Unfazed by some of his players coming to blows at training, coach Brad Arthur is backing Parramatta to pass the “test of character” that will decide the 2020 NRL premiership.
Installed among the title favourites after being big winners in the revised NRL draw, the Eels’ preparation for Thursday night’s clash with Brisbane appeared in disarray after fighting broke out at Saturday’s session.
But Arthur insisted it was not out of the ordinary, even suggesting the incident was a positive sign that his ladder leaders were fired up for the NRL restart.
“It’s just everyone getting competitive at training. It was no different to any other session,” he said of the training altercation.
“We challenge our reserve grade players to try and prepare us the best they can and that means coming at us, and they did a really good on Saturday.
“The boys haven’t played for a long time, they are just keen to get out there.”
The Eels would be forgiven for champing at the bit with the odds stacked in their favour to end their 34-year title drought.
The undefeated leaders are the only NSW club who will play home games at their own venue for at least the first seven weeks of the revamped season.
One bookmaker has the Eels only behind Melbourne to win the grand final.
Arthur tried to play down their premiership hype before taking on Brisbane, who they thumped 58-0 in their previous encounter in last year’s finals.
“The advantage we get is when there is …fans (at Bankwest Stadium) which of course we can’t have, so any advantage…(won’t be) until we get the crowds back,” he said of their perceived edge in the draw.
“It will be a real test of character whoever does win it.
“The team who stays healthiest for the longest and keeps their combinations will put them in a good position.”
In a boost for the Eels, hooker Reed Mahoney will run out against the Broncos after working overtime to recover from foot surgery in March.
“It would have been interesting to see how we handled that period without Reedy but we didn’t have to,” Arthur said.
“It was a blessing in disguise with what happened (shutdown).”