Barrett’s first interview as Eels coach

NRL Rd 6 -  Eels v Cowboys
Trent Barrett was shocked to see Eels coach Brad Arthur sacked, but he hasn’t thought too much about replacing him in 2025. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

Interim Eels coach Trent Barrett says he was “shocked” to see former boss Brad Arthur sacked by the club this week and that he hasn’t given any thought to using the rest of the season as an audition to lead Parramatta going forward.

Arthur was let go after a decorated career at the club, with Barrett stepping up from his role as assistant to try to salvage their season which he says is far from over and could still result in them playing finals footy.

Barrett is no stranger to the head coaching role having led Manly and Canterbury in the past, and will emerge as one of the candidates to take over at the Eels if he can turn things around.

NRL Rd 2 -  Panthers v Eels
Trent Barrett could emerge as a genuine option to coach the Eels next year if he performs well over the next few months. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

“I haven’t even thought about it,” he said during his first press conference in charge.

“We’ve had a busy week, and our main focus – and mine in particular – is making sure they (the players) are prepared and in the right headspace to play well.

“Things take care of themselves, but I haven’t thought about that.”

Arthur’s sacking had been on the cards with revelations this week the club had been chasing Wayne Bennett for the past few weeks, but the events of the past few days are still raw given how popular he was.

“It was a shock to us. We certainly weren’t expecting the events that happened this week,” Barrett said.

“The first few days took a bit of getting used to, and we’ve had a pretty busy week. Our main focus is tomorrow against Souths.

“It wasn’t just the players, everyone was disappointed.

“We all worked really hard, and Brad’s a terrific coach who I’m sure we’ll see again soon in another role.

“With the greatest of respect, we need to move forward.

“We’re all professionals, and as unfortunate as it is, we owe it to the club and the fans to go out and perform well.”

There is pressure on the Eels to re-sign Blaize Talagi.
There is pressure on the Eels to re-sign Blaize Talagi.

The Eels are languishing in 14th but still have time to rocket back into finals contention if they can string a few wins together.

The return of Mitch Moses and Clint Gutherson from injuries in the coming weeks will be a huge help, with Barrett wanting to see them close out games and not just clock off after 60 minutes as they have been doing in 2024.

Barrett’s first real test as coach will come next month when Gutherson returns from a knee injury, with rookie Blaize Talagi doing an excellent job at the back with rival clubs circling for his signature.

“We’ll cross that bridge when it comes, but Blaize has done a terrific job,” Barrett replied when asked about the potential selection headache.

“He’s a good young player and we’d like to see him stay here long term. That’s something I know the club is working really hard to do. He’s a local junior and a great kid, but Gutho’s our captain.

“Moving forward you’d like to see us fit both of them in the team and we definitely will. We’ll be a better side with both of them there, but that’s not for me to worry about today.”