NRL 2022: ‘Unfair’ taunts won’t stop Parra coach from picking son again

Jake Arthur is a valuable member of the Eels squad according to his dad and coach Brad Arthur who says he won’t hesitate in picking Jake again this season.

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur won’t hesitate to pick his son Jake in the halves again this season despite nepotism taunts hurled at the family this week.

Arthur broke his silence on the selection controversy on Thursday, revealing an injury crisis that left Parramatta with just 19 available players was behind his decision to move in-from five-eighth Dylan Brown into the centres and Jake into the No.6 role.

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Jake played at five-eighth in the victory over Newcastle before the Eels were comprehensively beaten by North Queensland and fans took to social media attacking young Arthur’s selection in the starting side.

“At the end of the day, we have 19 players of our squad available of only 28 that are in the top 30. I did what every coach would do, pick your best 17 and then I put them in positions,” Arthur said.

“It worked for us the week before and it didn’t work (against the Cowboys). It certainly wasn’t his fault. I felt like we didn’t compete at every contest and we didn’t have the same attitude or effort as the week before.

“He‘s still a valuable member of our squad and, if something was to happen in the halves, he gets an opportunity.”

Parramatta Eels head coach Brad Arthur won’t hesitate to pick his son Jake again this season. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Parramatta Eels head coach Brad Arthur won’t hesitate to pick his son Jake again this season. Picture: Jonathan Ng

Jake Arthur is contracted to the Eels until the end of 2023.

Asked if the experience had forced is son to reconsider staying at Parramatta while he was still coaching at the club, Arthur said: “That‘s his decision. That‘s the club’s decision if they want him, so it’s not something that we need to worry about now.”

Arthur conceded that the father son duo would always be a target for criticism.

“It‘s unfair but it is what it is. People are entitled to their opinion but it’s always harder when it’s your own flesh and blood,” Arthur said.

“He is fine. He doesn‘t do social media so he didn’t know a hell of a lot of what was going on until he got some nice messages from people just checking he was OK.

“He asked me on Monday night what all the commotion was around and I told him. We just moved on.”

“I always knew it was going to happen. We knew it was coming,” Arthur said.

The Eels have eight players unavailable through injury including Maika Sivo (ACL), Haze Dunster (ACL), Marata Niukore (hamstring) and Waqa Blake (knee).

Arthur confirmed Tom Opacic will return from a neck injury to take on premiers Penrith in Friday night‘s highly anticipated battle of the west.

Opacic‘s return will see Brown move back into the halves with Jake Arthur to take his place in the Eels’ NSW Cup side.

“I wouldn‘t say he is a 100 per cent, not many of the boys are 100 per cent at this stage of the year, they are carrying something. He is good to go,” Arthur said.

“They have trained all week, he‘s confident that his neck is fine.”

In another boost for the Eels, outside back Sean Russell will return to the field via reserve grade after overcoming a serious rib injury. Russell was left with a punctured lung and broken ribs after a knees-first tackle by Gold Coast fullback Jayden Campbell.

“He‘ll play cup this week. He’ll play three quarters of the game in Cup. It was a pretty tough injury that he has dealt with. He’ll get some time out in Cup and we’ll see what happens after that,” Arthur said.

“Hopefully in the next two weeks we get a few back.”

Arthur challenged his side to ‘respond’ against the Panthers after last week’s poor performance against the Cowboys.

“We are hurting, there is pride on the line,” Arthur said.

“Our attitude towards the game wasn‘t good enough. Our attitude at every contest to compete … we got beat at our game, in our own effort areas.”

Arthur hits out at online trolls’ ugly attacks on his son

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has spoken out about the nepotism controversy that has dominated headlines this week, slamming the trolls that targeted his son and Eels playmaker Jake as ‘unfair.

Jake was the subject of cruel taunts of nepotism after Arthur opted to play his teenage son in the halves and move five-eighth Dylan Brown into the centres to cover for an injury crisis.

After a victory over Newcastle, the Eels were comprehensively beaten by North Queensland and fans took to social media attacking Jake’s selection in the starting side.

“It’s unfair but it is what it is. People are entitled to their opinion but it’s always harder when it’s your own flesh and blood,” Arthur said.

