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The Roar


Bennett twist to Eels' tale with Arthur sacked, Barrett taking over: 'Progress of our team has stalled'

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20th May, 2024
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Parramatta dropped a bombshell by sacking Brad Arthur, effective immediately, and have conceded they have been trying for weeks to get Wayne Bennett to rescue them.

The club issued a statement on Monday afternoon: “It was the view of the board and CEO that the progress of our NRL team has stalled. Our goal is to win premierships and it is time for the club to go in a new direction.

“We want to thank Brad who has worked tirelessly for the club over a 10-year period.  During his time as head coach, the club has played in five finals series, including a grand final in 2022.

“We wish Brad and his family the very best in the future and we are very grateful for his services to the club.”

Arthur turns 50 on Tuesday but it will be a gloomy milestone for the devoted mentor who has worked tirelessly to break the Eels’ premiership drought which stretches way back to 1986.

Trent Barrett will take control of the team as Interim head coach for the remainder of the 2024 season.

It has since emerged that Parra’s top brass contacted Bennett recently to get him to Parramatta but he had already committed to a return to South Sydney.

“I called him on the second of May, and he said, ‘I’m a fair way down the track with the Rabbitohs’,” Eels chairman Sean McElduff told the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday night.


“We had numerous other conversations. I tried hard but we didn’t get there. To be perfectly honest, he was always going to the Rabbitohs,” he added, revealing that he and CEO Jim Sarantinos had flown to Queensland to meet Bennett in a clandestine mission.

Touted as finals contenders heading into the season, Parramatta have been one of the most disappointing teams alongside South Sydney, who are running last and punted their coach recently with Jason Demetriou getting his marching orders.

Arthur’s last game was a 48-16 Magic Round hammering at the hands of Melbourne on Sunday. He filled in as interim coach in 2012 when Stephen Kearney departed mid-season and then after Ricky Stuart held the post for a tumultuous year, he had been in the role since 2014.

But while he took the club to the 2022 grand final, he failed to win a premiership in a decade at the helm.

“I’ve never walked away from a fight and we’re going to keep fighting hard. I still believe in this team but they’ve got to start to believe in themselves, especially when they’re under a bit of pressure,” Arthur said after Sunday’s loss.

However, it was the final straw for club management on the back of a similar capitulation recently in Darwin when they were thrashed by the Dolphins.


They have been hampered by injuries with star halfback Mitchell Moses (foot) and captain Clint Gutherson (knee) missing time but the team should still be doing better than a 3-7 record in 14th spot after 11 rounds.

Only the struggling Wests Tigers, Titans and Souths have fared worse this year.

Barrett is getting a third chance to prove he can be an NRL head coach after stints at Manly and Canterbury ended in his early departure on each occasion.

His stocks rose during a stint at the Panthers as Ivan Cleary’s assistant and the former St George Illawarra star could be an option to take over long term.

With Bennett returning to South Sydney and off the market, former Eels hooker John Morris, highly rated Storm assistant Jason Ryles could be tempted with Craig Bellamy staying in the Melbourne top job for 2025, while Cronulla and Queensland assistant coach Josh Hannay is also in the mix.


Former Wallabies and Argentina rugby coach Michael Cheika declared his interest in the Rabbitohs post and would likely be interested in the Eels vacancy, along with club legend Nathan Cayless who has served an apprenticeship under Arthur.

Barrett will lock horns with former teammate Ben Hornby, who is South Sydney’s interim coach, when the struggling Sydney powerhouses face off at Accor Stadium on Saturday night.

with AAP