NRL Real or Not: Parramatta are premiership pretenders once again

This week we take a look at how the Eels are set to let their fans down all over again, the Bulldogs' pursuit of Cameron Ciraldo, and Billy Slater and Brad Fittler's decisions to leave Australia selection to others.

We tackle some of the big talking points in the latest edition of NRL Real or Not.

Parramatta are premiership pretenders once again

REAL: The Eels continued their season of inconsistency on Thursday, going down 36-14 to the Broncos at home on a wet and slippery Sydney night.

The Broncos enjoyed plenty of possession in the first half but, most concerning for the Eels, they were able to score tries seemingly at will. And there was nothing magical about the way they went about it, just plenty of hard running up the middle from Patrick Carrigan, Payne Haas and Kurt Capewell, as well as lots of offloads and the wily kicking game of Adam Reynolds.

The Eels were down 24-10 at the break and really needed a strong start to the second half if they were going to get back into the contest. Instead, they spilled the kick-off after a miscommunication between Shaun Lane and Waqa Blake. The Broncos' subsequent possession finished with a brilliantly placed Reynolds cross kick to Corey Oates who scored his second try of the night.

It wasn't all roses for the Broncos, who need some urgent work on their right-hand defence if they are to go deep into the finals, but they looked a more cohesive and determined unit than the Eels.

There have been rumours of coach Brad Arthur's departure, despite a year remaining on his contract. Arthur denies wanting to leave the club, but another season without a genuine shot at ending their title drought and he might not be in control of that decision.

Gus should pump the brakes on Ciraldo chase

NOT REAL: Of course, it is hard to know what is real and what is being made up just to sell tomorrow's budgie cage liner, but a recent photo suggests that Canterbury's Phil 'Gus' Gould is, at the very least, having a good chat to Panthers assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo. Like him or loathe him, Gus is no fool and he will have all the cards laid out in front of him.

Bulldogs fans calling for interim coach Michael Potter to be appointed head coach, have no idea what conversations Potter has already had with Gus, although he did make the right noises to the media on Thursday.

"It's a really tough one and I think I could take it on," Potter said of the head coaching vacancy. "I think it would be a really good challenge.

"I know there are another couple of tough seasons to come for the Bulldogs but I think I could handle it. I think it would be a big challenge for me personally, but I'd be up for it.

"If I can play some part with the club going forward that's great, but I know what they are after and I think he (Ciraldo) would be a good fit for the club.

"Going forward, I would love to stay involved in the club and do something in a football capacity. Whether it be (as an) assistant or something in the football department, I'll have a discussion later. I think I can do various roles."

What is plain to see is that the Bulldogs have regained their attacking bite under Potter, with his insistence that they go out and enjoy themselves really paying off. Last week in a losing effort against the Rabbitohs, they scored some of the best tries seen this season. They also conceded 36 points to lose the game, so there is still obviously a lot of work to be done.

It has been reported that Ciraldo must make a decision before November 1 or his current contract will lock him into the Panthers for the 2023 season. The lunch with Gould and major sponsor Arthur Laundy is being seen as proof that a deal is all but done and awaiting an announcement.

If Gus thinks it is the right decision, then he will live and die by it, and Bulldogs fans will just have to put their faith in him.

Fittler and Slater should never have been named Australia selectors

REAL: Queensland coach Billy Slater and New South Wales coach Brad Fittler were due to replace Laurie Daley and Darren Lockyer as Australia selectors ahead of the Rugby League World Cup. Both Slater and Fittler have reportedly withdrawn from their appointments, meaning Daley and Lockyer are back.

It seemed to be a ridiculous idea from the start, with both coaches set to be fiercely loyal to their own state players. For example, how would Slater face Kalyn Ponga ahead of next year's Origin if he agrees that James Tedesco should be Australia fullback? Similarly, Fittler would argue that Nathan Cleary should be halfback ahead of the more consistent, victorious and incumbent No.7 Daly Cherry-Evans.

We have already seen through the Origin series that Fittler was incapable of selecting the best New South Wales team for the job, so his "expertise" won't be missed. Best to leave it to the experienced Daley and Lockyer, who no doubt have state affiliations, but who are at least at arm's length from the players they will be arguing for and against.