“He is fine. He doesn’t do social media so he didn’t know a hell of a lot of what was going on until he got some nice messages from people just checking he was ok.

“He asked me on Monday night what all the commotion was around and I told him. We just moved on.”

Despite the stoic response to the controversy from the father and son duo, Arthur admitted the criticism was inevitable.

“I always knew it was going to happen. We knew it was coming,” Arthur said.

“It’s about how you deal with it and how responds and he can’t lose any confidence. He’ll go back to play with his mates in NSW Cup and Penrith are going great in both grades.

Arthur also said selecting Brown in the centre, despite being one of the form halves in the competition, was the best way to deal with shortage of outside backs.

Dylan Brown (C) has been returned to Parramatta’s halves. Picture John Grainger
Dylan Brown (C) has been returned to Parramatta’s halves. Picture John Grainger

The coach denied the Brown move weakened one position in a bid to shore up another.

“At the end of the day, we’ve 19 players of our squad available of only 28 that are in the top 30. I did what every coach would do and I just put them in positions. It worked for us the week before and it didn’t work (against the Cowboys). It certainly wasn’t his fault. I felt like we didn’t compete at every contest and we didn;t have the same attitude or effort as the week before.

The Eels have eight players unavailable through injury including Maika Sivo (ACL), Haze Dunster (ACL), Marata Niukore (hamstring) and Waqa Blake (knee).

Arthur confirmed Tom Opacic will return from a neck injury to take on premiers Penrith in Friday night’s highly anticipated battle of the west.

Opacic’s return will see Brown move back into the halves with Jake Arthur to take his place in the Eels’ NSW Cup side.

“I wouldn’t say he is a 100 percent, not many of the boys are 100 percent at this stage of the year, they are carrying something. He is good to go,” Arthur said.

“They have trained all week, he’s confident that his neck is fine.”

Tom Opacic’s return from injury is a timely boost for the Eels. Picture: Getty
Tom Opacic’s return from injury is a timely boost for the Eels. Picture: Getty

In another boost for the Eels, outside back Sean Russell will return to the field via reserve grade after overcoming a serious rib injury. Russell was left with a punctured lung and broken ribs after a knees-first tackle by Gold Coast fullback Jayden Campbell.

“He’ll play cup this week. He’ll play three quarters of the game in Cup. It was a pretty tough injury that he has dealt with. He’ll get some time out in Cup and we’ll see what happens after that,” Arthur said.

“Hopefully in the next two weeks we get a few back.”

Arthur challenged his side to ‘respond’ against the Panthers after last week’s poor performance against the Cowboys.

“We are hurting, there is pride on the line,” Arthur said.

“Our attitude towards the game wasn’t good enough. Our attitude at every contest to compete... we got beat at our game, in our own effort areas.”

‘BLAME US’: EELS STARS TRY TO TAKE HEAT OFF ARTHUR

- Brent Read

Parramatta half Mitchell Moses has lashed critics of Jake Arthur as the teenager was taken out of the firing line for Friday night’s blockbuster against Penrith, father and coach Brad Arthur restoring Dylan Brown to the No.6 jersey.

Jake Arthur was the subject of vile abuse on social media after the club’s most recent loss to North Queensland, among the accusations that he was only in the side because of nepotism.

Moses bristled when asked about the claims on Tuesday, only hours before the club announced their team for their game against the Panthers.

Jake Arthur trains with the Eels but won’t be playing on Friday night.
Jake Arthur trains with the Eels but won’t be playing on Friday night.

The Eels have made a series of changes for that game including the return of Brown to five-eighth and a recall for Tim Opacic in the centres.

Jake Arthur was named in the No.19 jersey, suggesting he won’t take part against the Panthers. Further reinforcements are on the way for Parramatta. Winger Sean Russell will make his return in NSW Cup this week, his first appearance since suffering broken ribs and a punctured lung in the opening game of the season.

Winger Maika Sivo is also edging closer to a return - he could be back in a matter of weeks from a knee injury. In the meantime, Moses has launched a staunch defence of Jake Arthur in the wake of an embarrassing defeat in Darwin last week.

“He‘s not the reason why we lost,“ Moses said.

“They (critics) weren’t there the week before when we won by 40 (over Newcastle). He can play footy. He is a great player. We back him to the death. He has won us games before.

