Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo!
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly was a famous spaghetti western. In the Eels latest battle in the west, we had a dash of good, bad and ugly. This is how I saw the contest from the stands.
Let’s start with a negative so that we can end with the positive.
Refereeing – it’s a hot topic.
Does the issue sit in the standard of the refereeing or the direction they are provided? Is it fair to criticise on field officials, or should our attention turn to those who manage them?
Either way, the impact refereeing ‘management’ has on games, not simply our game against the Rabbits, but games in general, is ugly. It is unpleasant, and quite frankly makes the game unattractive.
To use the NRL leadership’s words against them, it was obvious watching from the stands that the Eels were the ‘lesser’ team in a ‘lesser’ game.
There is an undeniable perception of the Sam Burgess and Cameron Smith type of captains – that they receive more favourable responses from game officials than other “lesser” captains. It’s not an accusation, but it’s certainly how many supporters believe that the approaches of such “elite captains” to the referees are received.
True or not, the question has to be asked – why does such a widespread perception exist?
And how can this perception end?
We need the referees to stop managing and simply adjudicate. We can’t have a production of matches that the NRL would like to see. It’s a sport and referees must rule on what they see so that the players can determine the “lesser” team on the day.
Mistakes are part and parcel of refereeing and most people, albeit with some whinging, will basically accept them.
However, far too many of us believe that what we have been witnessing is not simple mistakes, but instead it’s referees managing games and making very conscious decisions about the way a game is flowing.
In the Eels match, it was clear to every spectator, every viewer, that Sam Burgess influenced a crucial call from the referee. Replays unquestionably proved that Peni Terepo did not lose the ball in the tackle, yet a late call was made after Burgess’ highly animated remonstrations. In doing so we saw the referee reinforce the identity of the “lesser” team and penalise the hopes of us “lesser” fans.
A 9 to 2 penalty count and pay back sin bin, left the Eels with 32% possession. It completely reversed the first half trend, and everyone expected it. Some of the calls were warranted, others like the Terepo call, were blatantly wrong.
Well my response is blunt and I am unapologetic about it. It took my family five hours to drive to and from that “lesser” game and cost us upwards of $100, not including membership fees, to attend and support my ‘lesser’ team. There will come a point at which the game becomes too ugly and fans like me will turn away, and we’ll decide to not drive five hours or pay the money to watch a game we believe is heavily influenced by the pre-conceived opinions of the officials and/or those who appoint them.
Do we need to get to that point?
The bad is linked to the ugly.
The Eels final matches sees them play teams such as the Roosters, Storm, Dragons and the Cowboys, with that particular game being Thurston’s last game in Townsville.
If we re-visit the concept of being the “lesser team”, we can expect no 50/50 calls in any of those matches. So, how do the Eels manage this?
It’s a valid criticism to label the Eels management of momentum shifts as their most glaring weakness as a team. When a call goes against the Eels they drop their heads and expect the worst. We saw evidence of this in our finals games last year and how costly was this! I know as a fan I am guilty of this as well.
This game management refereeing won’t change. We need to use these games as an opportunity to improve, to take our management of momentum shifts from bad and costly on the scoreboard to one where our resilience overcomes such setbacks.
Regardless of where we finish, it’s an imperative as we move forward.
Pride, Passion, Desire, Determination, Skill, Teamwork and Execution.
These qualities were the hallmark of the Parramatta teams in 2016 and 2017. I saw these multiple times from multiple players against the Rabbits.
When we consider the things that we CAN control over the last few rounds, then such qualities are high on that list. My message to the team is this – when these qualities are a feature of the Eels performances, my family will always be strong in our support.
These qualities must remain in evidence over the Eels last five games as they will enable the club to succeed in the future. Obviously, the team will need to strengthen its roster and staffing, but without these qualities no change will work, it will be change for change sake.
The thing that I saw from the stands that gives me the most hope and pleasure is that the players genuinely care. They may be lacking some belief, that comes when you are not winning. But, ultimately desire and passion will win out over belief. The belief can return in the off season with a few new faces and some different structures, but pride, effort, desire and commitment are individual choices and it is really good and pleasing to see our players make the right choice.
Well done to our players and bad luck on the game. From the stands, despite what the officials thought, you were the better and not the “lesser” team against the Rabbitohs.