Finals Week 1 Drink Of Choice – Okay let’s be honest here. Nothing I own in my collection is worthy of the complete performance that the Eels put on for a rapturous full house at Bankwest Stadium. In light of that, feel free to crack open your finest drink of choice – whisky or otherwise – to celebrate as close to a perfect game as you will likely ever see.
For Brad Arthur this marks a watershed moment as he earns his maiden victory in the post-season. After the heart break of the 2017 finals and given everything that he and the club have endured since 2014 it must be the sweetest of feelings to shake that particular monkey off the back. To do it in such historic fashion and in front of nearly 30,000 raucous fans in arguably the greatest rugby league venue in the world only makes it better. This one is for most definitely for you BA.
I have a thousand things I want to write about after that glorious outing but for fear of rambling until the showdown with Melbourne next weekend I will try to keep it as concise as possible. Let’s start with the records, because 58-0 gets you a place in the record books. Parramatta’s incredible 58-point shutout of the Broncos, hence forth referred to as ‘The Bankwest Job’ is now in sole possession of the title as the biggest victory in NRL finals history. It is also Parramatta’s biggest victory over the Brisbane Broncos and in a shocking twist that absolutely no one saw coming it is also Brisbane’s heaviest defeat in their storied history.
The game-clock was honestly Parramatta’s only real competition today and while it eventually won out Parramatta’s 58-points will probably out-score any Australian batsman not named Steve Smith in the Ashes tonight.
For every fan that was out there with me this evening, I salute you all for being part of something truly special. For anyone that couldn’t get out there I hope it was every bit as amazing on the television as the Eels carved out their own piece of history. Regardless of whether you attended the game or not – join me as we delve into the anatomy of a perfect game.
Anatomy of a perfect game
Well it starts with the 58-0 score line. That’s a pretty solid start I dare say. How about these gems though? The Eels were tasked with completing a paltry 199 tackles to Brisbane’s mammoth 359. This leads into the domination on the other side of the ball where the Eels gashed the visitors to the tone of 1857m from 201 runs. In contrast the Broncos could only manage 743m from 96 attempts. Parramatta out-gained the Broncos by a colossal 1114m in a feat that perhaps has never occurred in the history of the NRL.
Not a single Bronco was able to post 100m while it would actually be quicker to name the Eels that didn’t crack the ton on the ground seeing as nine of Brad Arthur’s troops crossed the century mark today. For the record today’s honour roll reads as such:
- Clinton Gutherson (18/188m)
- Maika Sivo (15/167m)
- Waqa Blake (17/169m)
- Blake Ferguson (13/134m)
- Junior Paulo (11/114m)
- Shaun Lane (13/103m)
- Manu Ma’u (13/125m)
- Daniel Alvaro (22/170m)
- Tepai Moeroa (15/132m)
- Honourable Mentions – Nathan Brown (12/91m), Marata Niukore (11/93m)
The Eels dominated all key offensive categories including passes, offloads and tackle breaks except surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly?) for the penalty count. As with our famous runaway 54-32 victory over the Broncos in 2017, the statistical and scoreboard dominance did not translate any way what so ever to the penalty count. It was a fair bit worse in 2017 with the Eels losing the count 10-2 that day while it was only an even 4-4 today. However, given that half of Brisbane’s indiscretions came from foul play (and from one man in Joe Ofahengaue) it is frustrating that our dominance through the ruck didn’t yield positive results from the officials.
Plenty of credit needs to go to the brains trust in the coaching staff this week as they clearly identified a weakness in the Bronco’s inability to defend rapid shifts from our right to left edges. Moses was particularly brilliant in executing these swing plays with some of the crispest passes you will ever see.
These metrics will be impossible to match next week against Melbourne by any realistic standard but by the same token this is what the team needs to aspire to if they are to knock off one of the premiership heavyweights in their house no less.
Masterclass from Moses, ice in the veins from Brown
Technically speaking Mitchell Moses wasn’t perfect today. An early clearing kick that caught a Brisbane defender gifted the visitors field position while five missed conversions (albeit the missed penalty goal led directly to a try) meant the Eels couldn’t quite crack a monster 60-point score. In every other sense though Moses was perfect as he scored two tries, set up one more and sliced the Broncos apart with his kicking game with surgical precision.
