The Cumberland Throw

From The Stands – “Relationships”: 404 Error (Not Found)

And so it seems that 11 rounds can be a long time in the NRL.

Let me refer back to a quote from my Round 1 “From The Stands” post.

“The pleasing moment was the beautiful try to seal the game. In isolation that try looks simple but it was set up in the previous 77 minutes. All day Dylan Brown went short to Lane but not this time. The team outsmarted them, with pure, well planned and patient football and it was wonderful  to watch.”

Those words seem such a distant memory, and yet the horrors of 2018 are now seeming so vivid.

The reality is that everything about last Thursday night was the exact opposite to that Round 1 observation.

There was no patience, there was no discipline with the ball, there was no football smarts and of most concern, there was a distinct lack of team work.

Players were trying to win it alone, stepping outside their role to try the miracle pass or kick. Players were running one out with no threat of an offload or support play. Players were taking the easy options.

Fundamental errors, such as dropping a ball with no pressure on you, are unforgivable. Yet, it’s an easy fix – if you cannot get the fundamentals right, you don’t deserve to play first grade. Consecutive games in which a player makes basic errors under no pressure or fatigue is not acceptable.

To be clear, this is not me demanding a player’s demotion. In committing error upon error, week after week, the players are themselves demanding to be given a spell in reggies.

This last week has been a big step backwards. For everyone.

I’m on record in my support of BA, but he is not above criticism.

My main criticism of Brad last year was his team selection. In 2018 he picked a team based on the best footy players available, finding a spot for them in the team. We all remember quotes like ‘this or that player has to play’. It hurt us last year and it killed us last Thursday.

The most obvious example against the Panthers was Blake Ferguson.

Fergo …. the winger.

Fergo is a quality winger and a decent centre. Even if he didn’t spill so much of the ball against the Panthers, even if he came up with the match winning miracle play, he is still a better winger than a centre. His strength is defusing bombs, making strong carries in set starts and finishing off tries, His skill set is not found in setting up outside men.

In rugby league, you should not weaken one position to try to strengthen another.

The reality is that this Ferguson selection weakened both.

However, the most inappropriate selection I observed from the stands was Will Smith.


Let’s consider how we’ve won games this year. We’ve won with our halves going to the line with the ball in hand, delivering late passes to our centres, Gutho or edge backrowers.

That is not Will Smith’s skill set.

Smith is a runner of the ball who plays off instinct. His style of game as a playmaker does not suit the attacking style we developed over summer and in the early rounds. To ask him to play a completely unnatural game is both unfair and unrealistic, and to put him into a structure that does not complement his style of play is illogical.

The outcome from the selection spoke for itself.

That edge looked lost. No one was on the same page because Will Smith was playing a style of game that did not suit those around him.

Obviously our best option is Dylan Brown but, of course, he is unavailable. So what of Jaeman Salmon?

It could be justifiably argued that at this point in their careers, Smith is a better footballer than Salmon. This may be true, but from the stands it is obvious that Salmon’s style as a playmaker is a better fit for our team structure. It may not be perfect, and it is certainly not as good as Dylan Brown, but it is a better fit.

It will be interesting to see how team selections play out in the coming weeks, but if BA keeps picking the best 17 footy players, and not the best players for each position and for the team’s structure, then I think we are in for a long season.

But there is a proviso, and it falls squarely on the players.

The players must step up in a big way, because even if team selections are spot on, winning can only be achieved if every player is prepared to play as a team, to play with discipline, to stick to a game plan and to trust that the structures and style developed all preseason will hold up.

Put simply, they cannot win without each other. They cannot win if they don’t commit to executing as a team.

From the stands on Thursday night I saw athletes playing football in a blue and gold jersey, but I did not see my team play. There were no combinations, and very little play that could be remotely associated with teamwork. Apart from “give the ball to Fergo”, there was no evidence of how they were trying to break the Panthers down.

We scored early by attacking the young Panthers winger and then left him alone for the rest of the game. It was dumb football.

Sitting behind the goal posts is a wonderful place to view the game. When things are going well, you can see the skill and work off the ball as the play unfolds.

But that same end on perspective from the stands also delivers some cold hard facts. And on Thursday night it looked like the players on the field thought they did not have to do a lot to beat the Panthers. You could see it in how they responded to dropped balls and errors.

By the time they woke up and realised that Penrith could actually beat them, in about the 72nd minute, it was too late.

The game was gone.

Gift wrapped and tagged –

“To the Riff,
with much love,

However, disappointed as I am, Friday will see my family and I return to those same stands.

