The difference an environment can make cannot be undersold in any workplace, and the sporting environment is certainly no different. It’s difficult to say what exactly makes a good environment but you know when you have it. There’s a feeling that anything can be achieved, no matter how challenging or far fetched. If you have people around you who all want to be there and all know they belong, you can do great things.
From the stands, I love our new home ground, because everyone does – the players, the fans and even the opposition. There is a simple joy at being at the ground.
The new BankWest Stadium proves a point about the value of a quality, spectator focussed, facility. For the first time in a long time, people who are watching at home on TV miss out. This can only be good for the NRL in general, fantastic for our club and a boon for the city of Parramatta.
Furthermore, I can imagine there would be players from other clubs who are envious. Athletes like performing in front of crowds, they like the atmosphere and often rise to the occasion. We have something that many other clubs don’t, a place that is ours, a place that even when we’re listed on the draw as the away team we will still be the home team. The atmosphere is infectious and I can only imagine what those young kids, like my son Jack, are feeling as they finally discover what it is like to watch a game with atmosphere and a sense of community.
But, despite the glossy new surrounding, I sense there is something a little deeper to this new found connection between the team members, the fans who attend the game and the wider supporter base.
In his post match press conference, BA said words to the effect that fans like to see effort – the flashy tries are nice but effort is what fans really respond to. I agree
Strangely, at 14-0 on Sunday I was still really confident. My family and I sit behind the goal posts in the General Admission members section and from that viewpoint you can see effort. You can see all the work the players do off the ball. You can see the communication between players. And the difference between this year and last could not be more stark.
I won’t even begin to ponder what went wrong last year or even how it has been addressed because the reality is I will never know and nor should I. Professional organisations that have integrity respect the people in the organisation and respect privacy. Importantly, you can see that the areas from last year have been addressed and you can see everyone has bought in. At the end of the day, that’s what I needed to know as a fan and member.
There’s one effort area that I saw on Sunday that that I want to address because it summed up the game for me. Again it wasn’t flashy but in the overall scheme of the game it was vitally important. It was when Jaeman Salmon put the kick in, chased and earned a line drop out.
This young five-eighth is improving with each game. He obviously knows what his job is and he’s going out there to do it. Off the boot it looked too big and possibly the ball bounced favourably. But he didn’t give up on the chase, so when he got the friendly roll, he was there to take advantage of it. Those effort plays are the real difference as I see it to last year.
We can talk about the new dimension added to the team through the recruitment of Fergo, Paulo, Sivo and Lane, but without that commitment and determination displayed by every team member over the pre season and on match days, nothing would have changed. It’s obvious that they had a point to prove after last season.
Finally last week I said I looked forward to watching Gutho play with enthusiasm and energy because he has always bounced back from any setback. Well he did and it was such a pleasure to watch live.
You know my views on Gutherson and extending his stay at Parra so I won’t repeat them, but it was pleasing to say the least to watch a young man who had a barrage of negative and really undeserved criticism show up with energy and stand up just when the team needed it. From the stands that looks like superb leadership to me. He was certainly proving a point about his message to them. Well done Gutho, well done indeed.
So onto this week. A big game. Let’s see if we’ve learnt from the Knights game. We are playing a team this week coming off a poor performance and a public spray from the coach. Melbourne will have a point to prove, just as the Knights did.
And in keeping with the theme of this post, there could be no more apt time to prove that the team are a different beast to last season. What better way to demonstrate you can be consistent than by doing so against the most consistent team of the last decade.
Good luck boys, turn up and do us, and more importantly each other, proud.