Round 9 Drink Of Choice – Battery acid with a lemon juice chaser
Well there isn’t any spinning or sugar-coating that train-wreck. In a weekend dubbed the ‘Magic Round’, the Eels resembled a rag-tag cabal that had dabbled too far into the black magics as the Melbourne Storm took them to Hogwarts and beat them worse than a Bludger in a game of Quidditch.
Parramatta were just awful and even worse, they came forearmed with the knowledge that the Storm would be fired up after Craig Bellamy put his charges on blast publicly in the post-match presser against the Cronulla Sharks last week. While I have been advising caution about the volatility of our young team in recent weeks, last night’s effort can not be excused and the team will need to learn very rapidly from the stark lessons that Melbourne handed them in the 64-10 thrashing.
‘BA’ finds an answer for a problem that likely didn’t exist
Andy Raymond led the FoxSports coverage of the game with a cryptic hint of a potential shake-up in Parramatta’s line-up. Fans mistakenly thought that Will Smith was making a rapid return to first grade after recovering from a broken arm but those theories were well awry as it was later confirmed that Reed Mahoney was dropped to the bench in lieu of Peni Terepo. The Eels went all out for bulk in the middle with Clinton Gutherson covering the dummy-half duties perhaps in an attempt to out-muscle the Storm.
While it certainly wasn’t the sole reason why Melbourne ran riot over the Eels, it still remains a baffling non-solution to a question that no one really asked. Brad Arthur certainly shouldn’t be blamed for the horrid missed tackles and repeated errors from his troops but the Eels definitely weren’t starting with their strongest 13 against one of the premiership heavyweights.
Storm too classy but Eels ultimately their own worst enemies
The likes of Cameron Munster, Curtis Scott and Ryan Papenhuyzen will deservedly get their plaudits from the monster victory but as if the loss to the Newcastle Knights in Round 7, the Eels handed the keys to victory to their opponents. Serial mistake maker Brad Takairangi arguably started the rot with a messy offload from a penalty restart that gave Marata Niukore little chance to make a clean catch leading to the opening try for Melbourne.
Niukore himself was guilty of a sloppy unforced error himself later on in the first half while the entire team seemed content to plant both their feet early and arm-grab in defence.
Even with all the errors and missed tackles, perhaps the most disappointing thing to come out of the thrashing was our lack of urgency on kick chases again. I can not stress how disappointing this is personally.
The sole encouraging aspect of last night was the fact that the Eels were largely able to capitalise on their limited opportunities in the red zone with Shaun Lane and Maika Sivo crossing on well executed attacking raids.
Gutherson’s impassioned plea
Clinton Gutherson had a night at the office to forget with several key missed tackles at the last line and a blooper on a kick clean up that will be front and centre in any 2019 lowlights package. While the mainstream focus of fans and media will probably focus in on how the poor showing will impact the protracted contract negotiations, I would like to give him some kudos for putting the frustrating inconsistencies of NRL officiating on official record.
Maika Sivo became the second Eel to be sin-binned for foul play following his high-shot on a falling Jahrome Hughes which launched Gutherson into a passionate tirade against Henry Perenara on the basis that the Wests Tigers had no one sin-binned for exactly the same infraction against Daniel Alvaro.
Naturally it fell on deaf ears and the Storm inflicted a singularly unique pain on the Eels in the following 10min as they piled on three tries and managed to starve Parramatta of the ball for the entire handicapped period but perhaps it will finally lead to an official statement to provide clarity on the matter.
How much change will we see?
A performance like that has to lead to change, the question will be how much and who? Honestly, the list of Eels who deserve to retain their place is much smaller than those that could feasibly be dropped but we need to keep an element of realism in mind with who is available with any calls for wholesale changes.
Maika Sivo will likely be spending a week or two on the sideline so the Eels will be in need of a new winger. Josh Hoffman and George Jennings are the obvious candidates here. Hoffman could also replace Brad Takairangi in the centres while reserve forwards David Gower and Ray Stone could also warrant call ups.
If Brad Arthur is having genuine reservations about playing Reed Mahoney for 80min then both Will Smith and Matt McIlwrick become options on the bench.
The Final Word
Honestly, what more can you really say about a showing like that? The Eels bottomed out big time on Saturday night and have very little time to recover for their trip to the Northern tropics where they will face the North Queensland Cowboys. Parramatta have been the victims of big bounce-back efforts by the Knights and Storm in recent weeks, it is time for the Eels to produce a similar revenge game of their own.