The first loss of the year.
Is it good news or bad? Can we even answer that question before the Eels take on the Sharks this week?
There seems to be universal consensus that the Eels matched it with the Roosters for at least three quarters of Friday night’s game.
So let’s ask the question, did we need to lose this one?
As supporters we want a team that eliminates their errors, and competes to the 80th minute. The Eels proved that they aren’t there yet. Their response against the Sharks will demonstrate how hungry they are to get there.
If nothing else, the loss has helped to temper some early season hype.
Here’s how the week has gone down.
Eels fans roll up for the club’s penultimate home game at ANZ Stadium. I’m personally stunned by an announced crowd of just over 13K. The attendance looked noticeably bigger than the previous week when 20K was given as the crowd figure. There was no way that it was seven thousand less than the week before.
This match would be no easy task, with last year’s Premiers, the Roosters, determined to back up their victory over the Sea Eagles.
Once again a lower grade fixture is provided as a curtain raiser, with the Flegg team also taking on the fellas from Bondi. After a determined first half defensive effort, the young Eels draw level with their opponents early in the second half, only to see dropped ball once again bring about their 20 to 12 defeat. The highlights can be viewed here.
After losing Tepai Moeroa during the warm up, the Eels NRL team kept up the costly errors theme in the main event. The 32 to 18 score line was no reflection of the difference between the teams on the night, but it was indicative of the Eels lack of attention to detail.
Failure to complete the set after scoring is a cardinal sin, and the Eels weren’t content with doing this just once against the Roosters. When Blake Ferguson turned the ball over after the Eels kicked to an 18-14 lead, all of the momentum swung to the Bondi brigade. Hopefully lessons are learnt.
On a positive note, Maika Sivo crossed for two cracking tries. The big Fijian also carried the ball strongly in a performance which highlighted his potential.
After going through the first six rounds undefeated, the Eels SG Ball team slumped to their second loss in an 8th round clash with the Roosters. Parra led 10 nil at the break, then came from behind to lead 16 to 12 late in the second half. Unfortunately the young Eels turned the ball over when deep in attack with only three minutes left on the clock, and then saw the Roosters score off a chip and chase in the ensuing set. The conversion from close to the posts provided an 18 to 16 victory to the Bondi outfit.
In other Junior Rep news, the Harold Matthews side had a bye, the Laurie Daley Cup team ended their season with a loss in their semi-final, whilst the Tarsha Gale girls thrashed Penrith 36 to nil. The results leave the Harold Matthews sitting in 8th place, the SG Ball in 6th and the Tarsha Gale in 3rd.
In NRL news, the post mortems continue, with the Eels conceding that crucial errors and soft tries cost the team an upset victory over the Roosters. The words “learning from the loss” are thrown around throughout the day. The upcoming games will determine whether that’s the case.
In what seemed like deja vu for the club, the Wenty Magpies made crucial errors and conceded a late field goal to go down to the Bears by 21 to 20. View the highlights here.
It’s likely that the Magpies would rue a turn over just before half time, resulting in a try to Norths going into the break.
The loss caps a miserable weekend for the Eels across the grades, and turning the ball over was a common issue in every defeat.
Best for the Magpies were Fainga’a and Stone who delivered in defence, and French who crossed for two tries. Wenty take on the Jets this Sunday at Ringrose.
In other Eels news, Paul Kent attempts to stir the pot with Eels fans by suggesting that the club were low balling Clint Gutherson with their contract offer. When it comes to credible news on this front, it’s best to only listen to comments from Gutherson himself.
The Eels returned to training, with Dylan Brown a notable absentee. Team list Tuesday would ultimately provide the reason for this.
With Brown missing, Salmon trains in the pivot position, a role that he debuted in last season.
After training, it was the media call for a number of players.
In a wide ranging interview covering football and life outside the game, Blake Ferguson provided the best quote about the Roosters clash.
“I don’t think it was impressive because we lost.”
That has to be the mindset of the team moving forward.
In stunning news for Eels supporters, Team List Tuesday was accompanied by the announcement that Dylan Brown will be out of action for an indefinite period with a lower back injury.
Besides his fine individual form across the first three rounds, Brown has provided Mitch Moses with the balance he needed to play at his best. His composed and confident play complements Moses’ desire to sometimes throw caution to the wind. It immediately rectified last year’s problems in the halves.
As expected, Jaeman Salmon is named as Brown’s replacement. It should prove to be a big match for Fish as he lines up against his junior club. It will also be fascinating to watch him come face to face with fellow junior Shire star, Bronson Xerri.
In other team news, Oregon Kaufusi retains his place on the bench after impressing with a powerful stint against the Roosters.
It’s the big opposed session of the week at Old Saleyards. Fortunately Salmon is well versed in his new role as the team go through their paces in preparation for the Sharks.
We chat briefly with Will Smith and Stefano Utoikamanu who are both on track in their rehabilitation.
Journalists and commentators begin to speculate that Brown could be missing for between 6 to 8 weeks. It’s reported that his injury is similar to back problems suffered by fast bowlers in cricket. The type of bone bruising is apparently a precursor to stress fractures.
The caution being taken by the Eels is therefore well understood.
On a positive note, the club announces that no more casual tickets are available for the opening match at BankWest Stadium. The only way of guaranteeing a seat now, will be to take up ticketed membership.
Wednesday Night Lights!
The club announces a special open training night to be held on Wednesday 17th April at the new BankWest Stadium. In an event capped at 7000 people, the punters will get to experience what the stadium will offer under lights, as well as getting a meet and greet opportunity with the players.
Thursday is the rest day before the Captain’s Run.
As match day approaches, a reasonable question must be asked: With the Eels taking on the Sharks in NRL and Flegg, and Wenty playing the Jets in the Canterbury Cup, why are we seeing every match played at a different venue across two days?
There are understandable difficulties aligning an NRL draw with a NSWRL draw. Therefore, when you have every grade between two clubs drawn on the same weekend, it seems ludicrous that they would be staged at three venues.
And if you’re planning to watch the junior reps, try increasing that to four venues over two days.
This is not just difficult for supporters, it’s stretching the demands on football department staff. Instead, we have Touch Football as the ANZ Stadium curtain raiser. Touch football athletes are both skilled and fit, and deserve respect. However, despite the NRL rightly supporting a related code, it is not a sport which interests many spectators as it has evolved into a vastly different game.
In my opinion, NRL Touch Footy should be staged prior to a lower grade curtain raiser.
Bring on the footy!