Moses and Gutherson both hit out at the criticism Arthur has been receiving.
Moses and Gutherson both hit out at the criticism Arthur has been receiving.

“I think it is a bit harsh all the criticism he copped. It’s not his fault we lost. As senior players we weren‘t up to scratch to help him out and help our team get a win.

“It is pretty much on us. Every player was not up to what our standards are. Run hard, tackle hard. We just didn‘t show up.”

The Panthers are yet to lose this season and could have winger Brian To’o and forward Moses Leota back for the western Sydney derby.

While they are wrestling with who to leave out, Parramatta are scrambling to find bodies capable of filling their squad.

Moses conceded the injury toll had made life difficult.

Dylan Brown (centre) is back at No.6.
Dylan Brown (centre) is back at No.6.

“That’s what I don’t think anyone realises - that was the only option we had in our squad,” Moses said.

“We had that many injuries. We just didn’t turn up this week. Dyl (Brown) was outstanding for us the week before, Jakey (Arthur) was outstanding for us the week (before) - I thought Jakey was good for us on the weekend.

“We didn’t do enough as senior players to help him out. That is on us. We had to put Dyl in the centres. That is all it is. That is probably what the fans and media don’t understand - that is all we have.”

Captain Clint Gutherson added: “Mitchy nailed it on the head. There are always people who are going to point their finger at someone.

“Unfortunately, for us and our team it was Jake. We have let him down. It is not his fault we lost that game on the weekend. I put my hand up as well.

“I will take the blame as captain of the club and a player in this team.” 

The real issue in Parramatta’s ‘nepotism’ saga

Cathy Ferguson never forgave her husband Sir Alex for allowing their son to leave Manchester United. From time to time, she would remind the Red Devils’ legendary manager of the decision to send Darren to Wolves.

“You sold your own son,” Cathy would say and Sir Alex would feel a jab in the ribs. Ferguson, arguably the greatest manager in football history, looked back on the short time he was in charge of Darren and acknowledged it wasn’t always easy.

Sir Alex Ferguson was untouchable as manager of Manchester United - but still faced a tricky ‘nepotism’ drama of his own. Picture: Getty
Sir Alex Ferguson was untouchable as manager of Manchester United - but still faced a tricky ‘nepotism’ drama of his own. Picture: Getty

We’re talking about one of the greatest coaches in sport. A bloke who won trophies for fun. A man who spent a lifetime nursing egos of some of the most flamboyant and erratic figures in world sport (think Eric Cantona).

Yet even he conceded it was a challenge juggling the roles of manager, coach and father.

Not everyone, it seems, can be the Clearys. Parramatta coach Brad Arthur and his son Jake are finding that out the hard way. These are difficult times for the Arthurs. The Eels are coming off a heavy defeat at the hands of North Queensland and his son has become a target for trolls, who have questioned the decision to shift five-eighth Dylan Brown to the centres.

Brown was flying before the move and Jake Arthur has become collateral damage of a defeat that few saw coming. The issue here isn’t whether Jake Arthur should be in the team. The real question is whether Brad Arthur got it right moving Brown to the centres.

Dylan Brown started the season in red-hot form for Parramatta. Picture: Getty
Dylan Brown started the season in red-hot form for Parramatta. Picture: Getty

The move worked a treat the week a week ago when Parramatta put the cleaners through Newcastle. No-one was complaining when the Eels won that day. The landscape changed in 80 ugly minutes in Darwin.

Parramatta were soundly beaten and Jake Arthur became the focus of unwanted and unwelcome attention, at least where social media was concerned. Social media, hey? It is part of the job these days but it can be a cesspool.

It can be unforgiving. It can be insensitive. It can be downright nasty. It may just be the straw that broke the camel’s back where the Arthurs are concerned. Jake Arthur has already been offered to rival clubs by his management.

In recent weeks, Melbourne were asked whether they would be interested in taking him as a long-term replacement for Cameron Munster.

The Storm indicated they had no desire to see Munster go. So the answer was a polite thanks for the offer, but we have our halves.

