Parrammatta Eels greats Ray Price, Brett Kenny and Eric Grothe say Brad Arthur had to go

Matt Jones
The Nightly
5 Min Read
Ray Price says Brad Arthur's time was up.
Ray Price says Brad Arthur's time was up. Credit: Will Pearce

Parramatta greats are stumped as to why the Eels weren’t more aggressive for Wayne Bennett earlier in the season after the club sacked Brad Arthur on Monday afternoon.

Bennett agreed to terms with South Sydney overnight amid reports the Eels had tried to unsuccessfully lure the mastercoach to Parramatta after deciding at the beginning of the month that Arthur’s tenure was up.

Assistant coach Trent Barrett will coach the team until the end of the year but with Bennett off the market it is unclear who Arthur’s potential long term replacements could be.

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Ray Price, who captained Parramatta to its last premiership in 1986 said had the Eels went harder for Bennett earlier in the season, he may be been wearing blue and gold next season.

“It wouldn’t have surprised me had Bennett come to coach Parramatta,” Price said.

Eric Grothe, who won four premierships with the Eels in the 1980s, said the Bennett could have been the tonic the Eels desperately needed.

“He would’ve been a good fit at Parramatta so it’s a strange one,” he said.

Eels great Brett Kenny agreed the club should have thrown the kitchen sink at Bennett.

“I would’ve definitely asked him what the situation was and what he wanted to do,” Kenny said.

“It doesn’t mean you’ll sign him but it would also put a bit of pressure on the current coach.”

Price, in typical fashion, didn’t mince his words when asked if Arthur was the man to lead the Eels prior to the 48-16 loss to the Storm on Sunday.

“I don’t want to bag him and he means the best but I don’t think he’s the right man,” Price said.

“He’s had more than enough time and is at the end. It’s not working. He’s done his best but it hasn’t been good enough. I’m just being honest.”

Kenny also claimed Arthur talked to him and other ex-players like Steve Ella several years ago about being involved with the team.

“Nothing ever happened,” Kenny said.

If the past champions of the Eels were to get involved with the playing group they thought it surely would’ve come in the week leading up to the 2022 grand final against Penrith.

Kenny and Price said they were disappointed Arthur didn’t ask some of the past greats who had won grand finals at the club to come and give the squad a pepe talk.

“When they were in the grand final I had guys from Queensland that I used to play against like Gene Miles and Wally Lewis sending me text messages saying we’d have to be talking to the guys before the grand final but it didn’t happen,” Kenny said.

Despite this, Kenny rates Arthur as a coach and, interestingly, suggested he might be better off at another club.

“Coaching is a bit like playing. Some players make a change and a good example is Luke Brooks who was under a lot of pressure at the Tigers,” Kenny said.

“He’s gone to Manly and has got a new lease on life and has been playing very well.

“Brad might have a bit more success at another club. To be at Parramatta for 11 years and try to keep the players interested must be very hard.”

It’s been another tough season the Eels who sit 14th on the NRL ladder.

After missing the finals last season and rated a $101 chance to win the title this year.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 09: Eels coach, Brad Arthur looks on at full-time during the round one NRL match between Parramatta Eels and Canterbury Bulldogs at CommBank Stadium, on March 09, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
Brad Arthur was sacked on Monday. Credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Arthur had a reasonable win rate of 53 per cent from 263 games and led the Eels to five final appearances in six seasons including a grand final loss to Penrith in 2022.

Kenny said while Arthur’s record on paper is better than some other NRL coaches, he was under immense pressure to deliver the club its first title since 1986.

“On current form and with the results over the past two years you wonder if things can improve,” Kenny said.

Price said it was frustrating seeing Parramatta have good recent records against the likes of Penrith and Melbourne while struggling to win the games they should.

“What shits me up the wall is the inconsistency,” Price said.

“We’ve got one of the best packs of forwards in the game but our backs let us down just a little bit. They’re not quite the package.

“We will beat Penrith every second or third game but they can’t beat them in the main games.”

Kenny was critical of the attitude of some sections of his former club towards Penrith after beating them consistently during the regular season in recent years.

“I laugh when I hear Parramatta supporters say ‘we’re the only team to beat Penrith twice in a year’,” Kenny said.

“Where were the Parramatta players in the first weekend in October last year? They were overseas having a holiday and Penrith were winning a grand final.”

Club culture is often talked about when it comes to success.

The Storm culture is legendary under Craig Bellamy as is Penrith’s under Ivan Cleary.

To start last season, Eels forward Ryan Matterson decided to sit out the first three games rather than pay a $4000 fine for a crusher tackle he made in the grand final the year before.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Ray Price of the Eels after winning the 1986 NSWRL Grand Final between the Parramatta Eels and the Canterbury Bulldogs at the Sydney Cricket Ground September 28, 1986 in Sydney, Australia. Parramatta won 4-2. (Photo by Getty Images)
Ray Price after winning the 1986 NSWRL Grand Final. Credit: Getty Images/Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine that would’ve happened at a Bellamy, Cleary or Bennet coached club.

It was seen as a red flag under Arthur’s leadership at Parramatta.

“Jack (Gibson) would’ve handled that himself and sorted things out with the player,” Grothe said.

Price said had it happened when he was playing he would’ve “had words with the player”.

Kenny was still angry when asked about Matterson’s decision to abandon his teammates last season.

“It didn’t send a good feeling through the club and I’m sure there wasn’t a good feeling through the players who had to hear one of their teammates would rather sit out than pay a fine,” Kenny said.

“It didn’t sit well with the fans and if it had of happened back in my day (the players) would’ve said ‘you’re paying the fine’ and had I refused to do it they would’ve said ‘there’s the door and don’t let it hit you on the arse of the way out’.”

The Eels still have to play the Storm and Roosters twice this season and Penrith and Brisbane.

The return of Mitchell Moses can’t come soon enough.

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