How did you feel before Saturday night’s clash with the Broncos?
From the stands, I sensed a somewhat apprehensive crowd. And that’s understandable given the Jekyll and Hyde performances of recent weeks.
We wanted our team to win, we wanted them to show up and have a real dig, we hoped they would respond well to what happened the week before and we wanted to be able to cheer loudly for them.
I was strangely confident before the game. Despite their obvious talent, a young mobile pack like the Broncos is not the type that normally troubles our forwards. The first ten minutes showed both some promise and concern, but once we got down to the Broncos line and scored early I knew we had a big chance.
The crowd responded as expected – they got behind the team and the game unfolded as most games do at Bankwest for us. High energy, committed and entertaining footy flowed.
While there are many things I could praise about the game, from the stands it was obvious that the team had energy.
The previous week started with BA’s post match comments, continued with Paul Gallen’s opinion on the team, then plunged into the sagas surrounding Tim Mannah’s request for a release. It was the sort of stuff that could galvanise the team or it could expose any cracks and continue the downward spiral.
Early signs are that the team can move forward, but we’ve experienced false dawns before.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve questioned the strength of the relationships in the team, as they seemingly reverted to playing one out footy, without covering each other, especially in defence. This was very concerning for most fans and was obvious from the stands.
I don’t expect my team to win each week. I completely understand we are reshaping our squad and have some young players in very important positions. No athlete can be at peak form and fitness each week. What I do expect is total effort and commitment and a team of players who are both willing and able to cover for others when they are a little down. That is what good teams do.
Therefore, without getting too carried away after this win, let’s treat the performance as a good first step and look for the team to back it up.
And so to the positives.
On Saturday night, many things pleased me but a couple stood out.
First was the ability for our forwards to get out of our own half. Our back five obviously played a role in this, as they do for most teams. However, the ability of our forwards to take the 3rd or 4th hit up, sometimes out wider, and make ground with quick play the balls was very pleasing.
There’s no point in singling individual players out for praise as the pack functioned as a unit. I liked the hard running of the forwards. They looked to run hard first, and then as they tired the Broncos out, the offloads started to happen.
Though I wasn’t going to mention specific players, I must make a confession. I criticised Kane Evans in the Sharks game and most people, including my family, thought I got that wrong. I was impressed with his running against the Broncos, he made good metres and played the ball really quickly. So credit where it’s due.
The other aspect that pleased me from the stands, and I dare say pleased everyone, was the ball movement in attack.
The Eels offence was not pointless side to side movement, or one out hit ups. It was well constructed plays that made the Broncos make a choice. Most times they made good choices, but when they selected poorly we were good enough to take those chances. It was probably the most happy I have been with our attack since round 1 this year.
The pleasing news to emerge after the game was that Josh Hoffman was cleared of any serious injury. You don’t want any player to suffer serious injury, and Hoff has been in outstanding form. He’s played with real energy and skill, and truth be told, he’s playing much better than I thought he could.
Despite some of our troubles, which will likely continue as we reshape our team, we go into the global bye sitting in the 8. We have a positive for and against and have won as many games as we have lost. Although some weeks have been tough, if you had put this scenario at the beginning of the year to me I would have gladly accepted it.
Good luck to all our players in Rep round, it will no doubt be entertaining.
Get behind the team, we have a bright future and besides that, watching our team play at Bankwest is fun. It is hard to describe the atmosphere to those who haven’t experienced this amazing venue, so it’s best that you get there, support the team and find out just how brilliant it is for yourself.
Let’s be there in numbers for our next game – an away game against the Tigers.
We’ll remind everyone that BankWest Stadium is our home ground, no matter which team is listed first.