You see, as supporters we all have a long term relationship with this club. So we keep paying our coin for memberships, we turn up at games – 16 thousand of us did that on a Thursday night after our team had lost consecutive matches on the road. That’s the type of genuine relationship most supporters have with the Eels.

Supporters are the 18th player in the team. We fronted in numbers on Thursday night. We committed to do our job. Could the same be said of the 17 out in the middle?

Across the pre-season, that word “relationships” got plenty of air time from the team. We heard much about building relationships as the way forward. It seemed that progress had been made.

Unfortunately, what looked like progress now has all the signs of a false dawn.

At its core, strong relationships are built on integrity, honesty and respect for one another. Therefore, it is up to these players and coaches to be real with each other. And it must begin now, not in another pre-season.

So let’s be honest.

There are some players that need to be dropped because they have let the team down. The mistakes in defence or attack are giving us no chance to win. If tough decisions are made off the field, the on field performances can only benefit.

Oregon celebrates his first NRL try.

Few of us can rationalise how a young player like Oregon Kafusi, who’s only been given limited game time, is being held accountable for a raft of errors being made when he’s not out there. Similarly, it’s difficult to justify that the team has improved without Jaemon Salmon.

Yet, these are the only two players who’ve paid the price for the defeats by the Storm and Cowboys. Many more players had a far greater hand in those defeats.

Our team leaders need to be both smart and real. The fans are not blind and quite frankly, the time for picking players who have featured in failing Eels teams for years is over. These players, talented as they may be, have had long enough to prove their worth and if they cannot do the job determined by the number they have on their back, put someone in who can.

We need our playmakers to take control and the others to get out of the way.

We need our props to go forward and to move up in defence.

We need our wingers to hold the ball and run hard.

In other words we need our players to do their job, fullfill the role so the team can function.

They need to be prepared to get in the arm wrestle, to get hurt.

They need be composed.

They need to make the tough run when the game has their lungs bursting.

They need to follow a game plan.

And most importantly, and there can be no compromising on this, they need to bring the right attitude.

From the stands, supporters like me see this as quite simple. We will only have a chance against the Rabbits if we pick our best available team, not our most talented 17 players. We don’t want players who can add an occasional grab for their highlights package. We need a team that will put the Blue and Gold in the best position to win games.

Over to you boys, especially our leaders. Find the team again, because going it alone as 17 individuals is not working. It never will.


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Salty Pete

Shelly, I’d be interested to get everyone’s opinion here as there may be a far greater issue that neither Brown, Salmon, or Smith can fix…. 80% of the ball goes to Moses. I am not convinced that he is the general that we need him to be. Brown was good for he first two games, but they were against Penrith and the Dogs, two sides who started very ordinary. Salmon has a running game believe it or not, but we never see it because I’m sure he feels obligated to pass given the lack of possession. And Smith, he too… Read more »


I don’t have a problem at all with Moses getting more ball. Brown has a really good short kicking game it will help Moses. He is also quick and a good runner. That will open Lane and Jennings as they have to watch Brown. We have missed Nathan Brown. I really like Marata but he meds a rest. His first season in first grade playing big minutes is taking its toll. This week is important. If they don’t win they need an effort like the Roosters to get everyone including supporters back on the same page


All your points are great Shelley, attitude is paramount. Even the dogs and manly tho getting dusted earlier this year showed heart and determination. Both those sides dont have too many big name players but compete. As far as Moses goes he need a foil as you say, Brown or Salmon. Hes had time to be the dominant half, but is one dimensional, his kicks in general play are at best ineffectual, too panicked in oppositions 20, we need composure, picking our time to play our tempo. But most of all we need attitude, stick to the plan and pride… Read more »


Bringing the right attitude is everything. Look no further than the Knights. The same 17 that got smashed by the Titans smashed the Roosters. We have players that can do the brilliance to win the game we simply need everyone else to do the job required to enable our playmakers to win. I have not always spoke positively about Moses, but he is kicking off a slow play the ball with a rushing defence. No playmaker plays well behind a badly beaten pack.


I am just wondering why our forwards are not trying to shield from the defense when doing the kick. Roosters do this to protect their kciker. Why can’t we do it especially it had happened time and again that Moses was presurred doing the kick?

