Angry but determined, Parramatta players are rallying behind coach Brad Arthur as the man to navigate their path out of the club’s salary scandal.
The resurgent Eels team have a mountain to climb after being docked all 12 competition points for systematic salary cap cheating by their club and they’re still waiting to learn if they can earn points from their next match against South Sydney.
That decision is in limbo while five Eels officials including chairman Steve Sharp and CEO John Boulous challenge the NRL’s bid to deregister them over the scandal.
Meanwhile the players are taking their lead from the steadying influence of Arthur.
While fans vent their fury at the NRL and at the under-fire Eels officials, hooker Nathan Peats was careful not to let his frustration show out of respect for the coach.
“I’m disappointed in the whole situation. It’s disappointing to lose points like that,” Peats said in NSW City representative team camp on Thursday.
“But out of respect for BA (Arthur), he’s been doing such a good job this year, I don’t want to say something that will get myself into trouble.”
Lawyers for the five Eels officials – Sharp, Boulous, deputy chairman Tom Issa, board member Peter Serrao and football manager Daniel Anderson – will return to the Supreme Court on Friday after winning an injunction against their temporary suspension two days ago.
But the club has been told by NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg that if the five are still present when the side take on the Rabbitohs on Friday week, they will not be able to play for points.
Arthur learnt about crisis management while an assistant to Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy during the Storm’s 2010 salary cap scandal.
Facing the prospect of having to win at least 12 of their final 15 to make the finals, Peats said the side was undeterred and still eyeing off a spot in the top eight.
“If we’re playing for points, you’ve got to have faith in your own squad,” Peats said.
The Eels showed plenty of heart in their last start win over Canterbury, brushing aside a whirlwind of distractions including the absence of skipper Kieran Foran who was granted leave after being hospitalised.
Winger Clint Gutherson said they were capable of harnessing that tenacity to fight their way into the finals.
“We’re a confident bunch of players,” Gutherson said.
“When we get the opportunity, we’re going to be ready to go.
“Next Friday, no matter what, we’re going to be ready to go.”