Sad News: A key player departed Parramatta Eels just now…

The current Parramatta caretaker has been in PR overdrive, angling for a full-time appointment at the Eels as the club goes through a long list of candidates to succeed the recently sacked Brad Arthur. 

The former St George Illawarra, Wigan, New South Wales and Australia playmaker was one of the best of his time as a player – some who saw him in the Cherry & White might go as far as genius – but in the coaches box, across three stints, it would be fair to say that he has not replicated that form.

Barrett, now 46, has been a disaster as a coach, with a poor spell at Manly compounded by an all-timer of a bad spell at Canterbury Bulldogs that saw him sacked less than three months into the 2022 season with just five wins in 34 matches. 

This wasn’t the story in the papers, however. 

The Daily Telegraph, Sydney’s biggest tabloid, splashed several times, including over a two page spread on Saturday – featuring exclusives with current players – on why Barrett was the guy to get the job full-time.

Obviously, given that he is selecting the side right now, Parra’s players were unlikely to say he’s rubbish, but the idea that those being coached get to pick their own boss is patently ludicrous.  

If that factors into decision making at the Eels for a second, the lunatics have well and truly taken over the asylum. It’s not the fault of the media that they run these stories – in fact it makes perfect sense. 

Parramatta are a huge club with a massive fanbase, one of the best around, and Barrett is a polarising figure guaranteed to generate interest.  

There are several candidates in the race but few of them are at liberty to talk to the media and only one, Barrett, is literally forced to front pressers every week where journalists can turn up and ask him his thoughts. 

Only Jason Demetriou, the former Souths coach who was also sacked earlier this year, and Michael Cheika, the legendary rugby union coach who led Lebanon to the last Rugby League World Cup, are currently unemployed and can float themselves as options. 

Every other figure is a current assistant coach, including John Hannay (Cronulla), Jason Ryles (Melbourne) and Brian McDermott (Newcatle), so don’t have to do media and if they did, would only say they were focused on the job they have now anyway. Eels salary cap punishment: NRL cripples Parramatta | players, fans react | — Australia's leading news site

But that Barrett has got such a run speaks to a cognitive dissonance at the heart of NRL coaching – and one that both holds back clubs and negatively impacts British coaches. 

The day after Arthur was sacked, Parramatta CEO Jim Sarantinos fronted the media and explicitly said that his preferred candidate would be “someone who’s been involved in a winning program and someone who’s been around a high-performing culture”. 

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