The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – Table Position Defies The Dramas

Over the last few rounds the Parramatta Eels have delivered a host of unacceptable performances. I’ve questioned the resilience of the players and feel perfectly justified in doing so.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I’ve even sensed that supporters are more upset by this year’s results than they were with the cellar dwelling 2018 season. On reflection, I’m definitely guilty of expressing greater disappointment in this season’s defeats.

Then today I looked at the ladder.

Coming into Round 14, the Eels will still be in 8th place. What? What!

http://www.starrpartners.com.au/office/starr-partners-auburnDon’t get me wrong. This is not a “forget about the losses, look where we are” post. I intend addressing massive areas of concern.

But at the end of last season, if you’d been told that in 2019 the Eels would be in the Top 8 after Round 13, I reckon you’d have gladly taken that – and stuck a cherry on top of that sweet treat.

That the 2018 wooden spooners would play without their best forward and one of the best young five-eighth prospects in the NRL for nearly all of those rounds, with contract speculation about the captain, the coach, and most of the team playing out in the media, probably makes a current Top 8 position defy all logic.

The odd form of other teams has undoubtedly contributed to the Eels retaining their position despite the losses, but that’s footy.

Like most years, 2019 began with hopes of a better season ahead. After the first eight rounds, such hopes began to turn to expectations. Those (unrealistic?) expectations are probably a huge factor in the disappointments.

Truthfully, I still believe that the team has the capacity to finish close to the top 8.

There’s nothing astounding about my reasoning. It’s obvious that Parra love the downhill run. Put them in front, with things going their way, and they’ll look great. That will happen in some games.  They’ll win those – an average winning margin of 18 points is an indicator of that likelihood.

Now for the reality check.

Throw some challenges in the Eels direction and watch them collapse faster than a sand castle at high tide. You don’t go close to competing for a title if you demonstrate almost negligible tenacity, and the averaging losing margin of 19 points is testimony to players having no desire to grind out a win over 80 minutes.

Brad Arthur

The words of Brad Arthur from this week’s press conference nailed where the team is at.

“We have got to decide if we want to be a full-time team or a part-time team,” Arthur said.

“Full-time is all the time, every week. We are training well, we are preparing well but coming to games, when things don’t go quite our way we need to harden up there.”

People close to me know that I haven’t held back in my opinions about the roster changes that are needed. We have too many players incapable of producing quality NRL football on a weekly basis. The talent might not be in question, but their resilience definitely is.

Lack of resilience is a cancer. It manifests in multiple ways in games, but it’s insidious in its capacity to poison club culture.

Every team will face its share of adversity. Poor refereeing decisions, injuries and an unlucky bounce of the ball will fall upon everyone. It’s how a side responds that will determine their fate.

For the Eels, failure to respond to adversity has become our hallmark.

The cracks show up in the same places in every defeat – the defence.

Opposition runners are allowed to quickly stand after being tackled and play the ball with up to three Eels players lying prostrate on the turf. Then, with the defence line down in numbers, spaces are opened up with defenders isolated and or retreating. Players start bouncing off like they’re made of rubber. Offloads flow. Cue the floodgates.

As a regular at training, this is incredibly frustrating. I cannot possibly imagine the frustration of the coaches.

Throughout the pre-season there was a strong emphasis on both defensive technique and defence specific conditioning. That dedication to detail has been maintained every week during the season proper. Line speed, communication, contact, wrestle – it’s all coached – and critically, ensuring that defenders aren’t left on the ground always features. Yet the issue persists.

Players must be held accountable.

Can we identify those most at fault?

If the video reviews highlight individuals, there’s one place for them – Ringrose Park – playing alongside those on part-time contracts.

Make no mistake, every player in the squad has the talent to play first grade. You don’t get to put NRL appearances on your resume without it.

But playing NRL on a regular basis requires much more than talent. It requires a level of resilience sadly lacking in a team which only performs every second week.

