The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – It Didn’t Define The Season, It Set The Challenge

When you’ve got something to prove, there’s nothing greater than a challenge.”

Terry Bradshaw

 

As the dust continues to settle following the Storm’s comprehensive semi-final shut out of the Eels, the formal and informal post mortems are now being formulated. We all enjoy debating a breakdown of the season over a beer or a coffee. And for staff and players, it sets some goals for what lies ahead.

This past weekend has been tough for Parra.

The immediacy of a loss which signals a team’s exit for the year is all about emotion. Eels players, staff and supporters would be hurting. Everyone had hoped, whether they were being realistic or not, that this team could go a step or two deeper into the finals.

http://www.starrpartners.com.au/office/starr-partners-auburnAnd though a 32 to nil obliteration is hardly the way the Eels wanted or deserved to conclude the season, I believe that there are blessings to be found.

Back in 2017, a top 4 finish, followed by a controversial loss to the Storm and a second week exit against grand finalists, the Cowboys, probably papered over the deficiencies of the Eels team.

In contrast, Saturday night’s comprehensive loss to Melbourne, which the history books now record as the sixth defeat from six starts against the Storm in finals football, emphasised that Parramatta were not ready to be genuine contenders.

So where are the Eels at?

On reflection, they’ve probably proved a point or two this season. But whilst there has been a challenge or two met, without doubt new challenges have also been set.

 

Challenge 1 – Erasing 2018

Let’s keep this brief.

Last season had been a massive fall from grace. To go from Top 4 to bottom of the ladder is a dead-set shocker in any one’s language. It impacted self esteem, performances, attendances and potential revenue.

The Eels became the butt of jokes and lost respect in the rugby league world.

Climbing back to finals football within 12 months spoke volumes about the dedication and hard work of the staff and players. It didn’t prove that the spoon was undeserved, but it certainly proved that the Eels should have been better than that.

And on the back of a better season, attendances, revenue and reputations all bounced back.

Hopefully there’s a lesson that’s been learnt about resting on one’s laurels. A quick slide awaits anyone who chooses that path.

Challenge met – thus far.

 

Challenge 2 – Nurture Defeating Nature

The age old psychology debate of nature vs nurture.

Let’s turn this into rugby league parlance – talent vs experience.

If we address talent, there’s plenty to be excited about. The backline is brimming with potential. Older hands like Jennings and Ferguson are complemented by the potential of Sivo, Brown and Blake. Moses and Gutherson are on the verge of producing consistent, mature football.

Si-vo Si-vo Si-vo

Moving forward, the pack has its own share of emerging talent. Mahoney, Niukore, Stone and Lane are forging careers alongside more seasoned players like Paulo, Evans, Brown and Alvaro.

That said, the departure of Moeroa, Mannah and Ma’u leaves a hole. Takairangi looks likely to continue his transition to the forwards. The recruitment of Reagan Campbell-Gillard and the elevation of Utoikamanu and Kaufusi could fill the holes. Again, the talent isn’t the question.

But we all know that talent just isn’t enough.

It’s simply impossible to ignore the fact that the Eels are a relatively inexperienced football team. Going into 2019, the spine of Moses, Brown, Gutherson and Mahoney had all of two games of finals football on their resume – Moses having played in the two finals losses in 2017.

That lack of experience showed up in the first half against the Storm when Gutherson gave away a seven tackle set after kicking early during the Eels first genuine attacking opportunity. It was a crucial moment.

The only true finals campaigners in the Eels semi final team were Ferguson and Jennings, and even Fergo would admit that his performance was well below his best.

You can’t wave a magic wand and suddenly become battle hardened finals players. It’s something which is earned.

Nature must be nurtured and I’m going to drop a key number on you.

Taking out the four games lost via the departure of Ma’u and Moeroa, 30 games of NRL finals football has just been added to the Parramatta squad. Though it would have been brilliant to have gone deeper into this year’s finals series, the roster will start next season with that experience under their belt and we should, repeat should, see the benefits.

Is nurture winning over nature? For mine the challenge is still being met.

 

Challenge 3 (The Big One) – The Next Step

Let’s begin with the tangible. Mahoney and Sivo have just experienced their first full season of NRL football. Dylan Brown has hit double digits in his NRL appearance list. Newcomers such as Lane, Ferguson, Blake and Paulo (returning) have started to forge combinations.

Now the intangible.

Mahoney has just finished his first full season.

Young players on the fringe such as Parry, Kaufusi and Utoikamanu are about to embark on their second NRL pre-season. You can even throw Brown and Sivo into that group. The importance of consolidating pre-seasons, after the lessons of that first one, cannot be underestimated.

External recruitment will happen. This post won’t dig into that topic. It’s deserving of a dedicated discussion.

For now, we have to consider whether the currently confirmed roster is ready to take the next step.

And the answer to that lies between the ears.

The form on display in the final game against the Storm was not the best that the Eels were capable of producing. Melbourne played as a unit, the Eels did not.

Despite some of the best preparation I’ve witnessed, too many players began that match on what seemed to be self-determined personal missions. Individual attempts at “big plays” left the team vulnerable, with errors and penalties costing both territory and possession.

It was only when Arthur could reset them at half time that the team produced something that resembled “Parra footy”.

The Melbourne Storm has clearly defined the next step, the next challenge for the Eels.

