Why rookie sensation stuck loyal with Eels
BEVAN French never flinched.
As the Parramatta Eels burned - engulfed in the flames of a salary cap scandal, off-field player controversies and boardroom mayhem - this rookie footballer hardly batted an eyelid.
He was 20 years old. To turn 21 in January, but still a young man searching for a foothold in the crazy world of professional sport.
You could forgive anyone in his position for wanting out. You could understand why a 21-year-old talent such as French would go searching for a different path in to the NRL.
But he stayed. In fact, so determined was French to stick by the blue and golds that he sat down and signed a contract extension at the end of the year.
The piece of paper French signed ties him to the Eels until the end of 2019. But he can't see himself walking away from Parramatta even then.
"They took the time to develop me, put the work in to make me the player I am now. I have a lot of trust in them," French told foxsports.com.au of his club.
"I'm there for another three years at the moment, and if all things keep moving in the same direction ... I love being at the club, and if all stays well I'll stay there."
French chose Parramatta as the club he wanted to play for three years ago. It was said at the time he had as many as half a dozen NRL clubs vying for his signature.
A TOUGH INITIATION
Last year brought the Eels to their knees.
A salary cap scandal ruined the team's finals hopes. Then star halfback and captain Kieran Foran walked away from the game. That was bookended by player scandals of different kinds.
And, to top a horror 2016 off for the club, Jarryd Hayne slipped through their fingers.
French admits it's been a tough 12 months.
"It was a pretty s***ty year but we took those positives out of it," French said.
"That stuff going on at the club was out of our control, out of the players' control. The rest of the players too, we developed quite a strong bond.
"We couldn't control what happened and everyone could have chucked in the towel, but we went out each week and fought till the end.
"We didn't play for any points but we still came away with quite a few wins. It showed the attitude we had, even in that pretty sh**ty time, everyone stayed strong. That's what we took out of that."
French is confident the Eels have weather the storm and are out the other side.
So confident is he that the club is on the up, he's even prepared to bring his brothers into the fold.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Bevan is one of four French brothers. He's the first of them to play rugby league professionally.
His two younger brothers - Luke and Dion - were invited down to train with Parramatta towards the end of last year.
Luke - the elder of the two - made the trip down from the family's home in Tingha prior to Christmas to meet and train with the Eels. He opted not to pursue the opportunity.
"He loves playing footy but he has other passions, his artwork and stuff like that. He made the decision not to continue with it," Bevan explains.
Dion French - still with a couple of years to complete in high school - has been making the trip down from the north coast to train in development programs.
Unlike Luke, Dion is genuinely interested in following Bevan's footsteps into professional sport.
"He likes his footy, me and him are the ones that love footy in the family. He plays a fair bit of footy back home, school and rep footy," Bevan said.
"But they want him to finish school there first so he'll come down a few times a year for development stuff and hopefully he goes all right."
The idea of playing in the NRL alongside his younger brother has crossed Bevan's mind.
"It would be good if I could run out on the park alongside him," he said.
"It would be good to do. I know he loves footy and that's what it takes to make it in the big league."
But Dion can take his time getting down to Parramatta.
Bevan isn't going anywhere.