The Cumberland Throw

From The Stands – When The Elite Lose Form

What a mixed bag I witnessed from the stands last Friday night. From the praiseworthy to the deeply concerning, the balance unfortunately fell into debit and the result was another loss.

Firstly, it’s important to praise the resilience, pride and determination displayed by most of our players against the Rabbitohs. The effort was present, they played some really good skillful footy, and they showed me that there is much to be hopeful about because they showed me unequivocally that they care about this team, our club and us fans. Thank you to those players.

I noted and admired the work of Nathan Brown, Tim Mannah, Manu Mau and Daniel Alvaro. I really enjoyed the energy and discipline brought to the game by Peni Terepo. I like the fact that young players are being given chances to improve, become better and more consistent.

Importantly I was able to walk away from the game content that my team, especially our much criticised pack, did not give up and showed some pride in the jersey.

I make no demands of our coaches or management because ultimately I have no control over decisions that are made and nor should I. I am no expert, I have no knowledge of what events are transpiring behind closed doors.

However, the question I asked myself while watching the game and the question that dominated the office lunch room discussion on Friday was, “You cannot repeatedly defend that poorly, what is going on?”

Given where the defensive errors were occurring, it follows that one can legitimately ask about when elite players need to be dropped or rested from first grade.

Jennings – 250 games deserves respect.

In recent weeks it was a question answered by shifting Corey Norman to fullback. His form in the halves was impacting the form of others around him, so a change was made. The same could now be asked of other players, and in particular, Michael Jennings.

This post is not meant as a Michael Jennings witch hunt. I am legitimately concerned about what is happening to such a gifted player.

What I witnessed ‪on Thursday night‬ was not okay for any experienced, talented and professional athlete. Worse still it was not an isolated incident. His errors have continued game after game, errors that have had an impact on the Eels fortunes in matches.

Make no mistake, Michael Jennings in form is a no brainer selection. He’s like a Rolls Royce in the backline – a sleek speed machine that only needs the slightest opportunity and he’ll be in open pastures.

The 2018 version is nothing like the Jenko we’ve all come to know. The simplest aspects of the game, especially handling, have become a challenge. His defence, often touted as the best in the game, is now fragile.

This version of Michael Jennings seems devoid of confidence, both in himself and in those around him. His decisions appear flawed, his focus seems completely at sea.

It can be validly argued that there are no options beyond selecting him in first grade. Looking through the Wenty line up, nobody deserves a call up.

But can anybody honestly say that his current form is helping the team? Just as importantly, is his continued selection doing him any favours?

What would we do if Jennings had been injured in this last game? We would have to come up with a solution. I would argue that he is currently playing injured. His confidence is torn and his focus is ruptured. He needs time to rehabilitate for his long term good and for the good of the team. He has a contract option in his favour for next year. At this rate, long term damage is being done.

Of course, this is just my opinion. I am not privy to all the facts. The players and coaches will have an understanding of why these things are happening and how or even if they can be rectified. They understand the player, his psyche, and what will work best for him. Nonetheless, there is a problem and it’s difficult to see how you can find a solution without making some type of change. Even if it’s a positional change – as will probably happen with other players when Moses returns – we need a solution.

A spell in ISP is not the end of the line. Current Origin players such as Damien Cook, Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr weathered form fluctuations and spent time, significant time, in the lower grades as a result. They found their way back onto the road to elite football. The last thing our Eels team and Michael Jennings needs is a road block. In my opinion, his continued selection as a first grade centre, right now, is just that.

Before finishing this post, let’s not use this as an opportunity to bag an out of form player. When you play a single first grade game you’ve achieved more than most people who’ve ever laced up a boot. When you clock up 250 first grade games, you’re in the special category. But it doesn’t make you exempt from selection debate.

So, let’s consider any responses from this perspective – do we have options to an out of form star and would it benefit Jenko (or any elite player) to find his form in ISP?

Shelley

19
Click Here to Reply ...

avatar
8 Comment threads
11 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
12 Comment authors
BDonAnthonysixtiesJeff Cookemitch Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Milo
Guest
Milo

Thanks Shelley, i think the form of some players in the team is a problem across the board in that some (and the figure is at least 5-6) are not being consistent first grade players; and when you add that some of these 5-6 are on good $$$$$ it makes it even harder to fathom. Without mentioning names we had players who were consistent in 2016/17 but have failed this year and i believe quite a few are backs; and a 2-3 being forwards. I take the point that Taka, Brown, Hayne, Moses and Pritchard have all spent good time… Read more »

Shelley
Guest
Shelley

It is tough to watch because we do not know anything but what we see. It was disturbing to see the defensive decisions being made repeatedly. Like you I hope to get done clarity with players moving forward but of course some secrecy is needed to get the best outcome for all. Guess we all just have trust those making decisions.

