Eels stand by Arthur's ref jabs but target improvement
The Parramatta playing group is standing by Brad Arthur's refereeing criticisms but captain Clint Gutherson admits his side must fix their ill-disciplined ways as a clash with in-form South Sydney looms.
The Eels will have to do it without star second-rower Shaun Lane, who will miss at least six weeks with a hamstring injury suffered in round 11.
Usually reserved in his comments about officiating, coach Arthur vented his frustrations with a 10-3 penalty count after the 26-18 loss to Canberra, which leaves last year's runners-up languishing in 14th spot on the ladder.
Arthur took particular exception to what was deemed a cannonball tackle from Junior Paulo and questioned how the Eels could average 4.8 penalties per game through 10 rounds and then find themselves conceding double that number against the Raiders.
"He obviously thought there were a few that were probably a little bit harsh and we probably didn't deserve that let them (the Raiders) out of trouble," Gutherson said.
The dust may have settled on Parramatta's second-straight loss but Gutherson insists Arthur's comments were justified.
"Brad's there to protect us and to stand by us and that's why we love him. He'll do anything for me, the team, this club, so we stand by what he said," he said.
"We've got to be better, though. We can't be giving out 10 penalties a game and making him do that. We have to be clean and get our discipline right."
The Eels have started the season with only four wins from 11 games but have only lost by an average margin of 5.7 points - less than a converted try - and have the fifth-best for-and-against in the league.
"It just shows how close we are," Gutherson said.
"We're obviously disappointed and would like to be on the other end of where we are but that's the way it is, that's where we stand. Every single game this year, we've been in it until the 80th minute."
The lukewarm form is all the more surprising given their history of starting seasons strongly.
Parramatta sat first on the ladder through nine rounds in 2020, won nine of their first ten in 2021 and were entrenched in the top eight at the same point last year.
But a similarly slow start in 2019 has given Gutherson confidence the Eels can turn things around - the Eels won only five of their first 11 games that year, but began to turn things around by upsetting the ladder-leading Rabbitohs in round 12.
They won three of their next four games and eventually finished in the top eight.
Coincidentally, Parramatta face the top-of-the-table South Sydney on Friday for a chance to reassert their credentials.
"We've been in this situation before and crawled our way back and that's what we need to do again," Gutherson said.
"It's going to be hard to turn it.
"We've just got to start playing our footy, continually playing our footy and it'll turn."