What price should you place on leadership?
The words from Jack Gibson are more succinct then I could ever be. He said, “to win a championship, you’ve got to have a nucleus of five or six real tough, hard competitors. To win anything, the team’s got to think tough and that infiltrates into the individual”.
Our leaders spoke post Roosters game about learning lessons and not repeating them. They showed me this past Saturday against the Sharks they had learnt that lesson. They have restored in me, as a fan, the faith that had eroded last year, the faith that this team is prepared to win ugly, to stay in the fight. To get back up when they are knocked down.
We have the nucleus of some real hard, tough competitors.
Injured players like Nathan Brown and Manu Ma’u are uncompromising.
Ferguson has surprised me so much. I knew he was talented but watching him at the ground he is so busy coming in and geeing up players.
Moses is super competitive and talented and his willingness to put his body on the line in defence this year is really pleasing to watch. Youngsters like Reed and Dylan have a toughness and a fearless nature that I love.
Junior is clearly the Alpha in our pack. Reports indicate that he’s become a mentor for young emerging forwards. His Saturday night battle with the extremely talented Fifita was wonderful, old school footy with the two Alpha props trying to one up each other. I would say that contest was a tough draw.
And the old warhorse Tim Mannah continues to lead by example, doing the hard yards through the centre of the ruck as he has done for the previous ten years.
But let’s not kid ourselves. The glue that holds this team together, as far as I see it from the stands, is Gutherson.
My team has many important components, but none are as vital as Gutherson. His talent, drive, leadership and sheer competitiveness is the backbone of this club.
The value of his work on the footy field certainly speaks for itself – he is Mr Everywhere. Throw in his ability to connect with the media and with fans, young and old, and you can rename him, Mr Irreplaceable.
At a time when a wooden spoon Eels could have lost their connection with supporters, the King maintained his appeal to the average punter, to the kids, and no doubt to the corporate and community partners.
The trouble is that Clint Gutherson is not, at the moment, a long term proposition. Only management can answer, why not?
I have not agreed with all decisions made by management regarding player movement but I have always respected that they know more than me.
There are so many intricacies surrounding negotiations with player agents. These people are trusted by players to act on their behalf, but their influence has gone well beyond that.
Big Gorden Tallis recently revealed that 18 Broncos players, and the coach, are all managed by the same agent. That sort of thing spells trouble in anyone’s language. You can never allow an agent to wield the power at your club.
And that’s just the background roster information before club management sit down to talk about any individual contract.
Obviously, the days of a Michael Cronin handshake deal are long gone.
Don’t get me wrong. Fans are entitled to having an opinion about contract negotiations, but without being fully informed about who’s managed by whom, how much money is available, the overall roster structure, what’s been offered, and what the agents are pushing for in contract length and dollars, offering valid criticism is close to impossible.
And that’s the stance I normally take.
But not on Gutherson.
I don’t need to be an expert when it comes to how important he is to the Eels.
As a born and bred, lifelong Parra supporter, I know that Gutherson, a kid from the Northern Beaches who played for our fiercest rival in Manly, is Parra to the core.
His qualities on and off the field mirror those of past great players who built this club. Cronin, Price, O’Reilly, Kenny – tough, uncompromising players with absolute unwavering determination.
I don’t know the how and why Gutherson is not signed up already. I just know he should be. I will not accept excuses, because if he’s allowed to move on over what might be a few dollars, then Eels supporters will demand answers. And probably none will suffice!
The next two weeks should be the most exciting time for Eels supporters as we celebrate our return home, but I fear that the narrative will be hijacked by continued media reports about Gutherson’s future.
I am not a fan of the NRL media but they are right with Gutherson. His value off the park is at least the equivalent of his considerable talent on it.
So I ask again, what price player leadership?
I have a feeling Jack Gibson would have said, “Get that kid Gutherson signed up.”
From the stands, where all of us punters sit, the signature of Clint Gutherson is a non-negotiable. It was all everyone around me was talking about on Saturday night. As the title of my post implies, From The Stands expresses the spectator’s perspectative so it would be wrong to ignore all the voices around me at ANZ Stadium.
Think about that. The team is winning games, but as much as the supporters are cheering about this, they’re also stressing about the contract of the captain. There’s a message to the club in that.
Pay the kid – he’s earned every bit of the coin he’d get if he went to market – and then some. He’s not just the King, he’s the Nucleus of this club.
He is Parramatta.