As supporters, we can accept that this team is re-building. The Eels will be beaten by better teams. We’ll make mistakes in games.

But the inability or lack of desire to compete every second week is simply unacceptable.

As Arthur said, “We can’t start well one week and then dip the toe in the next week. I don’t want to have to keep making changes every week because that doesn’t give you any continuity or combinations.”

So what can he do? Where to from here? Is changing the team an option?

Let’s consider minimal changes. As we’ve witnessed this season, turning up with intensity and winning every second week will keep you in the running for the Top 8, maybe, but this isn’t what supporters deserve nor is it planning for the future. And it will get harder to maintain as the second half of the season rolls on.

The alternative of significant change could be explored. Arthur could turn to the youth right now, even if they’re not quite ready, and sacrifice this year for a potentially better future. But remember, add too much youth at the same time and you can pay a price – see Brisbane’s own wildly fluctuating form this year.

In truth, it will be damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

Personally, I’m ready to see whether the Eels current crop of young players has what it takes. That can only be determined in the NRL.

Once they prove they can handle the physicality of playing against men, young players won’t learn about what’s required in the NRL by playing with and against part-time players in the Canterbury Cup. It’s a stepping stone from age football, but it should not be a long term destination for the genuinely talented.

That’s the decision to be made for the remainder of 2019.

The decisions to be made going into 2020 will be even more crucial.

Junior hits it up in Canberra.

Coming into 2019, Sivo, Ferguson, Paulo and Lane were added to the roster. Every one of those players has contributed to the Eels climbing off the bottom of the table. Paulo has upped the second phase potential, Lane has become the team’s most consistent forward, Sivo sits at the top of the try scorers list and Ferguson has posted the metres missing from last year’s set starts.

But that was last year’s recruitment.

The recruitment and retention process has since been changed as a result of the 2018 review. There is now a committee of five making such decisions. They’ve already earned some praise for standing their ground in negotiations with Gutherson and Moses’ extension has recently been sorted.

However, the bigger work lies ahead. This roster is in need of an overhaul. Players proven to be without resilience must be released. New talent needs to be added to the Top 30.

With so many off contract, and therefore so much potential to reshape the team, there’s massive decisions to be made over the next two to three months. That’s not a long time frame. Hopefully we get some recruitment news soon.

In the coming weeks, Arthur will probably start to signal his intent via team selections. If he wants to use rookies, he’ll have to wait till after June 30. There will be pros and cons, no matter what he decides.

Are you expecting changes? Do you expect a rebuild year or a finals appearance?

It could be an interesting set of team list Tuesdays ahead.

Eels forever!

Sixties

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Nathan
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Nathan

BA needs to move on a few of his favourites,we need a clean out and bring in some older hard nut forwards to help Brown and Paulo out,I hope we don’t sign burgess as he isn’t the answer and won’t be the same without Sam keeping him honest.

The rev aka Snedden
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The rev aka Snedden

Older how much older do U want takarangi is 30 Hoffman n Jennings both in there 30’s Gower is 33 mannah is 30+ Manu is 29 almost 30.

Rowdy
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Rowdy

At least 3 possibly 4 of the guys you mention will not be here next season aka rev. Therefore we need to replace 2 of them with old hard heads as Nathan has said imo. We need blokes like that to make the path ahead not seem so daunting to the good young forwards and backs that are emerging through the system.

Hearndo
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Hearndo

Great article Sixties. I agree regarding the younger players – lets give players like Kafusi and Stone more of a run. What kind of player would you target for next season? I’d have a look at Packer. We’ve got players like Paulo, Lane and Kafusi who can provide impact in attack, we need to go to market in search of middle forwards who can control the ruck and are strong defensively. Other players who come to mind are Prior, Finucane, Matalino, Glasby. I’m not sure the contract situations of those players but that’s the kind of player i’d target.

