With the guillotine set to fall on Parramatta’s NRL season next week, star rookie Bevan French has given the blue and gold faithful cause for hope for the future.
French proved what good judges have been saying for years about the 20-year-old winger – that he’s a star in the making and he shapes as one of the pillars around which coach Brad Arthur can rebuild the club.
The NRL is expected to confirm the Eel’s penalties for salary cap breaches, including the loss of 12 competition points, a $1 million fine and being stripped of their 2016 Auckland Nines title, in the coming days.
While they have already had to offload Anthony Watmough, Nathan Peats, Ryan Morgan and Junior Paulo, they could be forced to shed further weight from the salary cap next year.
Fullback Michael Gordon has been heavily linked with a move to Sydney Roosters while star playmaker Kieran Foran has reportedly told friends he may never play again – claims he on Friday denied.
However if Eels fans are looking for a silver lining, they needn’t look any further than French who bagged a double in the side’s 30-12 win over South Sydney on Friday.
Should Gordon depart for Bondi, the nephew of St George Illawarra great Nathan Blacklock shapes as a readymade replacement for the No.1 jersey after scoring four tries in his first three games.
Heavily hyped after a stellar Nines campaign, he was brought back down to earth after a testing pre-season and sustaining a broken hand and dislocated elbow but said he was being driven to get the best out of himself by Arthur.
“After pre-season I came back a bit under the bar and Brad pushed me,” French said.
“He’s very tough on me and he gets the best out of you.”
With the club’s salary cap saga swirling around all season, it’s been a tough initiation.
“I don’t let it faze me too much and I don’t think any of the boys do either,” French said.
“We know what’s coming – with the 12 points and whatever. We still think we’re a chance to make the eight.”
The Eels must win at least seven of their last 10 to be any chance and while Arthur said he expected the penalty to sting the squad, he assured they would move on quickly.
“This has been going on for how long? 10 weeks? The boys are just enjoying playing for each other at the moment,” Arthur said.
“It’ll be a little bit of a kick in the backside for a little bit and then we’ll go again. We’ll be right.
“We’re not going to hear any news that we didn’t know 10 weeks ago.”