Eels, Panthers like chalk and cheese: RCG

Scott Bailey
Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been impressive form for Parramatta after a tough 2019 with Penrith

Reagan Campbell-Gillard claims the difference in coaching at Parramatta and Penrith is like "chalk and cheese" after getting the fresh NRL start he needed to refind his form.

The Eels' former NSW State of Origin prop is preparing to play against the Panthers for the first time on Friday night, where he expects to be targeted.

Campbell-Gillard insists he holds no grudges towards Penrith or coach Ivan Cleary, who he thanks for giving him his NRL debut, and maintains he does not have a point to prove against them.

But he knows Brad Arthur's style has got the best out of him in 2020, after leaving Penrith with five years left on his contract and admitting he'd begun to hate the sport.

"I can't tell you exactly why it's different... I feel really comfortable with this team," Campbell-Gillard said.

"The coaching staff, it's chalk and cheese from what I've been under from last year.

"I feel comfortable with the way Brad wants to coach. Having that sense of being wanted to be in the team.

"Ivan has been good too... It's nothing negative or trying to attack him as a coach.

"I just needed to get out of there.

"Being here at Parra everyone keeps you honest, it's an honest team and I'm feeling really comfortable with the players I am playing with at the moment."

A Rooty Hill junior who still lives in Penrith, Campbell-Gillard grew up being taught to hate Parramatta.

But come the end of last year the prop knew he needed a new lease on life and the Eels came knocking.

Campbell-Gillard has arguably been their best forward over the past two weeks, with the coronavirus lockdown allowing him to return to full fitness.

He has run for more than 180 metres in the past two games, well above anything he produced last year in a disappointing campaign in which, at one stage, he lost his NRL spot.

"I started three games last year. I'm not a bench player, it's plain and simple," Campbell-Gillard said.

"I don't like coming off the bench, I have said it numerous times."

Asked if he discussed that with Cleary at the time, Campbell-Gillard said: "There were obviously conversations there but you want to be playing first grade.

"I can't tell you exactly why I was playing like that.

"It was just s*** and you kick stones and whatnot and get dropped.

"When I got dropped I actually felt like I enjoyed football again."