The rev aka Snedden
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The rev aka Snedden

Do you read what you write before posting ?
You want to the club to look at Packer n then you say we need a middle forward who can control the ruck. Did you watch our game vs tiger’s. Packer was as useless as a sunroof on a submarine.his ruck defence was poor.

Hearndo
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Hearndo

Yeah i like to maintain a habit of reading what i right before posting.. One game doesn’t define a player. The difference he made in defence to both the Dragons two years ago and the Tigers last year is what we need. Bring back Danny Wicks i say

Rowdy
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Rowdy

I wonder how many fans actually understand why BA had growing success from the time he got here. In my recollection we needed to be toughened up. In came Watmough and Scott 2 of the toughest old bastards in the NRL. We also took a risk with Danny Wicks and he quickly reminded us of his bloodlines (his Dad was a maniac) and Danny took on the opposition front on straight up the high diddle! Even when injured if they took the field they played tough and showed a lot of our young blokes how it was done. That’s what… Read more »

Bubbles
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Bubbles

R u back , just when i thought it was safe

John Eel Anonymous
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John Eel Anonymous

As you rightly point out the next off season of recruitment and retention will probably be the most critical in years. With so many players coming off contract the committees decisions here will be the foundation of our next generation of players. My belief is that the process is well and truly underway and a lot of those decisions are already in Stone. One issue is that there is not a lot of talent coming off contact. Having said that as an outsider you never know what is going on behind closed doors. This will throw a lot of focus… Read more »

Big Derek
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Big Derek

There needs to be a complete overhaul of both the roster and coaching staff. To be in top 3 in points scored, but the worst in points conceded is like a floodlight in a tunnel, it’s that obvious. When things were looked at part way through last year, a defence coach was added, and nothing changed. To make things even more confounding, both the defence and attack coach were extended despite the obvious shortcomings . The attack was given a lease of life by some good signings , perhaps that was he reason for the improvement more than coaching structure.… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

Big Derek
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Big Derek

Just my opinion, feel free to counter it, that’s what a forum is for. I want the club to succeed and think it’s obvious to ask questions re direction and success.

John Eel
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John Eel

Our middle defence is the worst in the NRL, Derek your point about the defensive coach is certainly valid.

Glenn
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Glenn

Well said Derek. I think the problem is not only the players but the coaching staff. Unfortunately the coach stays the same which imo is one of the biggest problems. His inability to get the players to perform at a high standard has been obvious for years. Also obvious is that there are better coaches out there, Demetriou being one of them, but maybe management was wary of employing another rookie coach.

Fathead
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Fathead

Great write up – honest and at the same time for Eels fans … heartbreaking.
I can just imagine those like yourself who turn up to training and come away with a sense of optimism being completely befuddled by the performance on some weekends !
I feel for those players who are about to be let go as I feel that they have become part of the family at the Eels. I recognise that it’s a business but I would hate to see players like Dan Alvaro and Taka playing for another NRL team.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Nothing would make me happier than seeing Takarangi play for another NRL team. Absolute bonehead footballer.

Shelley
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Shelley

Well said. The most important consideration when we recruit some middles has to be the ability to hit and stick. While we don’t miss many tackles we get left on the ground and then as a result our edge backrowers, halves or centres are left in a no win situation; if they all shift in to cover the absence of markers we get caught on the edge or have backs defending isolated ( like against the Sharks) and if they don’t we get caught straight up the middle ( like against the Storm, Cowboys and Knights) We don’t need attacking… Read more »

Jonboy
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Jonboy

I posted something along these lines yesterday in the grades and the coming months are going to be busy for recruitment and busier in retention. Is this the place to name names? I vote yes and will assume the role of Head of HR. Outs Peni Terepo- a few poor off field decisions combined with him “hitting his peak” leaves him looking elsewhere for 2020. Tepai Moeroa- form is just to unpredictable and his potential for a head knock too often leaves us a man down. Really nice guy but sorry Tep. Brad Takairangi- too many errors in his game… Read more »

