Eels coach Brad Arthur has answered the lingering question surrounding make-up of his bench after two players in two rounds failed to take the field.
In Round 1, Makahesi Makatoa stayed on the pine for the whole 84 minute game, while Wiremu Greig and Jirah Momoisea combined for only 40 minutes.
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Then in Round 2, Greig played zero minutes and Makatoa was in the action for only 14 minutes.
Arthur also came under fire last season for carrying his son Jake on the bench for most of the season, despite the 20-year-old only being able to play in the halves.
Against the Sharks, front rowers Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard both played over 58 minutes — and the Eels coach said he simply needed them on the field.
“We’ve got a lot of good players that start for us in Junior and Reg and I think they’re pretty important to the team,” Arthur said in the post-match press conference.
“I think we need them, especially in tight games like tonight, we need them on the field for long periods.
“They’re our match-winners and that’s why we need them out there.”
The comments raise plenty of questions about the Eels’ depth after losing the likes of Isaiah Papali’i, Reed Mahoney and Oregon Kaufusi after the 2022 season. The club also missed out on signing ex-Manly prop Marty Taupau, who signed with the Broncos.
Meanwhile, Eels recruit J’maine Hopgood continued his impressive form in only his second game in the blue and gold.
In Round 2, the lock ran for 129 metres, broke three tackles and recorded two crucial try assists for Campbell-Gillard and Moses tries.
“He was good again tonight. I said in the pre-season, he just needed an opportunity to get out on the field and I still think once he’s played 10 to 15 games straight he’ll be better for us,” Arthur said.
“But he does some good things with the ball, works hard defensively.
“A couple of things he needs to tidy up from tonight but he’s going really well.”
With Ryan Matterson returning in Round 4, Arthur has a big decision looming with Hopgood making the No.13 jersey his own.
Originally published as ‘We need them out there’: Brad Arthur explains Eels’ bench rotation