Youngster takes King Gutho’s Parra crown
A young Parramatta rookie has gone and done the unthinkable - beat Clint Gutherson in a pre-season fitness test.
While still largely unknown among NRL fans, 23-year-old halfback Rhys Davies has been outed by Eels teammates as the surprise star of a gruelling summer campaign under head coach Brad Arthur.
Currently on an NRL Development contract, the Wentworthville playmaker has spent much of this past off-season looking to keep pace with Gutherson, who has long been regarded as Parramatta's cardio champ.
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Indeed, trying to win the 'Fittest Man' gong at Parramatta is a dangerous pursuit.
Only a year back, it was the Eels teen sensation Dylan Brown who famously fainted at an Armidale training camp when, on the end of a third consecutive 2km time trial, he was still trying to stay alongside the cult fullback dubbed 'King'.
This year however, Davies has not only been pushing Gutherson in most sessions, but actually went and beat the NSW Origin hopeful home in one of the runs.
"Rhys Davies, he's the new go to man when it comes to fitness," Brown revealed this week.
"I wouldn't say he's fitter than Gutho, not quite. But he's definitely right up there.
"In one of our races (over the pre-season) Rhys actually beat Gutho."
So as for how 'The King' responded to someone challenging for his crown?
"You could see Gutho go 'nah, not on my watch'," the Eels No.6 continued. "And from there, off he went.
"So (Gutherson) is still the leader. But Rhys is one fit kid. And strong, too. Watch out for him this year".
Outstanding for Wentworthville in NSW Cup last season, Davies not only took his Magpies all the way to a grand final, but was also named in the competition's Team of the Year.
While currently stuck behind both Brown and Mitchell Moses at Parramatta, Davies can also play hooker and will be hoping to make his top grade debut sometime throughout the year.
Brown added, meanwhile, that while the young halfback had been outstanding in pre-season testing, he had himself given up on trying to win out over Gutherson in any of the distance events.
"I've learnt my lesson," he laughed. "And learnt it pretty quick last year. But I'm really excited for this season.
"Last year, Mitch and I only had seven or eight games together. And while we seemed to get on straight away, obviously the more we train and play together the better our connection is going to get.
"Everyone keeps talking about how we're so young. But I really think that's a positive.
"Mitch can take control and he feels comfortable doing that. He says all the time, that he'll take control so I can do what I do."