Parramatta will look to put a disastrous 48 hours behind them when they host Melbourne in Monday’s NRL match at Pirtek Stadium.
Just one day after troubled captain Kieran Foran was alleged to have lost $75,000 out of his TAB account in a gambling splurge, halves partner Corey Norman was then linked to a police investigation involving suspected drugs at The Star casino on Friday night.
The twin dramas are just the latest hurdles the under-siege Eels will have to overcome, and comes after their salary cap breach left them needing to win 12 of their final 14 games to keep their season alive.
Coach Brad Arthur addressed the Foran situation with the media on Sunday before backing his players’ resiliency to cast aside the ongoing sagas and perform against the Storm on Monday.
“This is just another drama in the soap opera for us. It’s not an excuse for us in terms of how we play or what we put on the football field. We’ll never let it do that,” he said.
A realistic Arthur acknowledged the dire equation his team now faces, but continued to preach defence as a means to keep an unlikely premiership dream alive.
“We win tomorrow night and it becomes less,” Arthur said.
“(But) we can’t focus on that. We need to focus on our defence. Come the end of the year, if we’re up there, top three or four in the defence columns against us, I’m sure we’ll be playing semis.
“If we’re not, we won’t be.”
Arthur urged the Eels’ hurting fanbase to remain strong, promising an end to their ongoing scandals.
“I know it seems hard to listen to, but we’ll push through this,” he said.
“There will be a time when this all stops. They just gotta stay strong.
“The players are staying strong. I’ve got a really good coaching staff, they’re staying strong, and we’ll come out the other side.
“What better way than to start tomorrow night with a really strong performance.”
Foran’s return means Brad Takairangi will revert to the centres, and Vai Toutai will miss out.
For the Storm, former Eels centre Ryan Morgan is understood to be making his club debut just two weeks after leaving Parramatta, with Tohu Harris shifting back to the second row.
A win for Melbourne would lift them over premiership favourites Brisbane and North Queensland, equal on points competition leaders Cronulla.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Parramatta have won just seven of their past 20 Monday night fixtures, and have also conceded over 20 points in 18 of those matches.
* Parramatta has struggled to defend penalties this season, conceding a league-high 13 of their 24 tries in the set directly following a penalty.
* Melbourne are the only team this season yet to concede 20 points, and are missing the least tackles and conceding the fewest offloads in the league.