NO team since South Syd­ney in 2008 has started an NRL sea­son worse than Par­ra­matta. Sit­ting win­less after six matches, un­der-fire Par­ra­matta Eels CEO Bernie Gurr spoke with chief sports writer David Ric­cio about the fu­ture of Brad Arthur, irate fans and w

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT -

DR: Even non-Eels fans view the loss of Semi Radradra as alarm­ing. Could you have gone harder to keep him?

BG: No, I don’t think we could’ve. I know the of­fer he had over there (French rugby) and we were a long way short of it. We would’ve made him the high­est-paid player in rugby league. Are we miss­ing him? Of course.

But with the de­vel­op­ment of the squad from last year and the buys we bought in, we thought we’d have an even bet­ter squad this year.

DR: We won’t ever see Semi back in blue and gold, will we?

BG: You never say never. But we’re not even con­tem­plat­ing that at the mo­ment. DR: Aside from work­ing hard, how do Par­ra­matta over­come its worst start to a sea­son since 1991? BG: Brad is a very an­a­lyt­i­cal coach. He’s looked at our team and there’s a dis­ci­pline prob­lem. We’re giv­ing away a lot of penal­ties and as such have a much higher tackle count than the op­po­si­tion and so we’re with­out en­ergy when we do have the foot­ball.

We can’t sugar-coat a bit­ter pill, our at­tack seems to have lacked not only en­ergy but co­he­sion. We’ve had dis­ci­pline prob­lems and that’s where we need to fix things.’’

DR: Dev­as­tated Eels fans are threat­en­ing to tear up their mem­ber­ships. What do you say to them?

BG: I feel for them. They’re up­set and jus­ti­fi­ably so. How we’re play­ing is not to the stan­dards we’d ex­pected. I have a huge em­pa­thy for Par­ra­matta fans. I’m one of them.

DR: Has the poor start im­pacted the club’s bot­tom line?

BG: No — it hasn’t as yet. The club is on track fi­nan­cially to have a dra­matic im­prove­ment over the per­for­mance of the last cou­ple of years.

DR: You face Manly to­day at ANZ Sta­dium. Any­thing less than 10,358 would be the small­est Par­ra­matta home crowd since 2003, that’s got to be a ma­jor con­cern?

BG: You’re right, es­pe­cially when typ­i­cally Par­ra­matta has the best crowds of the nine Syd­ney clubs. But fans don’t fol­low losers, par­tic­u­larly in the Syd­ney mar­ket. We boast the most pas­sion­ate and loyal sup­port­ers in the game so I’d be very dis­ap­pointed if we didn’t get a crowd

over 10,000.

DR: Bernie, the club’s foot­ball struc­ture is de­servedly un­der fire. You are both the head of foot­ball and foot­ball club CEO. Will you be step­ping down from one of the two roles?

BG: I know the is­sue of head of foot­ball has come up now — and that’s a valid is­sue when you’re not go­ing well.

This was the struc­ture that was im­ple­mented 15 months ago and worked very well for last year.

DR: So you would con­sider stand­ing down from the head of foot­ball role and fo­cus solely on the role of CEO?

BG: If it was the most cost­ef­fec­tive way to run our foot­ball club, yes I would.

DR: Two great ser­vants of the game, Tim Man­nah and Beau Scott, will they be at the club in 2019?

BG: Beau’s con­tract is up at the end of 2018, so his per­for­mances will de­ter­mine that. Timmy has a con­tract for next year, so he’ll be here.

DR: All re­ports sug­gest you’ve signed Can­berra’s Ju­nior Paulo for next sea­son.

BG: We haven’t signed Ju­nior Paulo yet — but it’s fair to say we’re in­ter­ested.

DR: So if Ju­nior signs, who won’t come cheaply, how do you ex­plain the club’s pro­mo­tion — or lack there of — of lo­cal ju­niors to first grade?

BG: Since I came in 15 months ago, we’ve had a cou­ple of real pri­or­i­ties out­side just the NRL team and one of them has been to re-en­gage with our ju­nior teams. With the in­vest­ment we’re putting in, over the next two or three years, you’re go­ing to see it (ju­nior path­ways) get back to where it should be for Par­ra­matta. It’s go­ing to be a bit of a jour­ney but we’re go­ing to do it — they’re our fu­ture.

DR: Corey Nor­man, even he ad­mits he drives Brad crazy. Is that a healthy sit­u­a­tion for coach and play­maker?

BA: It’s hap­pened a lot over the years. I don’t think Tur­vey (Steve Mor­timer) and War­ren Ryan got on that well, but they man­aged to win two or three comps. You

don’t have to be best mates — you just need a work­ing re­la­tion­ship. Corey and Brad get on fine.

DR: The TV vi­sion of the dress­ing rooms after the loss to Can­berra was highly emo­tional. Is it now be­yond break­ing point at Par­ra­matta?

BG: I was in there and I was dev­as­tated, too. It showed they cared. I don’t like play­ers out on the field high­fiv­ing and chat­ting away after get­ting lapped on the field. I hate that. DR: From a foot­ball de­part­ment point of view, will you be re­view­ing your in­jury preven­tion and in­jury man­age­ment

be­cause you’ve al­ready used 24 play­ers — the most in the NRL?

BG: You’d have to an­a­lyse the type of in­jury that is oc­cur­ring. We have a very so­phis­ti­cated phys­i­cal per­for­mance group so I’m sure they’re analysing it.

DR: Lastly, what would a win mean to the club this af­ter­noon?

BG: It would be huge. We need to get a win. It would pick up the morale. We’re lucky that we’ve got a very uni­fied club at the mo­ment.

There’s cer­tainly no cracks amongst coaches, play­ers and man­age­ment we’re all in this to­gether, but we need to get a win.

Eels coach Brad Arthur.

A de­flated Corey Nor­man after the Eels’ loss to Pen­rith, to the dis­ap­point­ment of fans ( left). Pic­tures: Brett Costello, AAP Jar­ryd Hayne has strug­gled for form. Pic­ture: AAP

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