie Blaize Talagi looks set to begin a stint replacing Gutherson at the back of the park.

Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson.
 Injured Eels Mitch Moses and Clint Gutherson celebrating a 2023 win over the Titans. Image by Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS 

“We know we’re only two points out of the eight and a lot of people are saying we’re not playing our best football,” Matterson said.

“We’re not at our best, and we’re still thereabouts.”

To turn things around, Matterson says they must kick their habit of producing “brain explosions” in second halves; Parramatta have only trailed at halftime twice in eight games this season but have a 3-5 record.

The alarming trend was on show in their past two losses. The Eels leaked eight second-half tries and capitulated 44-16 to the Dolphins in round seven before Maika Sivo’s raised elbow reduced Parramatta to 12 players with the game on the line late against Manly.

“It’s definitely a mental thing,” Matterson said of the habit.

“They’re just brain explosions. We’ve got to cut that out because at the moment, we’re beating ourselves. If we nullify those, we can go a long way to winning these games.

“If we just stop shooting ourselves in the foot, we’ll be in the top eight.”