He is not what you regard a household name, and many have perhaps not heard of him until his appointment as caretaker coach of the Parramatta Eels – but for Brad Arthur, the journey to reach the top has been one that has seen him face hardships, travel, as well as face some home truths.
Arthur’s coaching journey began 15 years ago, when he was named as the captain/coach of the Bateman Bay Tigers, at just 22, after he abandoned his hopes of playing first-grade.
“We didn’t win a game all season,” Arthur said.
“I remember I was out for a few weeks with a busted knee and we even got beat 100-something to four.”
It was tough for Arthur not making it, but he appreciated the honesty that he was given at the time, by those who said first-grade would not be for him.
“I played lock or second row with Parramatta SG Ball and U21s, but I was probably a bit too small and slow,” Arthur said.
“Royce Simmons was coaching Penrith and I went there for a few seasons, before he advised me that I probably wasn’t going to make it in first grade. It was tough to hear, but I prefer honesty.
“He organised the captain-coach job with Batemans Bay, but I was probably too young and didn’t have the best attitude. The second year I felt a bit more comfortable and we turned things around and ended up making the finals.”
It was after that small tenure, that saw Arthur head to Cairns Brothers to coach for 8 years – a move culminating in a young man paying for his own airfare, just to have a chat about the vacant coaching position in the area.
It was a move that paid off, as he won four premierships in six years with the club – with Brothers patriarch Bob Mulley remembering Arthur clearly.
“Brad was such a tough player who never expected anything from his players that he wasn’t personally prepared to do,” Mulley said.
“He even played in our 2002 grand final win on one leg with a torn hamstring.”
Arthur, who is now 38, said that it was his gig at Cairns Brothers, that told him he wanted to be a first-grade coach one day.
“It was in Cairns that I started dreaming of making it as a first grade coach.
“I might not have been good enough to make it as a player, but I thought I might have a chance as a coach. “I didn’t really have anything to fall back on, all I’d done is a horticulture apprenticeship.”
The rise continued from there on in, as Arthur was recommended by a mutual friend to Craig Bellamy – a move that saw Arthur become the NYC coach of the Melbourne Storm, leading them to a premiership victory in 2009, before eventually taking over the role as assistant coach at the Eels.
“I addressed the players and said I just wanted two things from them for the last six games,” he said.
“They need to be able to look at themselves with pride and make our fans proud too.”
With the coaching gig itself, although the nature of the circumstances are not ideal, Arthur knows that he has a job to do, in order to be considered a potential head coach in the future elsewhere.
“They are tough circumstances, and certainly not the way I would have ever wanted the job, but I am contracted to the coach, and the club has placed this responsibility on me,” Arthur said.
“I will look to do my best by club and players”.
“They are a good bunch of boys here. We just need to make sure we are playing for a bit of self-pride, and importantly, we need to repay the fans. For some of them, it has been hard to walk down the street with the jersey on.”
The ultimate goal for Arthur, to have the chance to continue as a head coach, beyond the 2012 NRL season.
“I have coached U20’s at the Storm, and I enjoyed having control of my own team,” Arthur said.
“I would love to get the chance to do that [on a permanent basis]. That might be a little way off, so I will focus on the next 6 weeks. I will just see what happens”.
“I do not know what sort of opportunities are out there. If I work really hard, and be honest and upfront… I know I have the respect of the players, but I need to keep their respect”.
Arthur sees himself in a similar mold to his former mentor Craig Bellamy, describing himself as an intense coach – much like Bellamy.