The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – Time To Take A Breath

No matter the football code, truly supporting a team is all about emotion. You commit to a team and you stick, thick or thin, good times or bad.

And when it comes to Eels supporters, we’re the NRL equivalent of superglue. With only wooden spoons added to the trophy cabinet over the last 32 years, the bonds have been tested but never broken. How many other clubs consistently grow their membership base after season upon season of failure?

Players come and go. We develop favourites, cheer a little louder for them, and when their time is up, we get a little emotional and then find another to urge on. After more than 50 years supporting the Eels, I’ve been down that road more times than I care to count.

http://www.starrpartners.com.au/office/starr-partners-auburnTo be fair, the club was blessed during the 1980s. There was a collection of premiership players whose first grade careers began and ended in the Blue and Gold jersey.

Sterling, Kenny, Ella, Grothe, Price, Cronin, Taylor, Sharp, Hilditch – the names were synonymous with the club. There were offers for players to move on, and some took their opportunity to play off seasons in England, but as supporters we never faced that eventuality with the big names. Most of the players held down full time jobs. Footy was a game to be played with your mates and mostly provided a second income.

When the club hit the better years in the late 90s and early 2000s, the likes of Hindmarsh, Burt and Cayless took up the one club mantle. Their names will also only ever be associated with Parra. But times had changed. The Super League had put salaries into the stratosphere and the one club players were scarce.

In a further reminder, Parramatta coach, Brian Smith introduced Eels supporters to the business side of football careers. I lost track of the number of players moved on during his tenure – there were many that experienced success with the club and whose departures left us scratching our heads. As an exercise, try naming a spine during Smith’s ten year reign – the turnover of halves, hookers and fullbacks over that period was absurd.

But what the 80s and the noughties have in common, is that for all of those that stayed, and all of those that moved on, none had their contract talks subjected to the media scrutiny and obsession that exists in 2019.

Back in the golden era of the 80s we had little idea of contract negotiations, and social media was decades away. Ray Price advising team mates that it wasn’t in their best interests to play against him was about as far as media reports would dig.

Present day media coverage seems to be more about the story behind the game than the game itself. And, as fans, our passion is probably only providing more water in the well for the journos to drink from.

We all know how agents play contract negotiations out in the media – especially when it comes to the Parramatta Eels. There’s two major rules:

Rule 1 – when trying to raise the price of contract offers to your client, tell a journo that the Eels have expressed interest.

Rule 2 – when dealing with Eels players, reference the player testing their worth on the open market.

Cue supporter reaction.

In the past, you could add club reaction too. Right now, the club has attempted to block out any outside noise.

But this post is not about the negotiation process. Whether this current approach proves to be successful will be determined down the track.

What has become evident over recent weeks is that there are many supporters venting their spleen at the players who have yet to accept contract offers from the club.

Whilst we all want to believe that the players are as loyal to the club as we are, it’s living in fantasy land to suggest that any player won’t try to maximise their offer from their employer. Would anyone not do the same in their career? I bet there’s plenty of us who have undertaken industrial action or had “chats” with other employers without leaving our jobs.

This is where we as fans need to take a step back and take a deep breath.

Not one player has signed elsewhere as yet. I’m not suggesting that players won’t move on – with so many off-contract it seems a certainty. However, at the moment there are people expressing offence that a player hasn’t accepted an offer and yet the offers being made may or may not be final ones. We don’t know, nor are we entitled to know.

Contract questioning on media day was relentless.

Accusations about a player like Gutherson being selfish are ludicrous in the extreme. This is a bloke who busts a gut for his team, from the training paddock to match day. I’ve watched him fight off all challengers in conditioning tests, then go back to run with stragglers to ensure that they meet the standards. The young players in the team aspire to compete like him. He plays the game at an energy level unmatched by any team mate. He’s done that since he arrived at the Eels.

For what it’s worth, I believe that the negotiations with Gutherson and Moses will lead to both players re-signing. It takes a lot for a player to decide to change clubs. If the current club is in the ballpark with their financial offer, a player weighs up factors outside of money when making their decision.

When it comes to Gutherson and Parramatta, both parties are beneficial to each other. For Parramatta, it would be difficult to find another Gutho on the open market or even within their ranks. To let him go would mean leaving a hole in the roster. For Gutherson, his style of play, leadership and personality suits the Eels dynamic. There would be question marks as to whether he would hold a similar status elsewhere.

As for Moses, remaining with the Eels provides him with the best opportunity to prove his chops as an elite half. Likewise, there are not many halves on the market that the Eels could recruit that could prove a suitable replacement.