2019 has been a huge coming of age season for Moses. Both he and Brad Arthur haven’t shied away from the fact that some hard truths were spoken in the wake of the football department review last season and it is a massive credit to his character that he has taken the criticism on board and elevated his game as a response. The job is far from done obviously but Moses has elevated both himself and his team by bettering himself.
If redemption best captures the season Moses is having, revelation is likely the word that plenty of fans will be tagging Dylan Brown with. Of course, TCT regulars will have been keeping tabs on the budding superstar for several years after his heroics through the District Representatives and Holden Cup but for the wider fan base Brown has come from the clouds after first earning fame nationally following an audacious poaching attempt from the New Zealand Warriors.
While Brown possesses every physical blessing needed to make him a potential superstar in the NRL it is his ice cool demeanor on the playing field that sets him apart. Like Moses, he was brilliant today with eerily similar statistics: a pair of his own tries and a try assist while he also produced a line break assist. His last try in particular had me gobsmacked in real time as I processed the fact that he had chased his own kick and out-jumped Anthony Milford.
We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the potential that these two players possess as the play-makers of this team and that excites me greatly.
Humble pie – No Try Tepai no more
I singled Tepai Moeroa out for criticism (of the fair kind mind you) following a game in which he produced statistically but came up with a number of soft errors. He was the beneficiary of Kane Evan’s unsuccessful bid to downgrade a high-tackle charge at the judiciary and boy did he repay the faith Brad Arthur showed in him while also leaving me with a healthy serve of humble pie.
Not only did he back up the numbers with a cracking 15 run 132m effort off the bench but he also crossed for a drought breaking try in the 70th minute from a sublime inside ball from Dylan Brown. Now off the nudie run list, Moeroa has given himself a red-hot shot at taking a place in the team to take on the Melbourne Storm – even with the return of Evans looming. It will likely be between Moeroa and Ray Stone and while Stone did nothing wrong today, Moeroa’s size and experience might be preferred against a hulking Storm forward pack.
Centres of excellence
While the Eels are busy assembling their state of art centre of excellence in Kellyville, they look to have two of them in their NRL currently. The 2019 renaissance of Michael Jennings continued today while Waqa Blake continues to blow my initial skepticism into the stratosphere as he produces cracking game after game. Both men were heavily involved in attack but their ability to lay down the boom was the best part from their performances in the Bankwest Job.
They were 100% the enforcers out there. Seriously, they were knocking souls out of bodies and if it wasn’t for Jorge Tafua’s insane tackle on Cameron Munster a couple of weeks back they would both be competing for tackle of the year alongside Maika Sivo.
Mitchell Moses was a crucial element to our run in 2017 and his mid-season acquisition helped arrest a four game slide. Increasingly, Blake looks to be another astute mid-season pickup by the Eels and our ability to extract both consistency and quality from him perhaps bodes well for 2020 recruit Reagan Campbell-Gillard.
Shout outs for everyone else
This isn’t even a hollow cop-out, I am just 1400 words deep and don’t want to be typing until dawn. Clinton Gutherson (who was brilliant rather than good), Reed Mahoney, Shaun Lane, Manu Ma’u, Nathan Brown, Brad Takairangi, Ray Stone and Marata Niukore (now one of the premier bench forwards in the NRL) could all easily get a paragraph or more a piece. A perfect game doesn’t happen unless all seventeen players do their part and all eight of these men were integral in securing that slice of history today. Please feel free to single out any of these players in the comment section for the praise they absolutely deserve.
The Final Word
We always knew that the finals would have to go through Melbourne one way or another. In 2017 we gave them one hell of a scare before they ending up romping to the premiership. We know that they are going to be fired up for this game after the Canberra Raiders pipped them in controversial circumstances. We go into this game not expecting to win many, if any, 50/50 calls and between their loss and our win Craig Bellamy has the perfect bulletin board material to have his championship team up for a top-shelf championship performance.
We also have the challenge of trying to positively channel the positive momentum from the Bankwest Job – as odd as that sounds. Wins like this always carry the risk of a sloppy follow up performance and the Eels obviously can not afford that in sudden death football.
However this is a team that has continuously grown throughout the course of the season. They have overcome trials and tribulations, many of which were self-inflicted, and on that note, if they give themselves the chance to play some footy in Melbourne they might just make some real noise.