Parramatta players say Ricky Stuart's departure last year came at the right time and backed coach Brad Arthur for redeveloping the culture of the club.
Stuart will come up against his former club for the first time since his controversial single-season stint at the Eels ended in September. His sacking of 12 players by overhead projector created unrest and then his team claimed a wooden spoon and he walked out on a rich three-year deal to join Canberra.
Stuart is now on the verge of leading another team to the wooden spoon. The Raiders slumped to their third consecutive loss after going down 54-18 to the Warriors on Sunday.
They are 15th on the ladder, and are above Cronulla only because they have a better points differential.
By contrast, the Eels are flying and remain in top-eight contention having won 10 games this year – double the number won when Stuart was in charge in 2013.
Parramatta back-rower Joseph Paulo said while Stuart was a "good man" the club was better placed with Arthur at the helm.
"When Ricky left it was the right time," Paulo said. "We were ready to part ways and move on. He had stuff to do with his family and he had to honour his family first. We were happy for him to do that. Ricky made those hard decisions [to release players], we’ve moved on. It was tough to see all your good mates leave like that but it's happened.
"We were happy that we could have a new coach [Arthur] – someone that we had two years ago who we really enjoyed. We knew he was tough but we really enjoy playing for him.”
Arthur has the Eels on the verge of returning to the finals for the first time since their 2009 grand final appearance.
Paulo praised him for turning the club around.
"When you're winning it's easy to set a culture because everyone is confident and everyone is in a good mood," Paulo said. "Brad has laid a platform for all of us to run with and it's worked.
"Everyone enjoys playing for Brad and he has brought a different culture to this club. He coaches his kids on the weekend and is a family man and a grounded guy, which is what has kept this team together and going forward.
"We are here enjoying the new coach and playing under Brad. I've seen [Stuart] around and said hello.”
Stuart will be spared a hostile reception by the Eels faithful as Parramatta are taking their home game to Darwin on Saturday night. Veteran back-rower Ben Smith, who was among the dozen players Stuart said had no future at the club, said the players would not be distracted by the Stuart factor.
"We’re not going to worry about that," Smith said. "We’ve got a great coach and support staff. The young boys coming in bring that enthusiasm and they are quality players. You’ve got the older boys who can steady the ship and lead by example. Hopefully in the years to come we’ll see Parramatta back in that top area."