Like any supporter, I always hope for a win and cannot accept defeat easily. Accordingly it was wonderful to watch from the stands as my Eels team took it to a premiership heavyweight like the Roosters and competed with self-belief, skill and desire. It also hurt to lose.
The loss against the Tri-Colours could be good for us if, make that ONLY IF, we learn the lessons from it. And here’s the biggest lesson – it’s essential for players to own their mistakes, especially those that relate to their role.
The thing I enjoyed most in the first two games (apart from the wins, obviously) was the way each player knew their role in the team. They did not step outside that role. That was the positive.
Last Friday, there were negatives that need to be acknowledged. I’m not talking about mistakes, because mistakes will always happen in any game of football.
What has to be addressed is when players don’t stick to their role. And to be clear, that doesn’t mean that we want a team of robots. But roles and responsibilities, especially in defence, are important. No team can afford lazy defenders, or those that don’t stick to the system, at crucial moments in the game.
Likewise, we cannot accept brain explosions in possession. The first two wins were achieved on the back of composure and team work. In such a young Eels team, it’s the role of senior players to demonstrate composure. That was not always the case last Friday night.
The loss is now consigned to the past, and hopefully the learning has been achieved.
Looking ahead, this Saturday against the Sharks is the perfect game for us.
Just like the Roosters, the Sharks will not beat themselves and will prepared to win ugly in 80th minute. If the Eels have learnt from their last game, then we should see them prepared and willing to do the same.
The two teams match up well. Junior can cause as much havoc as Fifita does. For the Eels, Moses, Brown and Gutherson have as much, if not more creativity and skill as playmakers. Both sides have big outside backs who can finish opportunities. And when it comes to missing players, I would argue that Wade Graham’s absence evens out the Eels being without Nathan Brown.
This game will be won by the team that has better field position and possession, along with that important word – composure. The Sharks defence will not crack easily, so we will need to be patient.
Make no mistake, if the Eels make the same mistakes as last week they will not win. If they fix them I expect an Eels win.
From the stands I therefore see this as the perfect game to follow on from the Roosters – a chance to see if our team has learnt from their mistakes.
Can we win this Saturday?
Absolutely and I expect us to. I acknowledge we always find it hard to beat the Sharks, but we are told – and I believe – this is a different Eels team. Last week showed that difference, but we need to be better.
To win we need players to own their mistakes from our last game and step back inside our system and play their role.
Quality teams like the Storm and the Roosters don’t have individual players who try to win the game by themselves. They don’t have individuals who try to do something out of the ordinary to make up for a past mistake. They have players who know their role in the team and execute it.
From the stands, I have believe that this Eels team has the potential to be spoken of as a quality team, but that next step must be taken on Saturday night.
Let’s look forward to a large and loud crowd at ANZ Stadium for our last ‘home’ game at that venue before our return to our spiritual home.