Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has given Pauli Pauli the all-clear to target Johnathan Thurston when North Queensland roll into town on Monday night – just don’t give up a try again.
Pauli’s late hit on Penrith five-eighth Jamie Soward sparked plenty of debate last week on whether the NRL’s playmakers were protected enough in today’s game.
Former stars Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler were particularly scathing of the incident, even going so far as to describe the tackle as a “cheap shot”.
Arthur was just as upset with his enforcer after the match, but not for putting Soward on his backside.
“We’ve got to protect our playmakers, but Pauli’s just trying to do his job which the coach has given him,” Arthur said on Sunday.
“In hindsight, he probably wishes that he didn’t come out of the line because it cost us a try.
“It’s a hard situation. He’s a big man and he’s got momentum going into the tackle. It’s pretty hard for him to stop.”
The 20-year-old was pinged with a grade one dangerous contact charge but escaped suspension and will take his spot on the bench against the Cowboys, who are aiming for their tenth win in a row.
Co-captain Johnathan Thurston has been particularly vocal on the issue this year after copping the same treatment from Newcastle’s Beau Scott earlier in the season.
At the time, Thurston said it was “open slather” for players to target halves.
But Arthur said he had no hesitation on releasing the shackles on his hitman to put pressure on the opposition playmaker again – so long as it doesn’t cost them on the scoreboard.
“Not just Pauli, but all our players,” he said.
“But we’ve got a process of how we do it.
“And what Pauli did, wasn’t part of pressure that we’re trying to apply because it hurt his teammates.”
The Eels avoided a five-game losing streak with a breakthrough 26-20 win over Penrith last week, while the Cowboys got their ninth win in a row on a hard-fought 18-14 victory over Manly.
STATS THAT MATTER
– The Eels have a great record against North Queensland at Parramatta, winning six of their past seven matches and 12 of 17 games overall against them there. Close games have been the order of the day between these two teams at Pirtek, with the past three decided by four points or less and the past six by 12 or less.
– The Cowboys have won a club record nine straight matches, and are looking to become just the 10th team since 1998 to win 10 matches in a single season. Surprisingly, only one of the previous nine teams has won the competition (Canterbury in 2004).
– After his double last week, Semi Radradra has now scored 31 tries in his 27 NRL matches, including seven tries in six matches this season. He has an amazing try record at Parramatta, scoring 16 tries in 15 matches and failing to score just four times at the venue.