The rev aka Snedden
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The rev aka Snedden

Jonboy I forgot to say we should Chase hastings. His a player we should have got 2 yrs ago

BDon
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BDon

A holiday is for relaxing sixties, then you post this and get our heads wound up. There’s a book in this stuff. The contract noise has had some effect, always remember Hayne after 2009, record deal,even Fui Fui was taking media potshots. Our 80 minute guys seem in the minority, and some of our better performers are not beyond the occasional switch off. Watch Cronulla’s first try, our 10 and 12 jogging across and suddenly realising Xerri was stepping back into a 5 mtr hole, after 2 minutes of play fatigue not an issue but focus was. Just like the… Read more »

Brett Allen
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Brett Allen

That’s well and good 60’s, and I certainly agree, but intimations isn’t enough. Lay your cards on the table, name 5 players off contract who should not be resigned.

Bubbles
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Bubbles

takarangi, mannah ,davey,french ,hoffman ,mcilwrick,pritchard ?? Leleisou, evans and g jennings should also be told free to look elsewhere

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I doubt he was referring to any of those other than Taka, Timmy & Hoffman, and of those Timmy is having a career year. The rest have barely been involved.
How much cap space are those guys really going to create ?
Other than Evans, the rest wouldn’t be on big money.

Anonymou
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Anonymou

In all the discussion of players and recruitment, how much is spent on the mental side. I think we all agree that to play NRL you know how to play, yet when the pressure is on, or when we get on the back foot, some players make basic errors and our attitude drops. Should there be a bigger emphasis on training the mind to deal with setbacks and creating / finding players who have that mental toughness……and analysing players around attitude and resilience rather than just skill. Ted talk below which may be of interest Another interesting site is Gain… Read more »

Penny
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Penny

Great Read. Who are the five on the committee that will be recruiting?

Anonymous
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Anonymous

1. Mark oniell 2 peter sharp .3 bernie gurr .4 sean mcelduff 5 brad arthur . Prior to sept we recruited ,fergo,sivo, lane, junior , then new commitee took over and theyve signed macilwrick .

Rowdy
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Rowdy

I agree Anymous. How can a a club REVIEW all facets of our performance and come up with the need to strip BA of the ONLY success story to come out of 2018? Which was the recruitment of those 4!

The rev aka Snedden
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The rev aka Snedden

Sixties my son as you know I’ve stuck up for BA along time. But there’s got to be a time in someone’s life when they should be thinking have I made the right decision in staying on or should I have moved on. This is the time Brad should have thought it’s time to move on. What worries the life out of me is that our up n comers are seeing this wlwlwlwl ratio n last thing we need right now is to see them think it’s ok to go wlwlwlwl. As Arthur said, “We can’t start well one week… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

If only we had a WLWLW record. Our last 5 weeks have been LLLWL. We are on the downward slide. Arthur should have been boned last year. How he ‘earned’ a 2 year extension is more mystifying than the building of the pyramids.

Bubbles
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Bubbles

1ee ??

The rev aka Snedden
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The rev aka Snedden

Wtf you talking about

Milo
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Milo

Rev interesting stats and comments; Smith had about 57% and for me he had more than enough time to get us a comp; and tbh he didn’t have the cap issues BA has had. But i take your point and results will determine what happens with the coach.
I for one would never want to see Flanagan as coach; he has had a few issues with peptides and also was found to be involved with the club when he should not have been when suspended. For me No way.
But i like the passion Rev.

JonBoy
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JonBoy

Agree. I do not want Flanagan anywhere near the Eels. He is a “hard nut” like BA but doesn’t have the values to go with it. I’d rather under perform than cheat!

