The Cumberland Throw

From The Stands – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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.

The Ugly:

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.

Baz Terepo copped a rough call.

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:

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.

The Good:

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.

Shelley

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Rowdy
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Rowdy

Well said Shelley. I was looking for something uplifting before bed, and you have provided it with in-depth analysis of “the ugly, bad and good” without straying from the facts. In fact your understanding of the referee “game management objective” rather than the adjudication they are employed/engaged to provide is a reality every “lesser fan of a lesser team” can easily relate to. By the same token you are right again in respect of the “game management” our players need to practice in conjunction with the grit, skill, teamwork, etc, etc over these final 4 games as they have done… Read more »

Shelley
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Shelley

Our game management from some players has not been good for a couple of years, but last year Gutho, Brown and Semi got us out of trouble. The halves control the game. Too many times the wrong kick or pass option is taken and ultimately that is why we need change. I feel for the referees. They are good people who can obviously ref,they would not reach this level, I just don’t trust the people pulling their strings. The flag going up in the Sharks game was an error,they happen but the process with how and why the ref went… Read more »

Poppa
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Poppa

I agree with the thrust of Shelly’s comments and those points need to be rammed home to the NRL. I would like to go a step further and offer some advice to the NRL in doing something positive about it, rather than tinkering around the edges and satisfying no one. I posted the following on another site and I believe it has equal value to this audience as well, its time that Parra as an administration together with us as fans started to address the obvious problems, as distasteful as the rhetoric of my comments are. The rules have become… Read more »

Longfin Eel
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Longfin Eel

I truly believe we need to play the game that the NRL has made with the refereeing this season. We need a leader who can gain the respect of the referees, and who the referees will listen to. The truth is that we won’t get any 50/50 calls if the opposition is already playing this game, and we have seen this over and over again the past 2-3 years at least.

Whatever happens the rest of this year, we should be getting a head start on next year. Try things we haven’t done before, as we have nothing to lose.

Shelley
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Shelley

I agree. I may not like the way the game is managed but we are foolish if we don’t try to work with it. To me we are so structured and lack that leader who is a ball player who can adapt to the interpretation being applied by a referee on the day.

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Thing is who is our captain? We need a person that commands respect from his team mates and the refs, got a name? Having been away in Nepean Hospital I am a bit behind the stuff since Sunday, as I can only reflect on so many comments by a lot of supporters, the big issue to me & something I cannot stand is how times in a game do the players who go to dummy half raise their arms in protest about what they see is a hold down, around 75% of the time they are intimidating the ref but… Read more »

Longfin Eel
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Longfin Eel

Agreed Colin that the refereeing needs to command respect. I can’t believe the way the players carry on. In years past they would have been marched for that. The NRL has shown that it is incapable of changing this, so in the meantime we need to play the game too. In terms of names for a captain who can demand this respect from the referees, I don’t think we have one at the moment. Basically this needs to be a smart footballer who has his head screwed on correctly. Gutherson is probably the closest, but he has a lot to… Read more »

Pete
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Pete

I agree Shelley. From the earliest rounds the team Coach and players have not responded to the changes in the ruck and the many penalties awarded in 20m. Others were taking the 2 points and we didn’t… We lost those close games. Everyone bags our forwards but they have been busting their guts for the backs and halves to often butcher the field position. I think the (extremely late) addition of Kidwell has helped. If you look at our general play it’s pedestrian. Look at South’s they have Cook running from dummy half and then Burgess Bros getting quick play… Read more »

Milo
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Milo

Some valid points Pete. Dummy half part is spot on.

Pete
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Pete

Yes Milo. If you look at Fri 3rd Aug night’s South’s game (v Storm) again confirming what the ruck and play should look like in 2018. Out the back plays are easier to defend this year. If you don’t evolve you go backwards and thats what has happened this year.

Wile
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Wile

We also need a fairy tale to set the reality and get a fair go from the refs.
For example, Jarryd Hayne leading us to our first premiership in the longest drought of any team would be a great fairy tale for the media to get behind.
Jarryd seems to have matured to a point where he could captain
NRL and media love fairytale stories – just saying

BDon
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BDon

I watched 2 games of Rugby League in the Cook Islands a few weeks back.An 8 team comp, population less than18,000, has NRL merchandising backing. Fair standard, torrid in the ruck, a bit loose out wide. One ref, two linesmen, no bunker, no replays. The ref was good, let the game flow, penalties for clear breaches,adjudication was even handed, little or no player dissent. Geez it was good.

Milo
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Milo

That seems common sense BDon; our game has been too reactive over the last 10 or more yrs; and we have or sorry the NRL have cut back on a few traditions too.