Parramatta coach Brad Arthur found himself in an amusing exchange with his son, Jake, when he innocently asked about his training progress. Jake jokingly replied to his mother, saying that his coach, affectionately referred to as “Baldy,” was worried about them. The light-hearted banter continued, with Brad responding, “We’re going to bash you anyway, so it doesn’t matter.” Little did Brad know that he would soon be coaching against his son as Jake recently made the switch from Parramatta to rivals, Manly Sea Eagles. With Mitchell Moses away on State of Origin duty and Dylan Brown serving a suspension, Jake will have the opportunity to be the starting halfback in the absence of Daly Cherry-Evans.
The timing of Jake’s departure from Parramatta couldn’t be more ironic, as the Eels could have greatly benefited from his presence. Nevertheless, Saturday’s game at CommBank Stadium will see father and son facing off as coach and player. Some coaching duos have struggled with the dynamic of coaching against their own children, as was the case with Ivan Cleary and his son Nathan at Wests Tigers. However, the Arthurs seem to be handling the situation with ease. For Brad, having Jake play for the opposition team actually makes game day less stressful. He shared that he would have been more anxious if Jake was playing for Parramatta, as now Anthony Seibold, a close friend and coach of Manly, is entrusted with guiding Jake’s performance. Brad expressed his gratitude for not having to worry about Jake’s playing, as his focus is on preparing his own team for the game.
Jake, too, seems to be enjoying his new approach to coaching at Manly. He has embraced the fresh perspective and different coaching style, as opposed to growing up only listening to his father and the Eels‘ coaching staff. Jake is excited to develop his game by incorporating aspects he appreciates from both coaching teams, ultimately shaping the player he wants to be.
Coaches are often tasked with analyzing their opponent’s halfback and finding strategies to neutralize their influence on the game. Eels captain Junior Paulo, who is currently with the New South Wales Blues for State of Origin, expressed relief in not having to come up with tactics to counter Jake’s play. He speculates that the video sessions at Eels headquarters this week, without a doubt, feature extensive analysis of Jake’s strengths and weaknesses. Paulo admitted that the situation would be strange if he were coaching against his son and wonders if Brad has devised a specific plan to target Jake.
Brad dismissed the notion of targeting Jake and made it clear that Parramatta’s main focus is self-improvement. He stressed that the team dedicates around 70% of their preparation to themselves and only 30% to analyzing the opposition. Having trained alongside and against Jake for years during opposed sessions, the Eels players are intimately familiar with his style of play, areas he excels in, and where they might exploit vulnerabilities. Brad even confessed that the players have a better understanding of Jake’s game than he does.
Interestingly, Jake had expressed his enthusiasm for playing against his former teammates just last month. He spoke about the strange feeling he anticipated, considering that some of the Parramatta players, like Will Penisini and Shaun Russell, were not only his best friends but also mentors during his upbringing. Playing against those individuals who had nurtured and taught him would be a cool experience, according to Jake.
For now, Brad is comfortable with the situation and feels more relaxed knowing that Jake is not playing for Parramatta. His focus remains on leading the Eels to victory rather than worrying about Jake’s performance. Although Jake’s mother supports Parramatta, her main concern is that Jake plays well. This is the sentiment shared by the entire family.