The rev aka Snedden
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The rev aka Snedden

Milo I love my club n team no matter what ppl say or Think about me. I’m like the rest I’m confused as to how we can win 2 straight at the start then we go wlwlwlwl then lose 3 straight b4 winning against a depleted South’s side. if you take away that South’s game we lose 5 straight. As much as I have lost faith in Brad Arthur id take Shane Flanagan. His a smart coach n also a Parra jr

Rowdy
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Rowdy

Interesting way to look at it aka rev. But you could also just as ridiculously surmise that if you take away those 4 loses we would have won 5 in a row eh?

Rowdy
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Rowdy

BA was extended because of the club performance heading upward for 4 years (2018 was an anomaly) and because he has always been able to attract good recruits as you yourself conceded above.
As for the pyramids? They were built by the 2 million Jewish slaves which were enslaved/owned and controlled by Egyptian Pharaohs. It’s there in one of the oldest history texts available. Second book in the Bible-Old Testament-Exodus-Chapter: 1.1-22.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Sadly I agree with you that Brad’s days are numbered. I think the Board made a decision to extend Brad’s contract to take the attention away from the Gutherson/Arthur media focus and to give BA the best possible environment to succeed. For the players to play as erratically as they have tells me that they have no respect for BA, and I also believe the contact extension was a “buy-time”strategy. Watch this space, I am convinced that change is in the wind! Can feel another 5 year plan coming our way.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

So according to papers waqa blake wants to join us lets see how that goes ,also regan gillard campbell and hetherington want out thats 3 , i wont hold my breath .

Jonboy
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Jonboy

RCG is certainly some one worthy of investigation (imo), I would welcome him with open arms so long as he shaves off that awful moustache. We don’t need more edge back rowers or centres.

Jetta
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Jetta

It all starts with leadership. For a long time we’ve lacked alphas in the forwards. Mannah may be respected and a leader by example, but he has never possessed the aura that inspires those around him to lift and fight with grit and steel. It’s no surprise that he’s been dropped. More leaders are what we desperately need.

Jonboy
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Jonboy

How much have we missed Beau Scott????! That’s the type of personality we we need.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Good call

Anonymous
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Anonymous

According to media we are still interested in george burgess , any stats on him compared to players we have on what i will presume half the coin mentioned

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

I have come in late in this debate, been one of those weekends and never saw, heard or read a lot about the lose, but I was not surprised by it or the score line and I am having no real emotions about it one way or another. I really appreciate this blog from sixties and for someone as loyal as him especially at training and watching the team week in and out, seeing how they train yet it almost seems as if the players all farted out any wind for a strong sail as they left the ground after… Read more »

Milo
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Milo

The players i would move on have been mentioned; we need one good big white and defensive prop; another worker second rower; back up dummy half and good young centre. As for who? I have always liked Fizgibbon from Newcastle but he was signed last yr i am sure; he is the type i like and he is also tall. A bullish prop like Lodge (not meaning him but his type). I also think our defence needs attention as i have previously said. As much as i detest them, Wicky’s Waiders have turned their defence around; and while they play… Read more »

JonBoy
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JonBoy

I heard the other day that Matt Lodge has recently purchased a house in the Rouse Hill area????

Whilst his past actions are abhorrent, everyone deserves a 2nd chance and I think he has shown at the Broncos that he can stay focused and “clean”. I recently posted that I felt Pangai Jnr and or Jai Arrow would be good targets, but overlooked Lodge. In hindsight, I’d actually rate him higher than Pangai Jnr.

