Eels' head coach Brad Arthur has led this Parramatta outfit to five finals series in six years, including three top-four finishes, but this year's results could leave the coach under heavy scrutiny.

Arthur took the reins from Ricky Stuart at the start of 2014, suffering through some lean seasons before finally breaking the club's eight-year finals drought in 2017, finishing the regular season in 4th place, and handing them two bites at the cherry.

They would go out in straight sets.

It's been the story of Arthur's nine-year tenure in the Parramatta top job, stuck in this permanent purgatory of 'good enough to play finals, not good enough to win them' across the last half-a-dozen seasons.

So, at what point does the pressure begin to mount for the 48-year-old?

Securing their fifth finals series in six years, despite their premiership drought, Parramatta has reached a point of consistency where simply making the finals isn't enough to label it a successful season.

Across the four finals series already played out, Arthur has achieved two top-four finishes, and has plummeted out the back door in straight sets on both occasions. They thumped Brisbane 58-0 in an elimination final in 2019 and squeaked past Newcastle in the first week of last year's series.

They are the coach's only two victories post-regular season.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 17: Eels head coach Brad Arthur (C) looks on during the round 23 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Parramatta Eels at AAMI Park on August 17, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Winning just two-from-nine in the finals, another straight-sets exit could put immense pressure on the head coach.

John Morris is the prime example in a lesser side.

During his two-and-a-half year stint head coaching the Cronulla Sharks, he never missed the finals. Taking over at the start of 2019, Morris guided them to 7th that year and then 8th in 2020, before being sacked early in the following season.

On the surface level, it seems harsh, however, when you dive deeper into Morris' record, his departure becomes more and more justified.

The Sharks toppled South Sydney 39-24 in Round 20, 2019, a massive win for the club at the time.

Across the 20 months that followed Morris while he held the job, there wouldn't be a single other side that would go on to make the eight that season, despite finishing in the top half of the ladder themselves.

While they're making finals, what's the point of keeping a coach on board if they're not improving the side?

Arthur has time and time again led the Eels to this point, only to botch it and be sent packing before the blue-and-gold army knows what's hit them.

Now that the club is considered finals mainstays, the club must aim and achieve higher than just making up the numbers.

Parramatta goes from regular season giant killers to a post-season shadow of themselves under Arthur, a two-from-nine finals record lands him firmly under pressure.

Anthony Griffin was sitting in the top four with Penrith sacked him during the 2018 NRL season, because according to Phil Gould, the club had 'seen the best of him already'.

So when does it apply to Arthur?

Another straight sets exit could see the axe fall on the coach, who's management reached out to numerous clubs earlier this year after Parramatta showed interest in Cameron Ciraldo.

The draw will see Parramatta take on the Panthers in Penrith, with a loss in that contest condemning them to a sudden-death clash against the winner of the Storm-Raiders affair, and after beating a Jahrome Hughes-less Melbourne side on goal-kicking, it isn't ideal.

The jury is out on Brad Arthur's future at the club, but it's certainly a simple formula for the long-term head coach.

Win a game and your role is safe, though if his record drops to two-from-eleven, then heads may start rolling down James Ruse Drive.


  1. I think you are unfair to compare John Morris with Brad Arthur. Morris inherited a squad with a lot of money tied up in long-term contracts with under-performing or chronically injured players: Dugan, Fifita, Woods, Johnson, Moyland, Townsend – $4.5M tied up in those half a dozen players. I think he did well to even make the finals while he was in charge.

    Morris was stuck with Shane Flanagan’s side – the board at Cronulla did not give him a chance to assemble his own team – so comparing him to Brad Arthur, who has had eight years to build the team he wanted, is somewhat misleading.

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