Parramatta halfback Luke Kelly says new coach Brad Arthur has spent most of the off-season trying to improve the Eels’ defensive deficiencies.
An off-season working on little more than defence will be the key to Parramatta stopping the rot under new coach Brad Arthur, claims halfback Luke Kelly.
The Eels clinched a second successive wooden spoon last season under Ricky Stuart – giving up 740 points – 66 more than in 2012 when they finished last for the first time since 1974.
In a shambolic year, the Eels shipped 50 points or more on three occasions, 40 in a further three games and 64 against Melbourne in round 24.
Despite his failure to turn things around at Parramatta, Stuart was poached by Canberra on a big contract last September.
This opened the door for Arthur to return to the club he’d previously served as an assistant under Stephen Kearney albeit after a chaotic attempt by certain factions of the board to offer the job to Jason Taylor.
Kelly said the arrival of Arthur from Manly, where he formed part of the coaching staff that helped the Sea Eagles reach the grand final, has seen far more time spent on defensive lines.
“Brad is very specific in what he wants, he makes it very clear,” Kelly said.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work on our defence, and hopefully that’s the key to winning most football games, is getting your defence in order
“We’re doing all the right things at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that you are going to win footy games.
“The best way we can talk about our season is through our actions and we get a good chance on Sunday.”
Arthur’s biggest statement since his arrival is putting his faith in Kelly, a player he worked with at Melbourne, a halfback ahead of Chris Sandow, who’ll once again be the highest paid player in the NSW Cup when he turns out for Wentworthville on Saturday.
The 23-year-old will line up alongside new recruit Corey Norman in the halves following his big money move from Brisbane and is confident he can strike up a strong partnership.
“He’s a very good ball runner, I think you’ve seen that from his time in Brisbane, and he loves a chat,” he said.
“He gets the boys going and I think that’s probably two of his best attributes.”
The Warriors were the visitors to Parramatta in round one last year and it produced a rare moment to savour for the long-suffering Eels supporters with their side romping to a 40-10 win – one of just five all campaign.
However, Kelly is expecting a far closer affair on Sunday.
“They are a big fast team, and they’ve got strike power across the field, so we’re going to have to be on our game.”