Well done Eels fans and players alike, my faith has been restored. It happened before the game, it happened throughout.
For the first time in a long time I had to think about going to the footy on Friday night. It was cold and, in truth, driving to the game I was still so disappointed with what I saw the previous week that it was hard to be excited.
But, like over twenty-one thousand Parra fans, we fronted up for another game by making our way to the wonderful BankWest Stadium. From The Stands, the effort of the long drive was quickly rewarded in witnessing the honour given to Denis Anderson, and then reinforced during the opening five minutes of the game.
I saw three simple things early that made me realise that we would be in the contest, having a real go. Those things gave me the green light to start cheering and then letting my voice be heard as some of the ridiculous and baffling referee decisions reared their ugly head.
I saw enthusiasm, effort and most importantly energy. It started with defence and then as the game developed you could see the patience with the ball in hand.
As the match unfolded, the most pleasing aspects were the improved line speed in defence, the ability to stop the offload and the return of the line running with ball in hand.
Tepai, Manu and Gowie attacked behind the ruck all game and made great metres to get us on the front foot. Even though we went short to Lane all night, that will pay dividends as the weeks progress and Dylan Brown returns. Opposition defences will be uncertain as to whether Lane, Jennings or Gutho will be the one getting the ball. I dare say it may even open up space for Brown to use his pace.
Driving home from the ground, my family had plenty of time to reflect on the importance of beating the Rabbitohs. Sure they had Origin players out, but on paper this game was not dissimilar to the Cowboys game. Souths still had a big impressive forward pack with a talented half, just like the Cowboys. However unlike the Cowboys game, we matched them in the forwards and then let our backs get the points.
From the stands you could see the effort, you could see the teamwork and you could see the desire.
Hopefully this isn’t lost on the players. Effort, desire and teamwork is at the core of what Eels fans look for. Give us that every week and the players will see and hear passionate and vocal support coming from the stands. We’ll play our part in getting them across the line.
I look forward to the return of the Brown Corporation in the coming weeks. Dylan and Nathan have the potential to make us a much better team.
This week another challenge awaits – facing the Sharks away. They will test our ruck defence and ability to stop the offload. It will be a big challenge.
It will be interesting to see how our forwards go. Will they bring the same energy? Junior and Kane Evans had impressive performances last week, now they need to back it up. There are still some areas we must improve in, but that is why we are a team fighting for a spot in the eight, not a certain finalist fighting for the title.
Which Parra team will turn up at Shark Park? The one with energy and effort or the one we saw against the Panthers? They need to decide how they want to be seen. A team who always shows up or a team who, when they show up, can beat anyone? If they want to build towards a premiership in the coming years it must be the first option.
To finish, I want to congratulate the club on the way they celebrated and paid respect to Denis Anderson, not just with this game but going back to the opening game on Easter Monday. The naming of the dressing sheds, the junior sportsmen medal, the stitching on the jersey under the emblem, the representative from Parra Junior Eels hoisting the Blue and Gold flag, the minutes applause and the signage displaying Parra’s in the tunnel – all of this was spot on.
From what I’ve heard many people say about Denis, it’s exactly the tribute he would have appreciated. People like Big D help create, build and give a soul to a sporting club and it’s important to both respect and honour them when they are in our presence and also when they are no longer with us.
Well done to our club officials and players. You showed great respect and appreciation towards a great man. The win was important, but appropriately honouring Denis provided a genuine victory for Denis and every person who gives so much of themselves to the Parramatta Eels.