Longfin Eel
Guest
Longfin Eel

Yes it’s quite concerning that a player of MJennings’ calibre has lost confidence in the way he plays. In fact Rugby League is a confidence game, especially in defence. If you don’t trust the guy defending next to you, you would be likely to come in a bit closer to him in case he needs help. The guy on the other side of you does the same thing and then you have an overlap, which is exactly what we saw happen multiple times on Thursday. We have not been able to address the confidence issue that started in the game… Read more »

Shelley
Guest
Shelley

I really don’t have the answer just want one found. Last Thursday was good for no one, M Jennings, his teammates, fans etc all had to endure it. I simply want a decision made to
move us forward as for whatever reason the right edge is not working and has been poor all year.

Colin Hussey
Guest
Colin Hussey

To look at the current MJ playing standards one really has to ponder the reasons why, but its hard to come up with answers, especially when a lot of what we see is totally out of character of him. One would think that having Hayne next to him would help in his game, likewise playing with one of his younger brothers who has shown some good form for the eels. A player of his experience to be put back to ISP begs the question of whether or not it would that help his confidence? I would say yes and also… Read more »

Shelley
Guest
Shelley

I agree that the reasons could be numerous and answers may be difficult to find. But that is what the coaches etc get paid to do. I would expect any player to take responsibility for themselves, no matter what is happening with contracts etc. If they can’t then they should not be picked.

Fathead
Guest
Fathead

The continued selection of Michael Jennings is a prime example of disrespect by the coach. Jenko knows he doesn’t deserve the selection and so do the other players in the team. Worst still, by continuing to select the player it gives no incentive for the reserves to play well knowing that it will make scant difference.
It also makes the continued threats by Arthur just white noise. Unfortunately that’s all the players are now hearing.

The emporer
Guest
The emporer

Whos his replacement ??

The rev aka Snedden
Guest
The rev aka Snedden

Good write up Shelley.

I like many must show respect to Michael ( jet boot ) Jennings to play 250 game in the best comp in the world. He just had one of those games a bad night at the office lets say. He only kept on coming in because he didn’t think gutherson could handle the players running at him.

mitch
Admin

I think his form has been declining for the past month. With that said, who is BA supposed to replace him with?

The rev aka Snedden
Guest
The rev aka Snedden

I know his far from his best we can all see that. So for example if we change coach’s do you think his form would improve ?

Example the burgess boys Tom n George. Under Michael McGuire they were getting labeled bums but change of coach n there 2 of the best props going around.

mitch
Admin

I might have read you wrong, but are you suggesting that instead of making Jennings responsible for his form, that we should instead change coaches to get him out of his funk?

The rev aka Snedden
Guest
The rev aka Snedden

Sorry Mitch if I have confused you no no no not for 1 minute am I saying Michael Jennings is not responsible for his form slump. What I’m saying is also that maybe a change of coach may help him turn around his poor form. But if we do put MJ in ISP we can replace him with karisome avua who is a centre n not a winger.

Milo
Guest
Milo

Agreed Mitch; i had this chat with my old man on the wkend; we have little to bring in with Auko…etc. Or BA reshuffles backs again with Hayne / Taka / Bevan / Gutho etc.
This is why we are fans etc and not coaches; it is their call and ultimate responsibility.

Jeff Cooke
Guest
Jeff Cooke

Agree with your reflections on MJ and the team. It is hard to believe our results this year but that’s less important than how they play. Play well and lose? I can cop that but underperforming is a much harder pill to swallow. One thing I don’t understand is the rushing up in defence from our back line. Everyone is doing it and it looks like it’s coached to me, otherwise it would stop. Players need to back themselves and their teammates and go back to solid straight line defence.

Colin Hussey
Guest
Colin Hussey

Jeff, the running up in defence has been a curse at the eels for a long time, especially that right hand side, its an easy defensive idea if the rush aspect is stopped, when coaches want it to happen more often than not its taken very literally from most players and that’s what we are seeing with MJ and his wing partner, as they come in too soon and quickly. Teams with centres who are experienced and good readers of the plays, only come in when they see there will be no overlap left especially when the opposition has fast… Read more »

sixties
Admin

Correct Colin. All teams have times when the centre reads that he needs to jam in. As soon as the centre does that, the winger basically has to follow him in. As I see it, the team is coached to not let the opposing winger get on the outside of our winger. Of course, when the players in the defence line then read the numbers running their way, that’s when a player might jam in.

Anthony
Guest
Anthony

I don’t disagree with the premise that M. Jennings in particular, and many other players are out of form. It is evident in the body language and the decision making when the chips are down. However, if you were to watch many of our games from last season, you will see that we had very similar lapses and poor reads in defence in our back line. Take the Broncos game for example, we scored over 50, but they put plus 30 on us as well. I’m concerned that the problem is more systemic, which is only being magnified by the… Read more »

BDon
Guest
BDon

Scratching my head like everyone. A couple of things:
– some teams seem to have us done (in red zone plays) at second receiver, you can just see it unfolding. The South’s plays were executed in such a narrow space that you would have to think the inside defenders were just as shot as MJ/GJ.
– we are really inconsistent at pushing across, our last gasp scramble rarely saves the outer defenders. I quite often think our tackle loads are so high, our scramble energy is poor.
Has David Kidwell made any public statements? His opinion on all of this would be interesting.