The Cumberland Throw

Whisky Musings – Round 2: Eels let the Dogs out before letting it out on the Dogs

Round 2 Drink Of Choice – Nikka Whisky

Rather ridiculously, history says the Eels are Top 4 bound after starting the season 2-0 with a largely constructive 36-16 demolition of the Canterbury Bulldogs. Seriously, the only times the Eels have started a season 2-0 in the modern era (1998, 1999 and 2017) they have finished the year in the Top 4. That is much an indictment about our slow starts as it is a fortuitous reading of the tea leaves but it does add another sheen of gloss to Parramatta’s unbeaten start to the year. Even so, there is plenty of footy to break down before we can even think about the holding a St-George style coronation ceremony to celebrate our status as March premiers so as usual, let’s get right into it.

http://www.starrpartners.com.au/office/starr-partners-narellan

Wingers Are People Too

Is the role of the humble winger the most underrated position in the game? It has long been on my mind to blog about this train of thought but outside of your primary play-makers in the spine – who handles the ball more? Who is entrusted with both starting and finishing sets as well as making the most clutch and difficult split-second decisions in defence?

Everyone in the NRL balked at the enormous contract that Semi Radradra signed with Toulouse in French Rugby. Even last year, plenty of eyes rolled when it was revealed that the Eels had secured Blake Ferguson on approximately $450,000 a season over three years. In an era where the pay scale for marquee middle forwards is keeping pace with half-backs and five-eighths, it certainly feels like the market has responded inefficiently to a position that has such a huge bearing on the outcome of nearly every game.

Back to Ferguson now and his modest 16 run, 279m, 2 linebreak, 10 tackle bust, 1 intercept, 2 try day only sort of anchored the Eels in their 20-point rout of the Bulldogs. I spoke about Marata Niukore’s potential to physically bully the opposition with the ball in hand in a blog earlier this week and Ferguson absolutely typifies that point as well. Canterbury struggled to contain Parramatta’s chrome-domed crusader throughout the entire game perhaps even more than the statistics say. Maika Sivo played a pretty stellar complimentary role as he pumped out 139m from 16 runs but two sloppy errors during play-the-ball attempts did take some of the lustre off his game.

 

Million Dollar Baby

Dylan Brown caught some fire for his comments to the media this week about dreaming about making millions of dollars as a kid and potentially testing his value in free agency. Brad Arthur revealed today that the boom rookie was immediately on the phone to him to explain himself as stories broke covering the comments before playfully labeling Brown with ‘a weird sense of humour’. He is certainly aiding his cause for whatever the Eels eventually do lay down on the table as an offer with a strong, if subdued, performance today.

Brown played within himself at times and things started inauspiciously for the young man as he dropped the ball cold with a loaded left-edge flying through outside him. He quickly repaid the misdeed as he secured two line drop-outs with perfectly weighted grubber kicks and ultimately put the result well and truly beyond doubt by helping start and finish a lovely ball movement that also featured Junior Paulo and Jaeman Salmon.

Perhaps most pleasingly though is the harmonious nature of his relationship with Mitchell Moses through Parramatta’s two wins. No over-calls, no verbal blow-ups…it just works and it reminds of a cool little year called 2017.

 

No Brakes On The Night Train Lane

It isn’t often that you get to savour a forward streaking nearly 50m downfield to score an intercept try but it was that exact play that capped a strong game from the man with the go-go-gadget arms. Shaun Lane, he of cartoonish wingspans, is the purveyor of said rare feat and the big man had the opportunity to help the Eels post an uber-rare Triple-Double later in the game by joining Blake Ferguson and Clinton Gutherson as dual try scorers when he grassed a skidding grubber kick from Mitchell Moses in front of the uprights.

Lane wasn’t without fault with two errors to his name but he in a loaded recruitment class for the Eels he is making sure to keep pace with the efforts of Ferguson and Junior Paulo.

 

Slow start, sloppy finish, big test

You can never grumble too much when you are banking valuable wins early in the season but the Eels obviously still have plenty of work to do – which is both good and bad. This team is far from peaking in its current iteration with core players injured and procedural errors inhibiting their ability to put their opponents to the sword. The good news is that there is plenty of time to build and nurture this exciting young team with an eye for the business end of the season. The bad news is that they get a very big litmus test in Round 3 when they host the reigning premiers in the Sydney Roosters.

While the grit and poise put on display today to claw back an early 10-point deficit against the Bulldogs was both admirable and encouraging – they simply can’t afford to repeat such a start against the premiers. The Roosters will leave the Eels at a greater deficit and prove to be far more formidable at holding any advantage should Parramatta gift similar swathes of territory and possession on Friday night.

Switching back to the good news now and since the Eels are hosting this game (and since the accursed Sydney Football Stadium is no longer a threat) the chances of an outright beating should be reduced significantly. For whatever reason the combination of the Eels, Roosters and the SFS never ends well for the Blue & Gold.

A win would be huge for the Eels but more than anything the game represents a challenge for Brad Arthur and his men to take a premiership heavyweight 80-minutes to the final whistle.