Colin Hussey

Shelley what a wonderful post and overview of our poor plays and players. Oh! along with the coach and team selections. A while ago and Salty Pete makes a point towards what I had said a while back and that is in relationship to our 7, none other than Mitchel Moses. Many and that included me had reservations especially with his defence, that aspect has improved somewhat but he along with our go forward lightweight and smallish #9 that has a heart the same size as his body, is providing the opponents the perfect means to roll over our forwards… Read more »


We need someone on the bench who can give Reed a spell. Not a forward but a genuine player who can play 9. But to do that we have to have 3 genuine front rowers, because Tepai and or Manu and especially brown when back can help with go forward. At the moment we are playing 4 and sometimes 5 because we cannot trust some of them. If Taka is going to play only 10-15 minutes then he is not the best option for the bench. We need to judge our halves when and only when they have a pack… Read more »

Colin Hussey

Don’t know how McIwiyck is going but as he was signed as a back up hooker and still no sign of Kaysa returning he should be on the bench, even if he plays enough time, say 10 each side of half that will help Mahoney big time. The way things are now, I believe we have the need for front rowers is still there, and I cannot understand why Kafusi was not in the squad, yes he’s young but he’s still a prop and has mobility and has a future. maybe as I suggested elsewhere that with the two injured… Read more »

Michael Formosa

This use to be a fun house, but it’s turned to a shit house! …….. winning starts on Monday but for us losing started on Tuesday with BA team announcement.

I’ve been a big supporter of his but it was the wrong call to resign him.


Yep I support BA and still do but I had to be honest the team selection was bewildering, especially considering both boys are named to play with Wenty. Initially I thought they may have needed a rest but obviously they got dropped. As stated Salmon and Oregon are far down the list with regards to players who cost us against the Storm and Cowboys. BA needs to be real to keep my faith. Like many I am not blind. Some favourites are being given too much opportunity to make up for mistakes. To me this should happen in Reserve grade.… Read more »

Big Derek

This is not the first time that once pressure has been applied to the team, the coach goes for experience as a fail safe. Will Smith is a great utility fill in, but never was or will be a playmaker in the halves. George Jennings had a good year by his standards last year, with strong carriesin a beaten team, but is very prone to dumb plays and it’s now being hghlighted. BA and the coaching staff need to reassess their experience will solve problems mantra, it is shortsighted and tends to make the coach look unprepared to change .… Read more »


Shelley, I hope BA is reading your article and the comments here. It is obvious that Taka, Alvaro and Gennings should be dropped this week, even last week. But let us see. I was told that BA is hard headed and always grumpy. A bit different on what we see doing his presser.


The team won’t chnage much if at al. I’m not a BA supporter i firmly beleive regardless of results after 6 seasons and a 46%win record it was simply time to move on im baffled that the board pushed forward his contract just to appease a player, personally i wpuld of bern happy for gutho to leave then what has happened. That been said in BAs defense when it comes to making changes the cupboard is pretty bare our roster doesn’t have many players screaming out to be picked. I believe Oregon should be in the 17 every week and… Read more »

Colin Hussey

Stone needs to be in the side next Friday, along with Kafusi, and MJ, as for the 6 spot its akin to the Abbott and Costello skit of who’s on first base?


Maybe bite the bullet and put gutho in with bev at 1


I can not support that. Only reason being French and his manager have been complaining to the media about Parra disrespecting him all because they pick Gutho over him. Seriously who would pick French over Gutho at fullback, although I can see the benefit to moving Gutho to 5/8th. I think the bridge between French and BA has been burnt and I can not blame him. French was terrible last year and turned it up. In games he did not even try, just like Norman. At least with Michael Jennings last year we could see he was upset when he… Read more »


I have it on hood authority it will happen and if meaney at the bulldogs didn’t take his opportunity he would of been there. Same with the walker situation at manly. Beven is here till the end of the year so use him. Unless the DWZ situation is true then thats is your fullback and gutho to 6 not that he will add much more at 6 but he is a better player then smith or salmon


Ridiculous summation in your last paragraph.
It makes any rational opinions stated earlier in the preceding comments appear to be potluck at best. Bias and bile that is hidden from public view when we are going well has no real substance when dragged out of the closet as you vent your current disappointment.
Where were you when we were 5 and 3?


Mate even when we were going well i stated we shouldn’t resign BA and i will stand by that our current form isn’t a new think its been there for a long time after 6 years with the current coach its not changed

Jeff Cooke

Well said and well written Shelley. There have been far too many players picked out of position (this year and last). I may be wrong but Fergo probably saw an origin centre spot with his name on it and that’s why he played there on Thursday. Same with French last year. Mate, shut up, you’re not what we want in a fullback. And I think poor Tepai is dizzy because he’s played about every forward role you can. Anyway, I’m only agreeing with you. Nothing more to add really.


I hate it. BA has a terrible habit of doing it. Last year swapping fullbacks multiple times in games and even playing Norman at fullback was a disaster. He has to stop it. I love BA but this is the trait about him that really annoys me.


