The Cumberland Throw

Whisky Musings – Round 25: Eels Complete Redemption Arc, Now A Shot At Glory Awaits

Round 25 Drink Of Choice – Balvenie Double Wood 12YO

 

This time last year the Parramatta Eels completed their dismal 2018 campaign with a brutal 44-10 loss to the eventual premiers in the Sydney Roosters. The 34-point loss capped a three game skid and put as ugly an exclamation mark as you could imagine on an already hideous 6-win season.

Autopsies aplenty there were including an official review but it seemed destined that the Eels were cursed to rebuild once. Semi Radradra’s absence turned out to be not so much a gap in the roster as a inextricable black hole. The halves combination of Corey Norman and Mitchell Moses, earmarked for greatness after a stellar 2017, fell into a heap. Kane EvansBrad Arthur’s only major signing was written off as a complete bust while an array of senior talent failed to set professional standards on the field.

And yet here we are. A 32-16 victory over our bitter rivals the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in the books and as a result our 14th win of the season written into the ledgers. The victory column falls two short of the dizzying heights of 2017 but I can assure you it is every bit as satisfying for myself after our team was consigned to the gutters before a ball was kicked off this year.

Regardless of what happens in the post-season hence forth, 2019 is a sterling success for Brad Arthur and everyone involved at the Parramatta Eels. The sailing wasn’t always smooth and I don’t think this team has begun to scrape the ceiling of its potential but their ascent up the ladder this year is a testament to enthusiasm and grit of all the players and coaches. Well done.

That said, there is plenty of unfinished business to be done and before we move on to a glorious Sunday afternoon of sudden death footy against the Brisbane Broncos so let’s unpack the final win of the regulation season and some of the better story line of 2019 while we are at it.

 

http://www.starrpartners.com.au/office/starr-partners-narellan

 

Strength in numbers; Fans turns BankWest into formidable homefield advantage

25,034 fans packed into BankWest Stadium in spite of the awkward 6:00PM time slot and some inclement weather in a massive credit to the passion and commitment of the Parramatta fandom. While we certainly have our fringe element like any fan base I have always been of the opinion that the Blue & Gold army is one of the best and most faithful fandoms and the Eels’ success in 2019 is due in no small part to all the fans that turned out to our new stadium.

The booming ‘SI-VO’ chants that echoed from wall to wall on Friday night are not only a testament to that but they also mark one of the great ‘had to be there’ moments for the entirety of the NRL this year.

Well done to every fan who attended a home game this year.

 

Rookies shine in regulation season curtain-call

Maika Sivo certainly earned those chants on Friday night as he posted his first career hat-trick to bring his season haul to 20 tries and claim sole ownership of the Ken Irvine Medal as the NRL’s leading try scorer. The comparisons to Semi Radradra began long ago and will continue to come with every breath-taking try he scores and soul-devouring fend he lays on to an unwitting defender but fans should take a second to appreciate both in their own rights.

The fact that the Eels unearthed not one but two transcendental talents on the wings within the space of a couple of years is an incredibly rare feat and should be celebrated as such. Maika’s meteoric rise was captured brilliantly in a recent NRL video here while TCT’s own interview with George Dansey reflects on the team chaplains own Fijian roots and why Parramatta has become the premier club for identification and development of these phenomenal football players.

Of course, if you tab across a few players to Sivo’s right and you get Dylan Brown. The 19-year-old play-maker produced perhaps his most composed and assured performance of the year in a hugely encouraging sign heading into the finals. Brown ran the ball strongly throughout the night while showing incredibly deft touches with pass and kick alike – both of which proved crucial in Sivo notching his maiden hat-trick.

Brown’s poise and mental strength are not to be underestimated. The rookie has walked a difficult path in his first season of NRL as he battles weekly with a lower-back injury and his application to the game, especially in defence is a massive credit to his character.

Between these two alone you certainly have a stunning rookie class for 2019 while young outside back Ethan Parry was solid his first two outings in first grade and left each game with a try to his name. With their continued development alongside the next wave of young talent coming through, the Eels are poised to consolidate and push even higher up the ladder in the coming seasons.