In other words, in each negotiation, both parties want to remain together, and it’s in the best interest for both to remain together. The only part that isn’t currently agreed upon is the terms of the contract.

Supporters shouldn’t suppress their passion or emotion for the Eels, but I hope that everyone can take a step back during this media frenzy about contracts. The process might be taking longer than we want, and having it play out in the media is undesirable, but the last thing that we should be doing is firing insults or accusations at players who are wearing the jersey for this season and are likely to be doing so going forward.

That moment!

This is an important year for our club as we bounce back from the disaster that was 2018. Starting this Sunday, the Eels players need our support to help them get home against the Dragons.

I hope we can see a repeat of the atmosphere from the opening match at the stadium. That’s who we are.

Eels forever!

Sixties

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Trouser Eel
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Trouser Eel

So eloquent. Sums it up perfectly. You’ll be hearing nothing but cheers from me come Sunday.

!0 Year Member
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!0 Year Member

Sixties. I 100% agree with the tone of you article and even notice the club released a statement in similar vein. Not one t supporter wants to lose the King, not one. No one will deny a player to maximise their earnings, it is a business after all. What us died in the wool supporters are sick of is mediocrity, we have had that for way too long. I have been a supporter since ’77, this latest administration, whilst I would not consider the best, have come a long long way in the last few years, I applaud them. What… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Sixties you omitted Rule No.3
Make sure you hire an ethical person to represent you, because your image can be tarnished very quickly.

The NRL were supposedly looking into the role of player managers……

rowdy roddy
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rowdy roddy

!0 year Member, wonderful to read your impassioned support of our footy King. Unfortunately I think you may have missed the real culprit regarding leaks to media, it is almost 99% sure that one of the most unscrupulous player agents in the game was the initiator. I was just a little bit hungry and devoured a couple of biscuits before retiring to my den for an hour or so of inspired bias. Thanks for filling me up with some Great food for thought Sixties, a main meal indeed. I did enjoy the morsel “player not getting what he wanted !0… Read more »

Graz
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Graz

Spot on Sixties. Yes, emotion, commitment, loyalty sums up an Eels fan. No other way.

Shelley
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Shelley

Well said. My family and I will be there cheering on the boys and cheering a little louder for Gutho. Come on Parra fans don’t let the media win. Stick up for our boys and stick solid.

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Sixties spot on blog for mine. Like you having followed the eels for so long now no way will I support other teams, at least when playing against us. I remember when Jamie Lyon left and came back to play with Manly, I was not at the game, but reading what happened with the coins being thrown on to the ground was poor really, but at least from my recollections there was none of what we have seen with the current players and the contract negotiations being played out in the public arena. No matter how I have tried to… Read more »

Trouser Eel
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Trouser Eel

The Jamie Lyon situation is not comparable. Even Jamie Lyon admits his conduct was poor throughout the whole drama. Our club had signed a deal with him that still had 2 years to go. He walked out on us when we needed quality players. Our club conducted itself with integrity (and paid the consequences) and Jamie did not, he deserves the ongoing derision of all Parra supporters. The only regrettable things about the coin tossing was: a) I was on the wrong side of the field to do it b) If not done correctly it might have been dangerous for… Read more »

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

TE, I was using the coin throwing as an example of poor supporter behaviour which is what’s happening now.

Back then IIRC there was not the social media hate groups that swell up as they do today.

Greg Okladnikov
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Greg Okladnikov

well said

The rev aka Snedden
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The rev aka Snedden

Sixties I feel for Gutherson n Moses why well they just like the rest of us trying to get top $$$ n to be slamed for it n being called greedy is a joke. Off topic I have to questions for you. (1) David Nofoaluma didn’t we chase him last yr only for him to sign a 4 yr deal with the tiger’s. I’ve noticed he hasn’t been in the tiger’s NRL side. Would you Think we should look into him again if tiger’s give him a release ? (2) George Burgess I keep hearing that we are having another… Read more »

BDon
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BDon

Well said. And well done sixties, I reckon that took some energy, to write something sensible about something that maybe should be getting no oxygen. The player manager’s mousetrap.

Jojo39
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Long time reader, first time commenting. I always look forward to reading your posts even (& most especially) in defeat. It has a calming effect for some strange reason. Thank you for a well-written post yet again. I really hope these contract negotiations can be put to bed so the boys can just concentrate on playing and enjoying their footy. Wouldn’t it be amazing if an announcement can be made tomorrow prior to the game that our key players have re-signed. Imagine how that would lift the boys big time- and the fans too. Wishful thinking I suppose. Regardless, I… Read more »