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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Blame me and no-one else: Arthur reflects on season to forget

At almost this exact time last year, Brad Arthur agreed to do a similar interview.
A few days out from Parramatta's first finals appearance in eight years, Arthur suggested to meet at an Oatlands coffee shop.
He agreed, albeit after months of persuasion, to tell the story of how his team came back from a salary cap saga that almost tore the club apart 12 months earlier.
But every few minutes the interview stopped. Some wanted photos. Others just wanted to tell him how proud they were.
Twelve months on and Arthur reluctantly agrees to do a similar interview about a completely contrasting season.
"Same place as last year?" he is asked.
"No. Just come to training." Arthur texts back.
Arthur doesn't enjoy the spotlight at the best of times. But this year it's different.
"Mate, I'm embarrassed to leave the house," he says sitting on the veranda of the club's demountable facility sipping on a lemon-ginger Kombucha as he waits for his players to return from lunch.
"I'm certainly not out there partying it up and putting myself out there in the public eye. Because it is... it's embarrassing. I'm the face of this club in terms of our performance. I take full responsibility for it.
"I'm embarrassed of where we sit on the table and the number of games of footy we've won. No one is to blame but me. The buck stops with me. I got us into this situation and I know I can get us out of it."
If not at the club's training base in North Parramatta or Wrights Road Reserve – the home of the Rouse Hill Rhinos where his kids play – Arthur is rarely seen in public.
"It's hard for my family," he told NRL.com.
"I can't remember the last time I took my wife or kids out for dinner. But they're on this ride with me. They understand some of the sacrifices of this job and there's definitely some good in it too."
The embarrassment has eaten away at him, but there is still a resounding sense of pride in a lot of aspects of a football team that has simply not delivered in 2018.
"I want to make it clear I'm certainly not embarrassed of the effort my staff have put in," he said.
"I'm not embarrassed of the players. I'm not embarrassed by the club or the people of this club."
In the past, such performances would have likely culminated with the coach's head on the chopping block, such was the reactive nature of the board.
But this board has already assured Arthur he will be around next year to at least see out the final year of his contract.
It's a similar show of faith Arthur displayed in 2015, when Manly privately approached him about joining the club on a deal worth almost three times as much as the Eels were paying him at the time.
It appears that loyalty has somewhat been repaid but Arthur is reminded of the impending circus, just like it did Des Hasler in his final year the Bulldogs, that will follow his every move next season as the Eels weigh up his future at the club.
"I've been here for five years. Tell me when there hasn't been pressure situations to deal with," he said.

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