What a strange week.
It seems incongruous to report feeling frustrated in a week which delivered great results, but that’s exactly how the past seven days in PARRAdise impacted me.
The Eels club were scattered far and wide in their venues across the weekend – different locations, different days. My frustration as a supporter is one thing, the demands on staff trying to attend matches must be something else.
Without cloning technology, it’s just not feasible for supporters to dedicate the time required to attend three grades plus junior reps across multiple locations on different days. For staff, including passionate volunteers, it’s a huge ask, if not impossible.
What made the scheduling of this past round difficult to accept, was that the Flegg, Canterbury Cup and NRL teams were each playing Cronulla affiliated teams.
The weekend results put a smile on plenty of faces, but as the dust settled, the focus shifted to Eels contracts and a little unease began to kick in.
Wouldn’t it be nice to kick back, free from any concerns!
Enough of the grumpy old man.
Here’s how the past week has panned out.
The Eels conclude their preparations for the Sharks with a Captain’s Run at Old Saleyards. I leave training quite confident of victory.
Earlier in the week, my thoughts on the game had fluctuated. The record against the Sharks was poor and there was the risk of a psychological let down after the Roosters loss. I thought that the training earlier in the week was a little low in energy.
But the energy built as the week progressed and at the Captain’s run, the vibe was fantastic. The boys looked ready to go. Arthur and his staff had managed the team perfectly following the loss, building the team back up throughout the week.
This was a huge day with matches across various venues. The Junior Reps were away to Newcastle in the final round of their competitions.
The Harold Matthews (28 to 6) and Tarsha Gale (48 to 4) teams suffered heavy defeats. The Matts poor differential proved costly, with the side failing to qualify for the finals. A much improved season for the Tarsha Gale girls sees them playing finals football next week.
The SG Ball team ended their recent run of outs with a 24 to nil victory over the Knights confirming a top 4 placing. The young Eels take on a quality Sea Eagles team at Lottoland on Saturday. A number of players in both teams will be renewing the hostilities from the 2018 Matts Grand Final. It should be a top match
Unfortunately, the Jersey Flegg team suffered their third loss in getting thumped 38 to 4 by the top placed Sharks at McCredie Park in Guildford. Injuries, a sin bin and more dropped ball all contributed to a second half collapse as the young Eels turned in their worst result of 2019. I’m confident that the boys will commence a run of victories soon enough.
The Eels final home game at ANZ Stadium turned into a night of celebrations with a 24 to 12 victory in front of just over eleven thousand spectators.
The first half was played at a frenetic pace as the Eels carved up the Sharks defence line. Only determined scrambling from Cronulla prevented the score from blowing out. Indeed that fighting spirit from the Shire boys saw them draw level on the scoreboard just after half time.
In contrast, the second half became a demonstration of game management from Parra as Mitch Moses made maximum use of limited possession with an astute kicking display.
The victory ended a five game losing streak against the Sharks and kept the Eels in the Top 8 after round 4.
Bevan French had an absolute day out as the Wenty Magpies turned on some magic at Ringrose Park, disposing the Newtown Jets 42 to 10. The Sharks feeder team had a few changes resulting from the top grade withdrawals whereas the Magpies were bolstered by the inclusion of Eels players not required for the NRL clash.
A switch to the halves proved to be the catalyst for Bevan’s five star performance. The Eels speedster had the ball on a string with a kicking game which delivered two individual tries and a further three try assists.
All of the Wenty team turned in great games, with the Eels contracted players particularly impressive. The highlights can be viewed here. Ray Stone continued to remind Brad Arthur that he’s ready for a call up with a ferocious defensive display and two tries of his own. No doubt he wouldn’t let anybody down judging by his 2019 form.
In a bizarre mirroring of his brother’s recent misfortune, George Jennings found himself on report, in the sin bin and ultimately suspended after a tackle went horribly wrong. Has there been any other sin bins resulting from tackles this year apart from the Jennings brothers? I can’t recall any.
The media continue to turn up the heat on Eels management regarding the contracts of Brad Arthur and a host of Eels players.
As usual, Arthur deflects the questions on his own situation, reiterating his passion for the club and emphasising that his focus is on his job, not on his contract. I’ve never wavered from my opinion that BA is the man to lead this club into the future. I trust that the club will confirm this in the coming weeks.
Just as important on the contract front are the signatures of Gutherson and Moses. Gutherson’s situation has received the most attention, with Eels management reportedly low balling the King with their early offers, and his agent declaring that the Parra captain might have to open himself up to outside offers in the near future.
Our own Shelley tackled the issue in her From The Stands post, writing that securing Gutherson to a new deal is non-negotiable. Undoubtedly, Eels fans want to see these matters settled and removed from media speculation so that we can just focus on the great start to the season.
Team list Tuesday sees the team remain unchanged for the trip to the ACT. In positive news, David Gower looks to have recovered from his injury and he’s named on an extended bench.
Training begins in front of the gathered media at Saleyards, and the team move through skill drills and attacking structures. After the session concludes, a host of interviews are conducted by select players.
Later in the day, another media blitz at BankWest Stadium highlights it’s grandeur at night. Mainstream and social media are now abuzz with images from inside the venue, capturing the attention of the punters and the pundits alike.
The Eels Indigenous jersey is unveiled. It’s a unique design, with Blake Ferguson, Josh Hoffman, Bevan French and Will Smith playing significant roles in the concept. Each of the four have their heritage represented on the jersey via the totems of their people. The Parramatta region is depicted with acknowledgement to the Dharug and local landmarks.
On the back of the impressive victory over the Sharks, seven Eels earn a spot in the NRL.com team of the week. Gutherson, Ferguson, Jennings and Moses were listed in the backline, with Niukore, Paulo and Mahoney named in the pack.
The major training session of the week is completed with an opposed session being the feature. Injured Eels, Will Smith and Manu Ma’u were running in the rehab group, whilst Nathan Brown, his arm still in a sling, undertook more leisurely circuits of the field.
Only the Captain’s run remains in the countdown to the Raiders clash. The Eels have an abysmal record in the Nation’s capital and breaking the run of losses down south will be a significant achievement.
It will be a 6pm kick off on Sunday under what is predicted to be cloudy, wet conditions and a temperature of around 10 degrees. That said, footy is a winter sport and this looks like an early prelude.
Don’t forget that you have two opportunities to view BankWest Stadium in the coming week. Sunday is the community open day, and it’s followed up by the open training session next Wednesday evening.
See you there.