Good read Shelley, How embarrassing again. Great start but it just unraveled into a mess, we looked like a bunch of amateurs. I just wonder how many of us have undiagnosed hear conditions after the last 33 years? We’ve shown we can play in attack, but it’s defence that wins games. Defending a mistake, then getting the ball back gives the backs confidence. Given we just re- signed BA. The club says it’s happy with him and the direction he’s taking the team. If this is true, someone else must be accountable for the poor performance! Now, I like Kidwell… Read more »


I think the attitude was just get the win. That is why BA went with the tried and tested. The problem is those tried and tested players have been shown to play down or up to the opposition over many years. They are consistent, consistently inconsistent. I knew after we took the first penalty attempt that our attitude was just get the win. It should have been let’s improve our play and if we do that trust we will get the win. I think the team and BA can learn much from the game, if they want to. I would… Read more »


Hmmm Shelley, it worries me when both yourself and others mention that Brad is ‘learning’ – this is his 6th year as the head coach ! That’s 6 years into the job after so many years as an apprentice ! Whilst there are two distinct camps emerging – a pro and for BA, perhaps it’s time for a red hot blowtorch to be applied to the coaching team ? We as supporters are very forgiving but there just has to be forward progress in the organisation and there just isn’t any (and please no more – well we came 16th… Read more »

Colin Hussey

In any business or trade, if a person ever stops learning then that is when he is in trouble.

As much as I could not stand last Thursday nights non performance, I believe the coach has learnt more from it than not.
In fact having another read of what BA said in his post match interview and you can pick some words I have not seen a coach use to describe plays, such as FLUFF, earn the right to win says a lot, trick a way to win and more, have a read


Love the analysis Shelley, and it shows that one of the most brutal team sports on this earth has many levels of capability and skill, both physical and mental, and you even give the spiritual your best shot. Agree on Fergo and Smith. After a good start, Smith quite often looked in two minds. We are not coping with sustained high energy, up tempo play. Penrith emulated Raiders, Knights game plans, but lack the finishing skills of those teams. I’m a believer that this game plan is exploiting the refs, but we gave the Panthers a leg up by increasing… Read more »


Yes its hard not to agree with most Shelley- our forwards seem to have dropped off and this to me is the defence. We need someone to help Reed, and Stone would of been it. Alvaro has not had a great season tbh and maybe he’s injured? As for Oregon, you nailed it. He needs to be in the 17; and for me Salmon too; Smith will never be our 5/8. And it utility value. The next 4-5 matches will again tell us where the club and players are mentally. Watching souths tonight and they have huge forwards- we need… Read more »


I am getting past the autopsies we are having every week. I have followed Parra since I was 10 years old and I feel like the friendship is waning. Col sent me a message and if I can I will quote my reply here: Hi Col, Sorry for the delay in coming back, decided to stay away for 24 hours. I watched Bronco’s last night and honestly I don’t have a second team, but I was full of admiration for their commitment and intent. I thought wouldn’t it be great to follow a side with commitment and intent. I actually… Read more »


I feel your pain Poppa and I think a good number/majority of B&G fans feels the same – there seems little hope at the moment.
Shelley talks about attitude, you talk about losing the dressing room but either way there’s little mettle being shown on the field, flawed tactics are repeated ad nauseam and for a development club BA’s selections astound….


BAs career record of 46% speaks volumes. How he is still here baffles me.


Damn I wish I could change teams ! I’m very close to the Broncos and living in Brisbane it would be easy but it’s been over 55 years !!! But to be honest – I’ve never been closer to falling off this cliff! It’s all very sad. I love Brad the man – he’s a decent hard working wonderful individual but how he got another two years after this year is deadset criminal. At some point, there has to be an end to the promises and some results. This is a failure by the board as much as the team… Read more »


Hi Shelley, thanks once again for a post filled with lots of food for thought and generous amounts of disappointment. I can commiserate with most of what you’ve said. Sadly many hurting Parra fans are quick to forget how elated they were for the 8 rounds this year. Except of course the “other silent Australians” which Sco Mo wasn’t talking about. You know, the ones who wait until they have something to hang their hateful hats on. Unfortunately they are not even hypocrites because they don’t say nice things when the team is playing good football and the tactics and… Read more »

Colin Hussey

Rowdy, very very very true comment and well said indeed.


I agree. In so many ways last week was so much worse when compared with last year. This team has displayed very good teamwork, control and skill this year, the exact opposite from last week. Hopefully last week attitude wise was a one off. Some players played poorly like they have in other weeks and need to be dropped but even some of our more consistent players had no composure and or desire.
It will be interesting to see the team list tomorrow.

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