EELS BOSS SLAMS PLAYER DISCIPLINE
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
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
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