Parramatta have rallied behind under-pressure halfback Chris Sandow, backing the club’s big-money signing to lead the Eels out of their deep NRL hole.
When Stephen Kearney was asked about Sandow’s performance in Parramatta’s ugly loss to Newcastle on Sunday, the embattled coach said: “It’s a bad time to ask me.”
But teammates were more forthcoming at the Eels’ recovery session on Monday, arguing that Sandow doesn’t deserve to be blamed for the club’s dismal 1-5 start.
Senior forward Reni Maitua said the high-profile South Sydney recruit was a freakish talent who would be a walk-up for State of Origin football if it wasn’t for Queensland’s depth in the No.7 position.
Maitua said Sandow deserves to be afforded time to settle into running the show at a new club and instead called on the rest of the team to lift their game.
“I’m not willing to write him off yet. He’s a freak talent and if he was from NSW he’d probably have a sky-blue jersey,” Maitua told AAP.
“Chris is fine. Obviously him being the big off-season signing a lot of pressure was going to be on him and I don’t think anyone should point the finger at Chris.
“It’s a team effort. We’re all out there. He’s doing what he can and the rest of us probably aren’t rising to the challenge.
“I came into the team last year halfway through the year and it took me a good 10 games at least (to settle in) … so it’s going to be a tough challenge.”
As tough as Parramatta’s predicament is, Sandow says he’s been through equally tough times at the Rabbitohs in years gone by, and come out the other side.
Sandow, who is expected to recover from a knock to his knee in time to face Cronulla on Sunday, said he has the experience and know-how to help the Eels find their feet.
“I’ve been at Souths, and since I started (there) we’ve been struggling there, so I think I’ve had my fair share (of challenges),” he said.
“I know what it’s going to take to get out of it, for sure. Parra’s been in the same situation for a few years too so hopefully things will start changing soon.
“(Kearney) didn’t have a go, he just told all the boys that we had a lot of possession down Newcastle’s half and couldn’t come up with the tries.
“A few new players come to Parramatta, so it’s going to be a while before we start kicking in but hopefully it’s not too long.”
Sandow and captain Nathan Hindmarsh won’t accept the excuse that Jarryd Hayne hasn’t had enough game time yet this year to gel with his halves.
Hindmarsh said Sandow has the character to respond, but the whole team needs to be accountable.
“I think he’ll handle it well, he’s a big boy,” he said.
“But we’re all to blame for that effort we put up on the weekend. I think it’s fair to say less than half a dozen blokes played to their potential.”
Maitua has minor cartilage damage in his knee, and will likely miss a week or two.