‘He’s getting the best out of them’: Brian Smith lauds Brad Arthur ahead of Eels milestone match

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Brian Smith couldn’t be happier that Brad Arthur is about to surpass his record as the longest-serving Parramatta coach.

“Fantastic; that’s great for him,” Smith said. “Any coach that goes that distance with one club, it’s an outstanding achievement. I don’t follow it particularly closely in the latter part of his tenure, but it seems to me that he’s up there near the top.

“He’s getting the best out of them for most of the seasons he’s been there. It’s a great achievement. I’m pretty sure he’d be happy with it and looking forward to doing another lot.”

Smith coached the Eels on 243 occasions between 1997 and 2006, enjoying a 56.8 per cent winning rate. On Monday, Arthur (52.7 per cent) will oversee the blue and golds for a record 244th time when they take on arch-rivals Canterbury at Accor Stadium.

“I’m extremely honoured and proud to be given the opportunity from the club and the administration to be in the job this long,” Arthur said. “They showed great belief and understood you can’t turn things around overnight in that [initial] period.

“I love the job and it’s a privilege for me. I feel lucky. We’ve had a lot of highs and lows with it. I’ve learnt a lot of things, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, done some things right, got a lot of good experiences and friendships out of it.

Brad Arthur becomes Parramatta’s longest serving coach on Monday.Credit: Getty

“I wouldn’t change any of it, not one thing. Even the darkest days, it was all part of my development to make me a better head coach.”

Arthur took charge when the Eels were at a low ebb. He was made full-time head coach in 2014, just after the club earned consecutive wooden spoons, having served as a caretaker for six matches in 2012. Disaster struck when the club was caught rorting the salary cap in 2016, but Arthur guided them to better days, including five finals appearances, culminating in last year’s grand final against Penrith.

The former Storm and Sea Eagles assistant has given 28 players their NRL debut, while a further 28 have made their club debut during his tenure. The 49-year-old deflected praise to those who have helped him along the journey, including co-captains Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo, football manager Craig Sultana, assistant Peter Gentle, analyst Craig Crossman and physiotherapist Peter Cassar.

“I wouldn’t change any of it, not one thing. Even the darkest days, it was all part of my development to make me a better head coach.”

“This is more about the people who have helped me stay in the job for that long, the people who have been with me for 10 years,” Arthur said. “They have allowed this to happen.

“I also can’t thank my family enough. The kids and Michelle have always made sacrifices to make sure my job comes first.”

Every NRL coaching gig is demanding, but Parramatta has its unique challenges. Smith and Arthur joined the club after its halcyon days in the 1980s, a period of unprecedented success that raised the expectations of a long-suffering fan base. Both men guided the side to deciders, but the Eels haven’t lifted the trophy since the 1986 grand final.

“You go through some phases with that, with the expectation,” Smith said. “Traditionally, Parramatta has been a club with a lot of resource and I was excited with my opportunity when I went there. It was a great opportunity and I loved it most of the time.

“Most coaches have extremely high expectations for themselves. Sometimes it takes its toll, it wears at you a bit. But [Arthur] is not an old guy, he’s in his prime. I’d imagine he’s dealing with all of that pretty well.”

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