We can’t ignore it but neither should we now dwell on it.
Of course I’m disappointed but I want our players to pick themselves up and put their best self forward.
So as a fan up in the stands, I’ll leave last Sunday in the past. But, in looking forward, I’ll take the opportunity to reflect on the times I’ve seen attitude, desire and respect from our boys – times when our backs were against the wall. You see, I believe that those things simply went missing last week. Those qualities haven’t been destroyed.
Let’s take inspiration from our recent past.
Round 2, 2016: Parramatta vs Cowboys
I was so excited before the season started. The great saviour, Foran, had arrived and round 1 saw the team lined up against the Broncos at Parra Stadium. Unfortunately, the clash didn’t go to script and sadly the Eels got beaten up. Foran did not play and Norman was taken to hospital with a neck injury.
It was a disaster with star players injured, and the fans in the packed stadium left deflated.
The next opponent, the Cowboys, were the reigning champions.
Nobody told the players they couldn’t possibly win, because they didn’t just come up trumps on the scoreboard, they also won the battle of desire and attitude.
It was the first time in a long time that I saw the Western grandstand rise as one (as did the Cronin Stand) when we held Jonathan Thurston and his Premiership team out after 6 consecutive drop outs. Yes, we cheered the fact the scoreboard had not changed, but more importantly we witnessed the great attitude and desire now evident in BA’s Eels. It was a quality which would earn my admiration.
Round 19, 2016: Parramatta vs Penrith
The season had imploded with off-field salary cap dramas and on-field injuries.
Our team had lost its points. Players such as Peats, Paulo, Norman, Foran, Takairangi, and Radradra had either left the club or were unavailable through injury. Ma’u had to play in the centres and Gutho was playing five-eighth alongside Jeff Robson. Michael Jennings was then injured in the middle of the match, with Beau Scott and Kenny Edwards taking turns to fill in at centre.
We lost the game on goal kicking, but won so much more.
The resilience and pride in performance was extraordinary. We even hailed a new king. We could all be proud of the team again and I knew that in 2017 I would be proud of the club again.
It was evident that our new club values of integrity, Respect, Excellence were being defined and written in stone long before our new board and CEO named them officially. We could also add some good old fashioned honesty.
Round 17, 2017: Parramatta vs Tigers
Easter Monday at ANZ, our 70th birthday game.
The Eels were coming off four straight losses and I went to the game hopeful rather than confident.
Bevan was injured, Norman could hardly run with his hamstring and Edwards was still suspended. They had not played great the week before against the Warriors, actually they were dreadful, but the fans turned up in big numbers for this important day.
As the Eels fell behind 18-10, Moses was lining up a kick for the Tigers. I was cursing and waned half the team dropped.
Then I noticed 2 players, Gutho and Taka, blasting the players and looking them in the eye. I vividly remember Taka pointing to different parts of the crowd. I saw desire and attitude. I could see that he demanded that the players respect the occasion, respect the club. I could see that Gutho and Taka really wanted to win and demanded this from the other players.
From the ensuing restart, we started running harder and went from pathetic to brilliant all with the same players on the field. Many of the same players who in the previous 4 weeks and the first 60 minutes of this game had dropped ball after ball, given away absurd penalties, missed tackles – really soft tackles and looked disinterested, had somehow recaptured desire – and the crowd support followed.
In the following weeks we beat Penrith and the Cowboys. Our season started again and the Eels qualified for the finals in 4th place.
The point is that no matter why players lose desire, they are the only ones who can fix it.
BA made no structural changes in that game last year, we had no big props that came on, and Semi had a dreadful game – but the boys were made accountable on that field by Gutho and Taka.
I am not sure who or how or when the boys will make each other accountable, but it is up to them.
I’ll do my job. I’ll support, yell and cheer whatever team BA puts on the field, even if I disagree with it. The coaches will prepare tactics, just like they did last year to get us to the Top 4. Ultimately, it will come down to the attitude and desire of the players.
Our season is on the line, not with regard to points but rather attitude and desire to compete. For me, a win is not necessarily found on the scoreboard, but in that desire and commitment to compete.
This team has demonstrated on a multitude of occasions that they can rise against the odds. I know and believe to my core that it can return. And if it does, the rest of the season will take care of itself, regardless of the result this coming weekend.
This week is our new Easter Monday moment.
Last year we celebrated our birthday. This year, I predict we will witness the rebirth of the trust/ respect between our fans and players.
So given that I have now called on Eels players to be resilient, and rediscover that attitude and desire, then I will do the same.
My family and I will make the 5 hour round trip up to ANZ and I hope to see the Blue and Gold army with me. These players played a leading role in helping hold our club together in 2016 so let’s return the favour and help them.
Over to you boys, I will do my job and while some will call me crazy, I have faith you will do yours.
Integrity, Respect, Excellence (and Honesty) – find this in your performance, restore the pride – and we’ll be in the stands cheering you on.