Parramatta’s development model has been bearing fruit and the club’s hierarchy believe it will continue to do so under Brad Arthur, as a fresh injection of coaching talent joins the Eels’ set-up for 2023.
Trent Barrett is the headline name on a list also featuring former South Sydney assistant Steve Antonelli, returning club-favourite Nathan Cayless and incumbent coach Steve Murphy.
Trent Barrett is an exciting new addition to Parramatta’s coaching staff
The club’s CEO, Jim Sarantinos, noted how the Eels have become specialists in picking up undervalued players and helping them to reach their full potential in the blue and gold.
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He accredited this to the hard work behind-the-scenes from Arthur and his coaching staff in guiding the likes of Isaiah Papali’i and Shaun Lane to the top in recent seasons.
“Brad has demonstrated his ability to really get the upside out of players, whether they’ve come from other clubs or whether they’ve taken a little bit of time to develop within our system,” Sarantinos told the club’s website.
“His coaching, with the support of the other assistants, has allowed us to help players reach their potential.”
Barrett has joined Parramatta as an assistant coach after his messy departure from Canterbury halfway through 2021.
It is a role he has excelled in before, with his work at Penrith highlighted as one of the major reasons why he got the top job at the Bulldogs in the first place.
Along with Antonelli and Cayless – who has been appointed as the NSW Cup coach but will also chip in with the NRL program – Barrett will be expected to form the foundations of a strong coaching unit under Arthur.
“They’re great people and more than anything they’ve got a development philosophy when it comes to our players which is really strongly aligned with what we focus on as a club,” Sarantinos said.
Barrett’s experience in the hot seat at Canterbury and the Sea Eagles was viewed as another positive during the recruitment process.
“Brad often talks about the benefits of being able to bounce ideas off coaches who have had that head coaching experience,” Sarantinos continued.
“There is obviously the acknowledgement there is a big difference between head coaching and assistant coaching, so Brad will appreciate the benefit of what Trent can add.
“Trent, in his own right, will add a hell of a lot to our players, in particular in our spine.”
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Will the Eels be able to retain Mitch Moses and Dylan Brown?
Parramatta’s spine is currently in a state of flux with Reed Mahoney’s exit and the frenzied speculation surrounding the long-term futures of their playmakers, Mitch Moses and Dylan Brown.
The duo come off-contract next season and are being targeted by other clubs, yet Sarantinos revealed he was confident of keeping them, along with two other exciting talents in the backline.
“Our priorities are Mitch and Dylan, as well as Will Penisini and Maika [Sivo],” he said.
“We’ve been in discussions with their management for a number of months now and our objective is for them to be in the blue and gold for the long-term, which they know.
“We’re very clear about that and they’ve talked openly about how much they love the club.”
The Eels have been criticised for their recent retention efforts after Mahoney and Papali’i exited following their grand final loss to Penrith.
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However, Sarantinos declared that while they would have loved to have kept them, it was just the unfortunate price of doing business in the NRL.
“When you have a period of sustained success or relative success, and players improve under the club’s coaching and development, inevitably, the players are going to move on,” he said.
“Junior [Paulo], Reg [Reagan Campbell-Gillard], Laney [Shaun Lane] and Matto [Ryan Matterson] will make up a formidable forward pack for us for years to come.
“And Gutho [Clint Gutherson] is with us long-term, so we think we have a really strong nucleus of players…so hopefully, we can lock the rest of the guys away and then I’ll be confident we’ll be competing for premierships every single year.”
Having lost a number of first-team regulars, the heat is now on Arthur and his new coaching staff to identify and work with talent which can fill in the gaps on the field.
Sarantinos claimed the Eels fought off stiff competition to sign J’maine Hopgood and had high hopes for him being another success story after the former Panther was barely able to get a look in at the back-to-back premiers.
Meanwhile, Jack Murchie also fits the bill for talent that was overlooked by other clubs but who may yet prosper at Parramatta.
“As we’ve shown with players in the past, I really feel as though our coaching department will get the best out of these players,” Sarantinos said.
“The fact we’ve appeared in finals for the last four years and progressed to the grand final last year shows that our model is working.”