 

Miscellaneous Men Of Merit

Failing an improbable way of tying Clinton Gutherson, Brad Takairangi, Reed Mahoney, Jaeman Salmon and Tim Mannah together with the mother of all attempted witticisms as a header, here is a shout-out to some of the other top performers today. Mannah’s renaissance that started in 2018 continues with an outstanding 13 run, 141m effort from the bench while Salmon may have just lost one job and won another with two valuable cameos from the bench. The young star was right in the thick of preseason competition to line up at centre opposite Michael Jennings but now could feature as a key figure from the bench for Eels as they look to make an unfamiliar foray into the Top 4.

 

The Final Word

The Eels needed to beat the Dogs convincingly and they did. Sort of. Everyone knew that Canterbury were going to come out fired up after getting thoroughly embarrassed by the New Zealand Warriors and they did just that, venturing their arms with some low percentage offloads that stuck. Parramatta did their best to aid the Dogs with an awful completion rate but their mid-game rally strongly evoked memories of 2017 as they blew their Western Sydney rivals off the park.

Now a massive game looms on the short turnaround as the Eels step into the ring with the Roosters in prime time on Friday night. For all their minor faults and warts over the first two rounds, Parramatta have a real shot at landing a body blow on the reigning champs. It will be must-see TV.

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Bob jay
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Bob jay

Out of interest 5 of the current top 8 teams are coached by people from within the storm system !!

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Good proof reading forty. Early days and two big games before the homecoming they will show what this team and club are made of, todays attendance was said to be 20,134 not bad but the empty spaces shows out big time, would not surprise me to see around double that next Friday Night against the fowls. A much better atmosphere as a result I would think. I watched the Weny game today also, and while an ugly win, there are a few players there that impressed me and they are on our list as well, after just two games our… Read more »

!0 Year Member
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!0 Year Member

Forty, thanks for the musings and insight. Whilst I have been gushing in other posts about certain players, to see Gutho playing the way he is, backing up, there at every opportunity and his stated desire to learn and get better every game, he sure did that the last two games. Gutho is special. Looks like it took quite while to get over that knee injury. I am super impressed with his passion and leading by example.

Paul
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Paul

Dylan brown played with himself is probably not the best way to word it otherwise a good take on the game

DDay
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DDay

A Freudian slip perhaps Paul…

sixties
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Forty working blue? Not this early in the season.

MattL
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MattL

I had to read that line twice also!

Trouser Eel
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Trouser Eel

Nice write-up Forty20. If Penrith weren’t a test, the Roosters definitely will be. Let’s hope your musings on Saturday morning have the same tone as today’s. I’m tipping it’s going to be a tight one.

sixties
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I’m really looking forward to this test. I’m extremely pleased with how the Eels spine is delivering, and the match up against the Roosters spine could be a good gauge for how we are travelling.

Chris Parra4lyf
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Chris Parra4lyf

Thanks for this awesome blog mate been following all off seasons and now good to see it keep going. Some thoughts so far. Brown and Sivo showed yesterday they are still pretty new to the game, I think having Jennings out exposed Sivo a little yesterday, but I was really impressed with his running game, big difference between this year and last year has been Fergo and Sivo’s running game early in our sets which has taken alot of pressure off our forwards. Brown dropped the ball (as did sivo) in a few crucial errors yesterday, this week we should… Read more »

Jonno
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Jonno

Actually thought Evans was good, ,Moroera(spelling ) seemed absent, maybe due to everyone else excelling

rowdy roddy
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rowdy roddy

Jonno, I also thought Evans was good yesterday and carried the ball strongly, he also ran some good lines into gaps when supporting other first receiver cart ups on 2 occasions but did not get the pill. His defense was strong too. Having said that, I would also like to see Peni back with his aggression.

Tepai Moeroa was in a moon boot all week until Caps Run Saturday, probably played with a needle and a lot of strapping.

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Rowdy, I await to see what happens with Peni, decision is supposed to be this week, maybe in time for team selection against the chooks, I would like to see him in the team somewhere, at whose expense though? Evans, against his old team or for Tepai? If Tepai was in moon boot and had to play with injections, would rather see him rested to be fully fit.

He was also targeted a bit by the ref on Sunday as well for being in the tackle too long, could have been the injury causing problems.

Jonno
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Jonno

Col, is that really you, I couldn’t find the “read more” caption. Might be your shortest answer yet lol

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Jonno, What I say and length depends on the need at the time,

DDay
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DDay

The game plan seemed different against the Dogs, more focus on going through the centre with a reduced focus on second phase and attacking the edges. With Junior’s return that makes sense though it did mean a reduced role for Marata, Tep and Lane. Best plan against the Rooster…?

Greg Okladnikov
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Greg Okladnikov

interesting read as always….Salmon was good off the bench. Overall a solid performance. And the attitude is impressive. We do look like one team

John Eel
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John Eel

Forty I thought that both Mahoney and Salmon played their best games since coming into NRL. Certainly Salmon did not have big minutes but I thought he looked really good. Mahoney was very good last week as well.

Will be interesting tomorrow with Team List Tuesday. Assuming both Jennings are available and Peni possibly as well.

Go Eels