“They were rolling us 60-70m through the middle and kicking it to where they wanted to. It’s frustrating.”
If you don’t control the ruck, if your forwards lose the battle in the middle of the field, you will inevitably give away penalties and field position. You will almost certainly lose the match.
This is not unique to Parra. This is rugby league as we know it. This is exactly what happened in the Storm v Dragons, Warriors v Tigers, Raiders v Titans and Panthers v Cowboys games this past weekend and it is certainly what happened in the Eels v Sharks.
I am sick of hearing that our forward pack is bad. Anyone who watched Manu, Tim, Daniel or Tepai play on Saturday night or Nathan Brown before he was injured, cannot seriously say they are not first grade forwards. They all did their job on Saturday, and most weeks go above and beyond it.
From the stands, six forwards stood out above the rest on Saturday night and in my opinion we had four of them. That should have been enough to give our backs a real chance to win. No doubt some blame needs to land at the backs’ feet as well.
But, from the stands, you could see that the Sharks had an entire forward pack who did their job. Their performances weren’t as spectacular as Fifita, but it was exactly what the team needed them to do. Collectively they gave their backs and halves the platform, field position and time they needed to work from. On the other hand, we had a couple of forwards who, from the very opening set, failed to recognise that their job was to put pressure on Fifita and Prior and get us going forward in attack.
Whatever you think about Craig Bellamy and his coaching tactics, he has no doubt built a successful team and club. In his book he said, ‘ My values are simple, but they are black and white. There aren’t no grey areas there; hard work, effort, team mentality and honesty.’
I imagine BA is no different. So just like when Bellamy dropped his first, and arguably his best halfback option in Brodie Croft because he could not be relied upon to do what the team needed him to do, we also need to be able and willing as a club to make similar decisions.
The quote I used to open this post did not come from me, nor did it come from a commentator or journalist. The quote came from Clint Gutherson in the post match press conference after this loss. It was raw and emotional – but it was also the truth. If our identity under BA is all about hard work, discipline and team first mentality, then we need to protect it at all costs, otherwise the frustration will continue to grow and we will lose more than just games this year.
Our next two opponents, the Dogs and the Warriors, have forwards very much like Fifita. They might not be in his class, but they play the exact same way. We need to give ourselves a chance to win and make them beat us a different way and not straight through the middle.
I am still proud of my team and will support them at ANZ on Friday night. There is no question of throwing the towel in. But just like BA said a few weeks ago, enough is enough and for me this past game reached that point with a few of our players.
I will finish with one scenario to justify my strong opinion this week. Can you imagine if Moses had decided he was not going to take that last kick, that he was not going to attempt to do his job for fear of looking bad or making a mistake or because he was too tired after the try? His investment in his role was there for all to see in the pain of the miss.
Our team can’t afford to have anybody not fully committed or focussed on their role, their responsibilities, each week. All get out of gaol cards have been used up during the first six rounds.
A few players not stepping up in any match makes the task of winning a difficult one for everyone else. Whether it was giving away ridiculous penalties, dropping the football, or allowing Fifita to rampage through the middle of the ruck, there were forwards guilty of letting their team mates down against the Sharks.
Those concerned need to accept that responsibility and step up this week.