To win a championship, you’ve got to have a nucleus of five or six real tough, hard competitors. To win anything, the team’s got to think tough and that infiltrates into the individual. You’ve got to have a tough leader.
What a week!
Last week the Eels players and the club faced a barrage of warranted criticism for their performances on the field in the disgraceful loss to the Knights.
This week we witnessed the Eels respond in the best possible way with a victory over the Cowboys. The performance was imperfect, the opposition made their share of errors, but the effort was poles apart from the previous round.
Incredibly, in the days since Saturday night we’ve also witnessed the continued attacking of our team and club leaders in a relentless campaign from some media ‘personalities’ and so called supporters, who somehow feel they have the right to speak for and on behalf of me and thousands of other supporters.
I started last week much like many Eels fans – very disillusioned, but as the week progressed I became more confident. I was liking what I was seeing and hearing.
I liked hearing directly from Bernie Gurr in his interview with TCT. There were no out of context quotes appearing in a news report but full, honest responses from a leader who knows we need to be and must be better.
For once I liked the pre game interviews from our leading players Tim, Clint and Jarryd at the airport. Instead of hearing about playing dumb, making mistakes and generally focusing on negatives, they focussed entirely on being a team again both on and off the field.
This team has so much talent and that is not lost or forgotten overnight. However, that trust, confidence and/or belief has been missing and the pre-game interviews from the players told me that they themselves had identified that as something that had to be fixed.
Finally, I liked the fact that BA gave our leaders in this team a chance to lead and was open enough to publicly state it. When a coach, who is under fire, is willing to give his senior men so much control over preparation for a crucial game that tells me that he has trust in his senior players. This is what I needed to see and feel as a fan. I needed to trust again that our coaches and players were pulling in the same direction.
So my feeling going into the game was positive. After leaving the game the week before almost broken somehow my trust had been restored by the way the club, the entire club, had handled the week. I was that confident for the first time in 5 weeks I picked Parra to win in the footy tipping comp.
After 5 minutes of the game I knew they would win. They looked enthusiastic, positive, committed and most importantly happy to be on the field. They were aggressive in defence, with much better line speed.
Nathan Brown was a leader. He often made two runs in a set and every time Taumalolo got the ball, Brown was there to stop him. He was a man on a mission, and that mission helped to set up the victory.
Bevan French had some really pleasing touches. Who knew he could kick with control and precision? But most importantly Bevan was vocal on the field. He was organising and supporting players. He wasn’t alone in support play either. This was a noticeable improvement and a noticeable attitude and effort shift.
The most pleasing aspect of the game for me was the support the players had for Reed Mahoney. The audio picked it up beautifully. The Cowboys ran Taumalolo at him almost every set and every time he made a tackle on him, or even when he occasionally slipped off you could hear the support. ‘Well done Reedy’ said over and over again by different players on the run.
The reality is this team going forward needs an injection of youth. With this will come enthusiasm but rookie mistakes will also happen. I saw that our senior players, our leaders, understand this and will support, encourage and pick up our rookies when needed.
I was both happy and hopeful at the conclusion of the game. Happy we won but also hopeful that we have the core group of leaders in our club to take the lessons from this year, both on and off the field and move forward.
This is only one victory in a string of losses and that’s not lost on me. But, at the very least this game and past week restored my faith as a fan that we have enough people in and around the club who really do care, are intelligent and calm and want success. From the stands that was all I really needed to see. Well done to everyone involved for the very proactive and positive handling of a tough week.
Finally, to our players I say this: bring that same energy, commitment and pride to the game on Thursday against the Rabbits and my family and I will be in the stands cheering and supporting right till the end, no matter the result. I want to support and defend you as individual players and as a team. I want to be proud of you and everything about this last week gave me reason to do that.
Well done! Now let’s move forward, especially for your home fans.