BRAD ARTHUR admits the next six matches might be his only shot at being an NRL head coach. So he is planning to use them to ensure it's not.
Arthur has been installed as Parramatta coach for the rest of this season, before NSW coach Ricky Stuart - as seems almost certain - takes over for 2013 and beyond. He will do so not overly bothered that he is keeping the seat warm for another.
''They're tough circumstances, and certainly not the way I would have ever wanted the job, but I am contracted to coach and the club has placed this responsibility on me,'' Arthur said. ''I will look to do my best by the club and players.
''They're a good bunch of boys here. We just need to make sure we're playing for a bit of self pride, and importantly we need to repay the fans. For some of them, it's been hard to walk down the street with the jersey on.''
Arthur addressed his squad on Sunday, the day after the Eels' victory over Melbourne in Stephen Kearney's final match in charge.
He was brought to the Eels by Kearney, having been a Toyota Cup coach and assistant coach at the pair's previous club, Melbourne. Both served apprenticeships under Craig Bellamy, and Arthur admitted being torn by the events of the past few days.
''I had a tear, because he [Kearney] is one of the nicest blokes you'll ever meet,'' Arthur said. ''He gives his all, working around the clock, and at times his family suffered. He gave it his best, but it wasn't working out for him. I'm sure he'll bounce back, as he is a career coach.''
Arthur, who won a Toyota Cup premiership with the Storm in 2009, is also certain that Kearney will not resent the fact that he has - at least temporarily - replaced him.
''He wishes me the best,'' he said. ''He's not a selfish person. He's not hoping we go poorly for the next six weeks, and he's already told me, 'Any time you need to bounce anything off me …'''
In fact, he already has. Arthur spoke to Kearney on Sunday night, ''just to throw around some ideas in regards to the Broncos game [next Monday night]''
While Arthur, who will be assisted for the rest of the season by Wentworthville's Brett Cook, said he wanted to enjoy his debut matches as a head coach at this level, he was still ambitious enough to say he hopes it might prove to be an audition for himself - as it was for Jason Taylor, who took over the Eels in similar circumstances in 2006.
''I've coached 20s at the Storm, and I've enjoyed having control of my own team,'' Arthur said. ''I'd love to get a chance to do that [on a permanent basis]. That might be a little way off, so I will focus on the next six weeks. I'll just see what happens.
''I don't know what sort of opportunities are out there. If I work really hard and be honest and upfront … I know I've got the respect of the players, but I need to keep their respect.''
He describes himself as an ''intense'' coach, a trait that no doubt comes partly as a result of his time with Bellamy. Arthur said he ''wouldn't be here today'' without Bellamy, who he spoke briefly to on Saturday night, after the Eels' upset win.
''The biggest thing with Craig and the players down there is there's no substitute for hard work,'' Arthur said. ''I'm a firm believer in that. But I just want to enjoy it over the next six weeks and not focus on what may occur after that. Who knows? This might be the only six weeks I get. I want to learn from it. Then, if after that, I get to continue coaching under someone like Ricky, then that will be a good result.''