Jake Arthur will be on the radar of a number of rival clubs. Picture: Getty
Jake Arthur will be on the radar of a number of rival clubs. Picture: Getty

No doubt, Arthur will appear on the radar of other clubs over the remaining months of this season. It may be that the family decide it is best for all concerned if he and dad were at different clubs.

With Brown and Moses expected to form a long-term combination at Parramatta, Jake Arthur’s best hope of playing first grade probably resides somewhere else anyway.

In the meantime, all eyes will be on Parramatta on Tuesday afternoon when Brad Arthur selects his side for Friday night’s blockbuster against Penrith. Jake Arthur will be there somewhere.

He is a key member of a squad that only a few weeks ago was tipped to give the competition a red-hot shake. He will continue to play a part this season, not because his father is coach but because the club and his teammates believe in him.

Fans on social media may have their doubts. Accusations of nepotism will be bandied about after any loss involving the 19-year-old. History suggests, he will be praised him one week and ripped apart the next.

Thankfully, those in the inner sanctum at Parramatta aren’t as volatile or flighty.

BROWNED OFF: EELS LEGEND FUMES OVER ARTHUR CALL

- Paul Crawley

Parramatta legend Ray Price has issued a blunt message to Brad Arthur, demanding the Eels “pull their heads out of their arse” and reinstate Dylan Brown at five-eighth for Friday’s season-defining clash with premiers Penrith.

Price also declared if the Eels “want to win the comp they are going about it the wrong way” by playing Jake Arthur ahead of Brown in the halves.

It comes amid huge fallout that has followed the humiliating 35-4 shock loss to North Queensland in Darwin.

Ray Price talks with Eels halfback Mitchell Moses. Picture: David Swift
Ray Price talks with Eels halfback Mitchell Moses. Picture: David Swift

That has led to young Arthur copping some cruel criticism on social media, with the club’s media department even forced to try and shield the 19-year-old away from the ugly trolls and the claims of nepotism.

We’d contacted Price to get his thoughts on the rivalry with the Panthers ahead of the blockbuster.

But like he is known to do, Pricey just gave a brutally honest assessment about an issue that has divided fans in recent days.

“Mate, they need to pull their heads out of their arse,” Price said.

“Tell me, why would you change your half and five-eighth combination?

“Can you tell me that?

“I can’t believe that.

“This young kid who is now 21, Brown, he is just becoming a footballer.

“He is playing some bloody good football.

Jake Arthur has come in for some heavy criticism. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Jake Arthur has come in for some heavy criticism. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

“Why push him out to the centre? Why keep changing.

“If you want to win the comp, they are going about it the wrong way.

“They keep changing the most important positions and they put inexperience in it. You can’t win with inexperience.”

Up until his recent shift Brown was one of the competition’s form players, averaging 76 running metres a game, as well as some outstanding attacking stats.

In comparison, Jake Arthur didn’t make one run against the Cowboys.

Price said he wouldn’t mind if young Arthur came on occasionally and filled in to get experience.

But it should not come at the expense of moving Brown out of his preferred position, especially in a game as important as this week’s against the Panthers who are unbeaten this season in eight matches.

In fairness to coach Arthur he has been fighting an injury crisis in the backline.

On the weekend the Eels were still without Maika Sivo (knee), Haze Dunster (knee), Sean Russell (ribs), Waqa Blake (knee), Tom Opacic (neck) and Marata Nuikore (hamstring).

There is a chance Opacic could return this week with Arthur set to name his team on Tuesday.

But Price’s view is that regardless, if you need to bring someone in play them in the centres, not in the halves.

Dylan Brown has been in fine form this season. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Dylan Brown has been in fine form this season. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

“I think Parramatta can still beat Penrith but they have got to want to do it more than what the fans want to do it,” Price said.

“If you haven’t got that in you don’t go out on the field because it is just a waste of time.

“I have still got the belief in them.

“I think we have one of the best forwards packs going around and we have got very capable backs.

“But leave them in their bloody positions.

“I have nothing against his son. He is just inexperienced.”

He said this was a “huge” game for Parramatta in the context of their season.

“If they want to prove they can do something this year this is the game that they have got to set alight,” Price added.

“And I think they can do it. I believe in them.

“I might bag them every now and then but I believe in them.”

Originally published as NRL 2022: ‘Unfair’ taunts won’t stop Parra coach from picking son again

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