Being pumped up for a big performance is not enough. It can lead to being overawed by the big occasion.

Being focussed on consistently producing your best, knowing your role, owning it and taking pride in it, removing the external noise – all of those things happen in the head. When you get the head space right, the difference between your best and your worst becomes minimal.

That’s the next step.

Only when that is achieved can the Eels become, like the Storm, finals regulars and genuine contenders.

Challenge set!

Eels forever!

Sixties

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Seth hardie
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Seth hardie

Little dog against big dog, we rolled over and let the storm scratch our belly. Surely a first grade team should have been more mentally tough than our first half comedy of errors. Oh well, next year again.

MAX
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MAX

Sixties, great job all year. You are right the challenge is set, as you know I genuinely believe the coach is a little inept with instilling a mental toughness into these boys, and our home and away stats suggest exactly that. I remain hopeful that 2020 brings with it much good fortune to our great club. I believe we are on the right track with recruitment, for me I think we need to look at the mentor!

Blue and Gold forever!!!

Max!

Milo
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Milo

Great read Sixties; yes mental side of things needs to be sorted for me too. I also think our defence in the middle over the off season needs some re-jigging, and again some more astute signings for backrow would be good. As I’ve said before to be top 4 we need to compete consistently across the park; happy with this yrs effort and i honestly think next yr will tell us how tough we are and also it could be defining for the coaching staff too in terms of getting them back into the semis again. Teams will be marking… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

If we were to consider, man for man, by position, Eels V Storm. Would or should it be imaginable that the difference between both teams would be 96 points to 10 over just two games in season 2019? Are their players 86 points better? Id suggest not. Now if we consider experience, excluding Cameron Smith is the difference that significant? Again I’d suggest not. So with this knowledge why oh why is one team significantly better than the other? Im loving our recruitment but I remain concerned about our retention. We are improving in this area but more is required.… Read more »

BDon
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BDon

‘Between the ears’ sixties, Jack Gibson mantra, but can be like wrestling with clouds. We have made giant steps both off and on field. The roster, the drill and the glue seem like good areas of focus. Had a quick look at the nrl stats pages, and they certainly tell a tale…completions, errors, handling errors, missed tackles…all poor stats for us, so we only repeated our sins v Storm. It seems our strengths(check the stats, we have many) just get blunted by the poor stuff…what a waste of energy, but what upside if we fix things. Thanks to TCT for… Read more »

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Coming in late again sixties with my thoughts. The first half was a nightmare really, but the way the team lifted in the 2nd half with conceding only 2 tries is worth a good uptake and finish for our season, eels did well overall but,! its really not enough if we are to carry through into next season and onwards from there. We lose some players but realistically the item to me that is most needed is speed men in the backs, the halves also have to take a step up as to who is to lead and direct the… Read more »

BDon
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BDon

Colin, with Fergo I get what you’re saying, it did look like that, but the way the Storm did us for numbers (so early in the game) and when we had them pinned in their 20 suggests a bit more going haywire than Fergo. We failed to both move up and match up, if you look back closer to the ruck you’ll see when Smith throws a long pass the light bulb goes on with 3 of our players suddenly realising we should have been pushing across faster to negate the numbers. Fergo got stranded with the fastest man in… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Any positives col? what about last to 5 th with a squad not full of rep players and experienced campaigners, kids ba is trying to develop. Some poach some coach, come on Col, your so negative!!!

Luke Winley
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Luke Winley

Great step forward from last years abomination.
Cant help but wonder what the result would have been if the coaches were swapped for the week.

Luke Winley
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Luke Winley

Massive turn around this year but in our two biggest tests this year as in Melbourne in brisbane and Melbourne in Melbourne we didnt put anywhere near our best foot forward. I feel that the best coaches in the game may not have their team win every game but at least give their team the self belief to play at their absolute best in victory or defeat. As much as it hurts we were very poor in defeat which really leaves me thinking what might have been.

Jonno
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Jonno

I feel after Brads comments during his historic behind the scenes clip, that at times the squad don’t do what is asked of them. They seem at times to go away from the game plan. Brad hinted at this I feel in the post Storm presser. They didn’t play expansive attacking football, he said they were playing within themselves, maybe stage fright but disappointing way to end what was a great step forward for us.

Longfin Eel
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Longfin Eel

Completely agree on the next step. If we get that mental attitude right, we can put ourselves into a position to achieve great things. As you say, we have the talent, we just need to use that talent in a smarter way. We seem to be able to lift for packed out Bankwest games but when the crowd is against us we get over-awed and start doubting ourselves. I have no doubt every player will get some learnings from these finals games, especially the one against Melbourne. The players just need to believe they can beat the top teams –… Read more »

Jetta
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Jetta

What about development of coaches as part of the next step? This is also of vital importance. Will Potter be replaced? If BA thinks he can do it all himself along with the small team of assistants he has then he is extremely naive. He needs to adopt the mindset of forging the best possible team of staff he can acquire. The high level of talented assistants at other clubs is eye watering compared to what we have.

!0 Year Member
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!0 Year Member

What does Parra have to do to fix our leaky defense? This is where we need to start to focus our energy.

BDon
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BDon

You probably heard that Stuart allocated 80% of pre season to Raiders defence after reshaping his pack towards speed, strength, mobility. The least mobile is Papalii, and you’d sign him in a heartbeat.