 

Stone Cold Stunner

I appreciate that Martin Taupau showed genuine concern for Ray Stone seconds after he had shockingly laid him out with a high swinging arm. I think that speaks towards his character and the fact that it was an attempt at a big defensive play gone awry. In that vein I am glad that both teams didn’t come to blows immediately following it because Taupau was clearly remorseful and more importantly there was a semi-conscious Ray Stone left strewn on the ground in need of medial attention. Taupau’s care for his victim is probably the difference between a careless and reckless grading.

With all that said, the fact that Taupau was not sent off for that breach is not just an embarrassment to our game but an indictment on the officiating process. Michael Ennis voiced similar frustrations tonight on the Big League Wrap and it legitimately raises the question of what constitutes a send off these days.

Kane Evans also found himself in the sin bin on Friday night, and perhaps fairly so, but unlike Taupau who carelessly swung an arm at an opponent’s jaw Evans was guilty of aggressively squaring up Brad Parker with his pec and shoulder. The Eels have elected to fight the one week ban Evans now faces (with nothing to lose should the appeal fail) and it will be interesting to how they contest this given the simple mechanics behind a 2-metre tall individual executing a relatively textbook tackle. Freeze frames and initial contact points will be crucial here and the outcome will be crucial for the Eels given the outstanding form of Evans in 2019.

 

Fergo not full go, Moeroa potentially no go

Just as Dylan Brown is showing plenty of ticker to push through a difficult physical predicament, so too should Blake Ferguson be lauded for returning to the field following a severe reaction to antibiotics. ‘Fergo’ was far from his best on Friday night and I doubt that he will physically be near 100% this season following his massive weight loss recently.

However, despite a number of errors and missed opportunities to his name on Friday his presence in the team will be vital moving forwards. Ferguson’s propensity to performing in big games will be called upon henceforth from next Sunday and his general experience in the finals will be crucial for our young team.

While Ferguson gets something of a free pass in that regard Tepai Moeroa is not so lucky. I don’t like to single out players for ridicule and this is not anything of the sort but Tepai has produced dismally from the bench with a number of errors punctuating an otherwise tepid stat sheet. To his credit he produced his most accomplished effort of the season against Manly when it came to productivity in the running game but his error from a kickoff was nigh unforgivable while another error led to a contentious try to Manly.

Nathan Browns return from suspension poses Brad Arthur with a selection decision to be made for one of his bench forwards. Should Ray Stone pass through concussion protocols I hope he gets the nod for Sunday with Tepai being the man to drop off the bench.

 

Late offloads the bane of our defence

Defensively I think the Eels have improved significantly in the back end of 2019. Since bleeding 36-points to Manly at Brookvale in Round 18 they have conceded 22, 4, 14, 12, 12, 17 and 16 for grand total of 97-points and a per-game average of just under 14-points. Line-speed and aggression levels are both well up compared to early portions of the season and our edge combinations are starting to settle now that new faces and returnees from the injury ward alike get used to each other.

One factor that has consistently punished us over the last three rounds however are late offloads. Canterbury, Brisbane and Manly all produced their most threatening offensive displays on the back of offloads that caught our retreating defensive line off-guards. Heck, it was a late offload that made Darius Boyd look remotely threatening against Brisbane.

Parramatta will obviously need to defend this better moving forwards but given the calibre of the opposition in the post-season they also simply need to be better aware of the potential for any late offloads and scramble better as a response.

 

The Final Word

If you had polled the fandom before Round 1 and asked them if they would have taken a home final in Week 1 at BankWest Stadium I have to believe the response would have been an avalanche of yes votes. It is a huge credit to the team for their ability to put the demons of 2018 firmly behind them and achieve as high as they did to this point. While everything moving forwards is a bonus, it is also a massive opportunity for our boys. Yes the Storm and the Roosters are nigh unbackable favourites…and for good reason given their form this year. Yet all it takes is one bad game and they will only be as good as any other team eliminated from contention.

