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PARRAMATTA coach Brad Arthur needed just five words for the Eels players on Wednesday when it came to Semi Radradra being AWOL.
“Boys, ‘Bula’ will be back,’’ Arthur assured them.
“It went for two seconds, and that’s all we needed. Nobody asked any questions,’’ prop Danny Wicks said of Arthur’s pre-training address.
“BA said he’d back Friday. Throughout the whole year, when BA says something, that’s when you take note, and he said he’ll be back.’’
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Just an hour before the Eels’ kicked off their main session on a cold morning ahead of Saturday’s blockbuster clash against Cronulla, Radradra’s manager George Christodoulou confirmed the giant winger had extended his stay in Fiji for a second time.
After failing to return home on Sunday, then Tuesday, Radradra is now due back in the country on Friday.
Still, there are legitimate fears Radradra will not return at all and pursue French rugby instead, despite the prospect he would have to pay up to $700,000 to escape his Eels contract.
The players, however, were not too fussed, and even saw the funny side of Radradra’s late, late return. They said it wouldn’t matter if he rolled up to the Shire just before kick-off.
To them, it was just the latest soap opera to engulf the club, with huge media scrums camped on the sidelines at training not an uncommon sight out west.
“Fiji time, Sydney time, they are two different things,’’ Wicks said.
“Semi would have woken up, looked at the flight, gone somewhere in Fiji — I guess a hill somewhere with reception — checked the weather in Sydney, realised it’s four degrees in Sydney, and it’s going to be 32 degrees and beautiful in Fiji. Who’s getting on a plane?’’
The players are aware of how important Radradra is to their faint finals’ charge.
They need nine wins from their remaining 10 matches to scrape into September.
In some rare good news for the club, Parramatta won’t be stripped of 12 competition points for salary cap breaches until at least late next week, meaning they will meet Cronulla still well placed on the ladder and in good spirits.
Wicks labelled Radradra “among the best three players in the world’’. Teammate Isaac De Gois said Radradra was “the best winger in the world’’.
As for talk of French rugby, the players will not begrudge Radradra’s possible switch.
“If he was to leave, it would be disappointing, not just for Parramatta but the NRL,’’ De Gois said.
“He’s best winger by far. But it hasn’t come to that. We’re quite confident he’ll be back.’’
Michael Jennings, who plays directly inside Radradra at left centre, said: “If he wants to pursue a French rugby career, all the boys are for him.
“If that’s the decision he makes, he’s making a decision for himself and his family, and nobody can blame him. It’s his personal decision and we should be behind him.
“I don’t think any of the players have taken (Radradra’s absence) personally, or are getting angry with what Semi is doing.’’
Eels official and former NRL auditor Ian Schubert was confident Radradra would be back on deck, even though he thought as much last weekend.
“We hope it’s Friday, and it could even be [Friday],’’ Schubert said.
“He said to the coach he’ll most certainly be back for the game. It would have been ideal if he was back earlier, but I understand the coaches have a particular relationship with Semi.
“He’s contracted to come back and play. He has asked for an extension on his time away, which was granted.’’
Should Radradra bail, the club will only grant him a release should he pay a $700,000 exit fee, which consists of 16 months worth of wages, and damages to the Eels’ brand.
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