Barrett coy on coaching future amid Eels rescue mission

Jasper Bruce |

Trent Barrett’s sole focus is on turning round Parramatta’s poor start to the 2024 season.
Trent Barrett’s sole focus is on turning round Parramatta’s poor start to the 2024 season.

Trent Barrett’s focus is on a four-week rescue mission to salvage Parramatta’s season, not on retaining the Eels coaching job beyond 2024.

Barrett will consider experimenting at the selection table to spark Parramatta out of their rut, and says there will still be space for shining light Blaize Talagi in his team once Clint Gutherson recovers from injury.

The Eels promoted Barrett from assistant to interim coach following the May 20 dismissal of Brad Arthur, whose 11th season at the helm began with three wins from the opening 10 games.

“It was a shock to us, we certainly weren’t expecting the things that happened this week,” Barrett said of Arthur’s axing.

Parramatta’s failed bid to lure Wayne Bennett has left the club to formulate a Plan B, with NSW coach Michael Maguire and leading NRL assistants Jason Ryles and Josh Hannay linked to the vacancy.

The Eels are also open to hearing from Barrett if he wants to be considered for the role long term.

Barrett has not held a head-coaching job since an ill-fated stint at Canterbury ended in May 2022 after five wins from 34 games.

He led Manly to the 2017 finals during a three-year spell with the Sea Eagles.

Ahead of Parramatta’s Saturday clash with fellow strugglers South Sydney, the 46-year-old insisted a fulltime return to the hot seat was not on his mind.

“We’ve had a busy week … making sure (the players) are prepared and they’re in the right head-space to play well,” he said.

“Things take care of themselves, ultimately, but I haven’t thought about that yet.”

Of more immediate concern is the four-week run to the Eels’ next bye, which looks set to determine the side’s finals fate.

Despite the coaching upheaval, Parramatta entered round 12 only two wins outside the top eight.

But defeats to Souths, Cronulla, Canterbury and the Sydney Roosters over the next month would leave them having suffered 11 losses – the same number as 2023’s eight-placed finishers Canberra.

Win all four, though, and their season will be on an even keel at 7-7.

“The semi-finals are still a goal for us,” Barrett said.

“There is some upside to the season, there’s a hell of a lot of footy to be played coming into an Origin period, where some of the results get tipped on their head a little bit. 

“This next five weeks are a really important block for us to get back on track.”

Barrett is confident there will be space for replacement fullback Talagi in Parramatta’s 17 once Gutherson recovers from a knee injury.

Others may not be safe at the selection table as the coach looks to jolt the Eels back to life.

“You’d like to see us be able to fit (Gutherson and Talagi) in the team. We’ll be a better side with both of them there,” Barrett said.

“We may do some (selection) things differently over the course of the next few months but this wasn’t the week to do it.”