Back in 2018 the Parramatta Eels claimed the wooden spoon, something no team wishes to boast about, finishing bottom of the pile in the NRL. While it wouldn’t be uncommon for most clubs to fire their head coach, then look for someone else to turn things around, the Eels remained supportive of Brad Arthur and now, that patience is being rewarded.
Since the dismal 2018 wooden spoon campaign, the Eels have made a dramatic transformation and like their name, have proved far too slippery for many of their opponents to handle. After concluding the 2019 regular season in fifth position, Arthur’s team qualified for the finals series, demolishing Brisbane Broncos before falling to Melbourne Storm. This season, they’re continuing to impress and have even set their sights on reaching the Grand Final.
— Joel&JimmySEN (@JoelJimmySEN) June 29, 2020
While some teams chop and change their head coach frequently, Brad Arthur is now in his seventh consecutive campaign leading the Parramatta Eels and their patience could be rewarded at last. Indeed, the latest rugby league odds on the regular season have the Eels priced at 5/2 for the Minor Premiers title, while they’re also considered strong candidates to win the NRL 2020 Grand Final at 15/4 odds.
Such odds underline a fine start to the 2020 campaign, with the Eels having won six of their opening seven games. The only defeat came with a 24-10 loss against the Sydney Roosters, who remain strong favourites to claim a third consecutive NRL Grand Final title this year. However, they remain behind Parramatta in the chase for the Minor Premiers title, as the Eels look unwilling to relinquish their position at the top of the ladder.
Such is the fruit of sticking by a head coach, given that Arthur has now taken the Eels from being one of the worst teams in the NRL to becoming one of the best. What’s more, thanks to five consecutive wins to open the campaign, the Eels have also made their best start to a rugby league season since way back in 1986, when Parramatta went on to defeat Canterbury-Bankstown in the Grand Final.
Arthur first joined the Parramatta Eels in 2011 as assistant coach to Stephen Kearney, with both having switched from the Melbourne Storm. When Kearney was fired in 2012, Arthur saw out the season as caretaker before Ricky Stuart was appointed in 2013. Arthur made his return to the club as head coach ahead of the 2014 campaign, although his first three campaigns were only memorable for the salary cap scandal in 2016.
“We’re in a really good place with the desire, the want, the character and trying to build as a team.”
— Parramatta Eels (@TheParraEels) June 28, 2020
After guiding the Eels to their first finals series appearance since 2009 in 2017, which was followed by the disastrous wooden spoon campaign of 2018, few believed Arthur would remain at the helm beyond the end of his contract in 2019. Nevertheless, a superb 2019 season restored confidence in his coaching abilities, even resulting in a two-year contract extension. That faith from Parramatta is now being repaid, and then some.
The Eels with Arthur at the helm are currently a force to be reckoned with in the NRL, which nobody could have predicted just a few short years ago. While it remains to be seen if the excellent form and results can be maintained, the fans in Parramatta are increasingly full of hope that he can take them all the way to a Grand Final. That would be a spectacular achievement and evidence that patience from the club has been thoroughly deserved.