Coach Arthur downplays Eels' tough draw to start season
Coach Brad Arthur is unfazed by Parramatta's tough draw to begin the NRL season and has intimated a baptism of fire may help bring the best out in an Eels side looking to go one better in 2023.
The reigning runners-up are one of two teams playing four of last year's finalists across the opening five weeks of the premiership.
The Eels lost their first game of the season to perennial heavyweights Melbourne and things won't get any easier given Cronulla, Manly, Penrith and the Sydney Roosters await.
The Sea Eagles are the only side Parramatta play before Easter that didn't feature in last year's finals series, but they showed shades of their best in round one with Tom Trbojevic back from a hamstring injury.
In addition, three of the Eels' next four opponents will have the advantage of meeting Parramatta immediately after the bye.
But ahead of Friday's clash with the Sharks, Arthur saw the difficult stretch of games as a chance for an early litmus test.
"We knew coming through pre-season that we did have some really good teams to play against early but I feel like that helps you with your preparation," Arthur said.
"I don't think you can let yourself down with taking any team too lightly.
"That's what we're focused on around our attitude, it doesn't matter who we play or what we think they've got on paper, every team on their day when they turn up is a good football team and can beat you.
"Yes, we've got some tough games, but every game is tough in the NRL."
Arthur noticed a higher level of maturity in his side last year than in previous seasons, which bodes well with the tough run ahead.
"We got better last year at putting that game (a loss) aside, dealing with it, facing the honesty of it and then moving on," he said.
"The best thing you can do is respond and that's what we're looking for this week."
As he challenged the Eels to show bring their best attitude into upcoming fixtures, Arthur praised new recruit Josh Hodgson, who played his first game back from an ACL injury in round one.
The English ex-Raider replaces Reed Mahoney at hooker and will be hoping to emulate his stellar 2019 season, when he helped guide Canberra to the grand final.
"I don't expect him to be at his best yet but what we do expect from him is around his attitude and his leadership, which he was great with,' Arthur said.
"Once (combinations) start to gel, he'll just take that little bit of pressure off Mitch (Moses) and Dylan (Brown) and be another defensive threat for the opposition.
"Off the field he's going to be very good for us as well as on the field."