'Out of line': NRL outrage over Parramatta 'nepotism' storm

From left to right, Parramatta coach Brad Arthur and his teenage son Jake.
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has copped criticism from some fans for picking his teenage son Jake at five-eighth amid an injury crisis at the club. Pic: Getty

The rugby league community has leapt to the defence of the Parramatta Eels after coach Brad Arthur was accused of "nepotism" around the selection of his teenage son Jake at five-eighth.

Parramatta's young playmaker found himself in the crosshairs of angry fans after the Eels were thumped by the North Queensland Cowboys 35-4 in Darwin on Saturday night.

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Eels' regular No.6 Dylan Brown was once again asked to play in the centres due to the injury crisis that the Eels currently find themselves in, with Maika Sivo, Haze Dunster, Waqa Blake and Marata Niukore all sidelined long term.

With five members of his backline out for the Cowboys clash, Arthur turned to his son Jake to play five-eighth in a match the Cowboys dominated against their more fancied opponents.

Following the match, Parramatta’s official Twitter account hit back at trolls for suggesting that Jake's inclusion amounted to "nepotism" on the coach's behalf.

The Eels tweeted: “The Arthur joke is enough” and “it’s not funny”, before the posts were later deleted.

Among the many good judges to defend Parramatta's decision to shift Brown into the centres was league legend and former State of Origin coach Laurie Daley.

“I don’t know about this nepotism stuff. That’s completely out of line,” Daley told the Big Sports Breakfast.

“Look at the players injured, outside backs, Brown is a better option in the centres with Arthur at five-eighth with what they’ve got.

“It’s not nepotism, it’s who he (Brad Arthur) thinks is going to do the best job.

“If you’ve got a player that’s been shifted for necessity, that’s what you do until you get troops back, every day of the week.

“Brown understands the position they’re in and he needs to help Jakob Arthur and other players in that team. They were just off, the Eels.”

The Daily Telegraph's veteran rugby league reporter Phil Rothfield also said criticism of Arthur and the Eels was unfair.

Seen here, Parramatta coach Brad Arthur speaking to media after an NRL game.
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has been forced to make some tough decisions because of the Eels' injury crisis. Pic: Getty (Mark Metcalfe via Getty Images)

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“Brad Arthur didn’t pick his son for the game against Newcastle without taking it up with the leadership group, Clint Gutherson, Mitchell Moses, Junior Paulo. This move had the support of the players,” Rothfield said on the Big Sports Breakfast.

“I spoke to Andrew Johns and he thinks Jakob is a terrific player. To blame a 19-year-old boy for a massacre in Darwin, when 17 players contributed to the loss, it’s unfair.

“If his name was Joe Blow we wouldn’t even be talking about him. Brad Arthur is struggling to pick 17, he’s got an injury crisis.”

Penrith legend Martin Lang also tweeted: “Jake Arthur is only 19 years of age and is a fine prospect. I’d like to see the CVs of those behind the nepotism accusations. Miserable, jealous individuals who want nothing more than to discredit the coach.”

Brown had never played centre in any football before this year, having grown up as a half in rugby union in New Zealand and playing five-eighth at the Eels.

But Parramatta's long-term planning prompted him to spend 40 minutes there in a trial against Penrith to get Jake Arthur into the game.

The classy playmaker has insisted that he's happy to keep doing what's best for the club, regardless of whether that means remaining in the centres.

"It was lucky we did it in the trial, because look what happened," Brown said.

"Brad obviously has a plan as a coach, and when you think about it, I work for Brad so whatever he says goes and I'm happy to do that.

"I'm not sure who's back when but if I need to keep playing centre, I'm happy to do so."

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