Michael Formosa
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Michael Formosa

Is it just me or at the start of season we had what I would consider Parra best available team being picked every week, it wasn’t perfect but it had a great mix of exciting youngsters with our new buys……. then came that game against Melbourne Storm and out of nowhere BA bench’s Reed and starts with Peni and plays Gutho in and out hooker! Completely messes up our team and since then the team selection just continue to get more bizarre and the team has turned to complete shit! The young guys quickly left the team, What did guys… Read more »

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Michael I agree up to a point, lets not forget that in those early games the team was settled, but in fairly rapid succession we lost two key players in the two Brown’s. had Ma’u out for some time and several other players out with different injury issues, along with Terepo being out for other reasons. I think the last game was the first time we were down to just one injured player, that being Jnr Brown. In saying all of that he had to make some choices owing to the players being out, and some serious performance issues by… Read more »

DDay
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DDay

Thought provoking piece Sixties. Totally agree about poor resilience. The case for roster renewal is looming large. Your suggestion about throwing the younger players into the NRL team is critical. The review established that the Eels are a development club. How can the club possibly be making decisions about roster reinforcements when youngsters like Salmon, Stone and Kaufusi have been given limited NRL opportunity. And come June 30 rookies Fainga’a, Utoikamanu and Parry come into the mix. The season can be saved but sticking loyal to under-performing players and hoping for “continuity and combinations” is a depressing thought. Of the… Read more »

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

On form Alvaro is not ready for the NRL at this stage, sadly I honestly cannot see him being here next year. Stone has had some injury issues this year, but I certainly hope he is resigned, the biggest question marks though in certain respects regarding our Development players, is how are they performing for Wenty? That team has been as inconsistent as the eels, but I would also like to see them given their chances though. Almost every club this year that has introduced young players to their teams due to injuries, SOO and replacing dropped first grade players… Read more »

pete
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pete

Looking at the story on Mannah. If true, I’m thinking BA’s statement about being soft and part time footballer’s was referring to all the dropped players poor efforts in reserve grade. I expected the dropped players to play better and get Wenty a few wins. Instead they treated the demotion as a holiday. That was a test and they failed. Most players would say I’ll show them, I’m too good for reserves and kill it, to get brought back by BA. Instead a holiday was had, showing their true soft colours. I always liked Mannah, but Mannah as club captain,… Read more »

Seth hardie
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Seth hardie

Gallen has a dislike for Parra that’s fine. But I actually welcome these comments,the team deserve every berating they get. The rubbish they continually serve up should be ridiculed. From coach down they need one hell of a shake up. Glad to see Timmy take his dropping as an insult and vote with his feet, least he will be out of this mess.

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

The hard part for me in all of this is make a call on some players, and the sorrow of it is to see some that still are signed for next year also not performing, and for the life of me I cannot understand why there were given that length of contract extension in the first place, they were doing better when on a single year contract than now. Players like Tepai have the ability and worth keeping IF they perform consistently, when I was his age and in the workforce I saw people called out with worse comments that… Read more »

MAX
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MAX

Sixties, I am probably more disappointed that we have signed Brad Arthur for another two years, two more years of inept performances on the back of a lack of mental toughness. we are a big club, with a huge junior and supporter base,WE NEED A BIG NAME COACH,

Anonymous
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Anonymous

FACT. Mannah was not sacked by ba or any other member of recruitment panel , he simply decided to ask for a release and out of respect for outstanding service his request was granted despite it leaving us 1 player short with little time to do much about it !!!!

Jetta
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Jetta

Question Sixties – You have defended BA so much despite the fact he’s only taken us to the finals once in 5 years. Yet you still support him even though he his primarily responsible for assembling this current squad of NRL players that is clearly lacking quality in various aspects and, as you’ve admitted, is in need of a major overhaul. So why do you still back BA? Why are you so fond of him despite all the mistakes he’s made?

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Something to consider had the cap issue & associated fine and points deductions for 2016, along with the removal of the eels name on the winners trophy along with forfeiting the winning money of the Auckland 9’s add those deducted points to the winning ones and the eels would have been well and truly in the finals then. I like all am not happy about where we are now, but I for one do not blame BA for the whole problem at the club, the club has not got the same money as other have, the non payment of TPA’s… Read more »

John Eel
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John Eel

There is always a big picture

Seth hardie
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Seth hardie

You tread on thin ice here Jedda, there’s no coach questioning in this vicinity.