Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has adopted a siege mentality as his desperate side’s NRL finals hopes go on the line against Penrith on Sunday.
Already without skipper Kieran Foran for the rest of the year, the Eels were dealt what could be two potentially fatal blows this week when Semi Radradra was ruled out for six weeks and five-eighth Corey Norman was stood down following his conviction for drug possession.
The club had hoped to field Norman – who was the difference in their dramatic 22-18 win over Sydney Roosters last week – against the Panthers at Pepper Stadium on Sunday before the NRL intervened and demand he be stood down.
It came as transcripts of Arthur’s interview with NRL investigators over the salary cap scandal revealed the extent of the infighting and distrust within the club.
The club has dug its heels in and is preparing to appeal the $1 million fine and loss of 12 competition points imposed by the NRL for its systemic salary cap breaches since 2013.
However Arthur repeatedly refused to buy into any of the turmoil surrounding the club during his pre-game press conference on Saturday and reiterated his desire to “focus on the positives”.
“It’s tremendous the boys have been able to keep fronting up and focus on what their job which is to play football, to play for each other,” Arthur said.
“They’ve still got a lot of belief regardless of a few surrounding issues.
“We do have our fair share of injuries too. Last week we had plenty of players playing out of position but we had the effort and the energy and desire to go out there and perform well.”
Brad Takairangi was expected to move into five-eighth for Norman, however Arthur revealed he was still struggling with a hamstring injury which has kept him out since round 12.
As well, centre Michael Jennings on Saturday faced a fitness test to back up after Wednesday’s State of Origin III.
Should Takairangi be ruled out, Kenny Edwards is expected to partner Jeff Robson in the halves.
The Panthers go into the game having lost two straight and another will see a gap open up between them and the top eight.
Winger Josh Mansour and skipper Matt Moylan are expected to back up after Origin.
Moylan stepped up for NSW in the unfamiliar No.6 jumper during Origin III but coach Anthony Griffin said his immediate future at club level was at fullback.
“It was a big ask for him without ever having played there but he certainly doesn’t lack any courage,” Griffin said.
“It’s a possibility (to move him to No.6) but just with our team, in the short term, his role is fullback.
“Obviously when you see him play like that the other night,it gives him a lot of confidence personally about being able to handle that role.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* The past three meetings between these two sides have been decided by six points or less.
* The Eels strength has been their defence, conceding the fourth least points (15.8), tries (2.8) and offloads (9) per game.
* Source: Fox Sports Stats