Any given Sunday (or Friday or Saturday given it is the NRL) rules are in place now. Results prior to this coming weekend are meaningless and four wins are what now separates the Eels from immortality. Parramatta showed that they have the composure to win four straight just a while back, now it all begins again on Sunday against the Brisbane Broncos.

See you all out there!

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Rowdy
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Rowdy

Thank you forty20, another wonderfully comprehensive, yet simple analysis of the form and facts of our footy clubs return to the end of year finals.
How good is this?

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Has anyone received the email with password for ticketed members to pre purchase? 9.45am and nothing in inbox.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Yes we received the email at 9.45 pm last night – after a couple of attempts on Ticketek we managed to secure our current seats, which incidentally were found not to be undercover on Friday night. You only have until 1pm today to get your season seat, so I would check spam and phone club if not there.

DDay
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DDay

Good wrap Forty, 2019 has been a success. I would include Mahoney in the rookies shine department. Look forward to the Broncos with Evans, Stone & NBrown in the team.

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Excellent post Forty and no argument in any area. It was a heart stopping & tight game until the flurry in the 2nd half, a very good win indeed. I really applaud the way that Marty tried to help Ray Stone, shows a character of not just a good player but also a decent person. I honestly do not believe it was deliberate as Marty is a bigger & taller player compared to Ray Stone, who I believe changed direction in his run a bit as he came to the defence. The aspect that Marty has big arms and caught… Read more »

Darryl West
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Darryl West

Agree. I think that Tepai’s changed body shape has been at the bottom of his form When he arrived he was lighter and faster. I can see him playing for the Waratahs with a lighter framed body and with greater speed. Rumours are that he may even play in the centres, something he did with the Australian Scholboy Union team.

BDon
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BDon

Thumbs up to all of that Forty. The Broncs can be dangerous but their spine isn’t working when ours is looking more and more like one. The Dogs dealt with them simply because they didn’t keep inviting them back into the game, and you got the feeling that’s all we had to do 2 weeks back. So there’s the template for a second week in to the finals. It’s all so easy from the grandstand!

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Forty great read. Just a couple of observations from a delighted supporter from Saturday night in front of a massive crowd. Firstly while we probably cost ourselves a try in the process I think there was a squandered opportunity to score when Fergo did not cut back inside of Waqa in the first half. Waqa was waving him around but Fergo did not respond. However looking for the upside here I have seen enough of both to believe that they will create a lethal combination as Fergo regains his mojo. Dylan Brown put in his best performance since being out… Read more »

John Eel
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John Eel

Great read Forty again and I feel very buoyed going into week one of the finals after a great Friday night in front of a huge Friday night Eels crowd at Bankwest. Firstly I think that Fergo missed a great opportunity to put on another try for the Eels when he did not pick up on Waqa’s signal to cut back inside as he was jamming out toward the sideline. Waqa waived him around but Fergo did not respond. However I believe that I have seen enough to think that they are going to form a very lethal combination as… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Forty I thought I lost the original post so I posted again

Happy if you can delete one of them

John Eel

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Could not agree more with those comments forty; We will win this wk, and i am pretty confident of this. Tapau imo should receive minimum 3-4 wks; and how Evans can get the same spell if no down\grade is beyond belief. But do not start me on the judiciary. I get the grading etc. but fair dinkum how Tapau gets a sin bin and the grading was a joke. For me we need a couple of strong forward signings for 2020. Evans has lived up to his work at Easts in my view and should be congratulated. Paulo has been… Read more »

pete
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pete

Agree Milo, Tapau should have been sent off it was a head high swinging arm. No way Evans tackle was in the same ballpark. I just think the NRL gifted Broncos a golden point win by ignoring Darius professional foul a few weeks ago and now handing Broncos another leg up to stay in the finals.. not to mention the chosen officials for our game..
We just need to be on song for 80 minutes. We need to reduce our missed tackles, 45 last week…
Not sure if Tepai comes in but Pricey needs to tell Tepai to stop dropping the ball.