13 April, 2018, 12:00 am
After Parramatta’s worst start in 27 seasons, Corey Norman admits the Eels are “easy target” as adjusting to life without superstar winger proves Semi Radradra particularly hard.
With their first 0-5 opening to a campaign since 1991, everything from player unrest to dressing room music and pre-game warm-ups has been floated as a factor in Parramatta’s form slump.
The loss of Fijian flyer Radradra is a theory Norman concedes holds more water than others, with the Eels’ 44 points this year (8.8 a game) ranking as the second-worst by any team across the first five weeks of a season in the NRL era.
Radradra’s game-breaking ability produced a stunning 84 tries in his 92 games for the club before he took up a lucrative stint in French rugby.
In 2017 Radradra ranked fourth in the game for tries (20), second for line breaks (23).
As well as being Parramatta’s most lethal weapon since Jarryd Hayne in his heyday, the blockbusting winger also provided serious impact bringing the Eels out of trouble, an area in which they have struggled this year without Radradra and Clint Gutherson.
The return of Gutherson and fellow livewire Bevan French against Canberra can’t come soon enough given the amount of attacking ball Parramatta enjoyed against Penrith for just one try, once again underlining the strike power Radradra took with him to the 15-man game.
“(Radrada) is a massive loss, but in saying that we’ve still got a quality side here so there’s no excuse,” Norman said of his team’s attacking woes.
“Semi was really good at getting us on the front foot and also when the game is in the balance, to break it open.
“We’ve got plenty of talent across the board to do that, there’s no excuses. Everyone is trying hard to do something and when you’re trying too hard it makes it even messier.
“We’ve just got to keep a cool head, relax and get our sets out and look for repeat sets. If not, finish the set well. To lose five in a row, everyone’s confidence is down. Us bombing those tries on the weekend had a bit to do with confidence.
“It’s a new week now, we’ve got Canberra, they’ve got their first win and they are hard to beat down there. We’ve got to go down there and do a job.”
While the Eels still have the salary cap space freed up by Radradra’s exit, plenty of attention has fallen on Norman’s own future amid speculation suggesting he has fallen out with coach Brad Arthur and would be given an early release to join the Raiders.
Not for the first time, Norman dismissed the links to Saturday night’s opponents, declaring: “if I was getting shopped around (Arthur) would be the first person to come to me and tell me.”
But given another loss will mean the Eels would have to rewrite history, as no side has turned around an 0-6 record to play in the finals, Norman knows the off-field speculation was always going to start stacking up.
“We’re an easy target at the moment,” Norman said.
“When a side loses five in a row, anyone can say anything.
“It’s easy to say because you’re losing.
“A lot of people are starting to stick their two cents in because it’s easy to do, we’ve lost five in a row.”