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Arthur unfazed by Hayne loss

Jarryd Hayne’s departure rocked Parramatta but coach Brad Arthur believes his 2015 squad is stronger than it was 12 months ago.


Arthur is confident moving Will Hopoate to fullback and the recruitment of the under-rated Reece Robinson on the opposite flank to Dally M winger of the year Semi Radradra gives his side the firepower to cover the loss of superstar Hayne.

The versatile Robinson wasn’t offered a new contract by Canberra coach Ricky Stuart at the end of last year but he showed signs of being a shrewd pick-up with a 22-point individual haul for the Eels in their 30-22 trial win over Penrith.

Capable of playing at fullback or on the wing, the pacy 26-year-old demonstrated his finishing prowess with a hat-trick of tries and kicked five goals in a fine individual performance.

After several seasons of questionable recruitment, Arthur believes the Eels have turned a corner and now possess a squad that has enough strength in depth to make a genuine push for the finals.

“Reece is a player who has always been a good finisher, but I still think there are sides to his game that we can improve,” Arthur told AAP.

“But he’s the type of player we want. He has a point to prove after being released by his former club.

“He’s versatile too and gives us a different option at kicker which is an area we struggled with on occasions last year.”

As a coach Arthur is a cautious individual whose natural instinct is to play down rather than enthuse, but even he can’t fail to be excited about his back-row options in 2015.

The arrival of Anthony Watmough from Manly adds some much-needed experience to augment the power of gifted teenager Tepai Moeroa and hard-hitting Kiwi Manu Ma’u.

With Joseph Paulo also enjoying a break-out season in 2014, Arthur knows he has a plenty of options available to him.

“I think our back-row is as good as anyone’s,” Arthur said.

“Choc (Watmough) has been there and done it. He knows what it takes to win and that’s why he’s a crucial addition for us.

“We have a lot of talented players, but many of them are relatively inexperienced and that cost us on occasions last year.

“What I’ve always wanted in this team was competition for places. It’s a good culture to have where players know they have to be on their game or someone can come in and take their place.

“I’ve never had to question our desire or passion, but execution was something we had to improve on. If we do that this year we’ll have a better season.

“But you can talk about it all you want, it’s all about doing it on the field. That’s where it really matters.”

Premierships: 4 – 1981, 1982, 1983, 1986

Finishes over the past three seasons: 2014 – 10th, 2013 – 16th, 2012 – 16th

Coach: Brad Arthur

Captain: Tim Mannah

Gains: Anthony Watmough (Manly), Richie Fa’aoso (Manly), Brad Takairangi (Titans), Reece Robinson (Raiders), Danny Wicks (unsigned), Beau Champion (Rabbitohs), Cody Nelson (Titans), Ben Crooks (Hull FC), Shannan McPherson (Salford Red Devils), Adam Quinlan (Dragons)

Losses: Jarryd Hayne (NFL hopeful), Willie Tonga (Catalan Dragons), Ken Sio (Hull Kingston Rovers), Ben Smith (retired), Kelepi Tanginoa (Cowboys), Liam Foran (London Broncos), Lee Mossop (Wigan Warriors), Fuifui Moimoi (Leigh), Justin Hunt (Dragons)

Strength: The Eels’ mobile and aggressive back-row was a joy to watch at times last year with Ken Edwards, Manu Ma’u, Tepai Moeroa and Joseph Paulo enjoying break-out seasons. Anthony Watmough adds experience and class to a vastly-improved pack.

Weakness: Jarryd Hayne’s departure was a huge blow. Will Hopoate is a very good player, but filling the shoes of arguably the best fullback in the NRL is a big ask.

Money man: Chris Sandow. The mercurial halfback started last season in NSW Cup but went on to enjoy the most consistent season of his career. The little playmaker flourished under the coaching of Arthur.

One to watch: Tepi Moeroa. The 19-year-old Cook Islander was compared to Sonny Bill Williams after his NRL debut at the end of last year. An Australian schoolboy rugby star with handling skills and an offload to die for, the Eels recently tied the back-rower down on a three-year deal to ward off advances from Super Rugby sides NSW Waratahs and the Chiefs.

Best team: Will Hopoate, Semi Radradra, Beau Champion, Ryan Morgan, Reece Robinson, Corey Norman, Chris Sandow, Tim Mannah, Nathan Peats, Darcy Lussick, Manu Ma’u, Tepai Moeroa, Anthony Watmough. Interchange: David Gower, Isaac De Gois, Joseph Paulo, Pauli Pauli.

Predicted finish: 9th

Betting: $34


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