The Cumberland Throw

Whisky Musings – Round 3: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger; Eels Find Their Inner Daft Punk As They Tame Broncos.

Round 3 Drink Of Choice – Yamazaki Single Malt


How good? HOW GOOD? Rugby League is back after a crazy hiatus and the Parramatta Eels barely missed a step in the showcase return game as they buried the Brisbane Broncos under a mountain of pressure and possession to take the commanding 34-6 victory. It certainly wasn’t a perfect hitout with the Eels squandering a number of red-zone opportunities care of loose handling but stunningly Brad Arthur has somehow social distanced his team to a higher level of play.

There was fire and brimstone from the forwards mixed with guile and deception from the play-makers sprinkled with just a sprinkle of jaw-dropping athleticism from the backs. Above all of it however, barring a momentary lapse from an otherwise standout Marata Niukore, the Eels suffocated the home team when on defence. It was a superb continuation of the tone established in the first two rounds many a moon ago and it has delivered Parramatta a rather incredible plaudit that I will touch on later in this blog. On that teaser, shall we get into the thick of the wonderful relaunch of rugby league?


Prime movers and deft maneuvers

Possession rates and completion percentages are a great way to establish statistical dominance but we are going straight to the ground game tonight where the Eels pounded the Broncos into the Suncorp soil to the tune of 2093m to 1158m. The list of exemplary performances is frankly exhausting but they all deserve a shout out so here we go:

  • Clinton Gutherson – 23 runs for 249m
  • Maika Sivo – 15 runs for 164m
  • Michael Jennings – 13 runs for 129m
  • Waqa Blake – 13 runs for 127m
  • Blake Ferguson – 17 runs for 147m
  • Dylan Brown – 14 runs for 106m
  • Reagan Campbell-Gillard – 18 runs for 194m
  • Junior Paulo – 15 runs for 136m
  • Shaun Lane – 19 runs for 168m
  • Ryan Matterson – 17 runs for 150m
  • Marata Niukore – 14 runs for 137m
  • Kane Evans – 17 runs for 179m

From the scintillating touches of budding superstar Dylan Brown to the thunderous steps of Junior Paulo, the Eels brought the full array of their lethal running repertoire to the fore tonight and Brisbane, due in some part to self-inflicted wounds, simply couldn’t go blow-for-blow or step-for-step as it were.

The Eels then took it one step further (don’t we all love puns?) as they built off their dominant running performance with a bevy of quality offloads that stretched an exhausted Brisbane defence to its limits. Parramatta strung together 23 offloads to Brisbane’s 5 while the numbers don’t account for the amount of late passes at the line and switches of play that the Eels deployed to keep the Broncos on the backfoot. Again, Paulo was titanic here as the one dubbed Proptimus Prime added four offloads and a try assist to his haul . Amazingly he was bettered by Ryan Matterson who matched his try assist and added an additional offload to tally 5.

For the longest time, even in their darkest days, the Eels have been plenty capable of entertaining and exciting attack. That identity hasn’t been lost by any means in 2020 but they are showing a willingness to let the flashier play come after their hard work has brutalised the opposition defence and that is something I can get behind.


The old fox and the young Staggs

The ageless Michael Jennings continues to dazzle. For each step of top-end speed he has lost in recent years he has absolutely made up for it in guile and understanding of the game and it was on full display tonight as he took highly touted NSW origin prospect Kotoni Staggs right through the Kindergarten to Year 12 of rugby league.

Jennings took his career tally of 4-pointers to 148 tonight with a flurry of left-foot steps that saw him weave around defenders and score under the posts and in doing so broke the backs of the home team. As always though, it was his savvy defence that underpinned the performance and while Staggs did manage to embarrass Maika Sivo in the early exchanges he was promptly brick-walled by the wily veteran centre for the remainder of the game.

Jennings heads the triumvirate of former-Roosters who boast premiership winning credentials at the Eels and more than ever he looms as a central figure for the Eels as they set out to establish themselves as legitimate front-runners.


Fortune favours the blue & gold

It should be mentioned that the Eels had their slice of luck tonight. On top of Brisbane’s litany of general play miscues both Anthony Milford and Darius Boyd were left to rue butchered attempts to reel in grubber kicks for a try. The Eels maintained ascendancy throughout the game and dominated both possession and territory so it remains to be seen if it would have been enough to turn the tides but nonetheless it is worth mentioning. Beyond that the Broncos lost a man early on when Alex Glenn departed the game with a nasty cut that gashed through flesh right to bone in his lower leg.


New ruck rules explore an interesting space

I am thoroughly undecided on where I stand in relation to the new 6-again ruck interpretation. The Eels benefited from it in consecutive fashion early in the first stanza before never seeing a call again for the remainder of the game (despite dominating the ruck) while the Broncos lost early momentum due to it but received a wild 6-again call on the last tackle later in the first half.

Thematically I think it is an interpretation that comes from the right place. Its intent is to speed up the flow of the game and allow play-makers and skilled forwards to shine and that is a great thing. It is also wildly open to games snow-balling out of control with early infringements against one team piling on fatigue which in turn creates further ruck infringements and so on and so forth as teams enter a tortuous downward spiral. Naturally the worst outcome is that the pace of the game outstrips the ability of teams to reasonably defend but for now it is very much wait and see over the next month of play.

Regardless of how this new design space in the rules plays out, I am vehemently against dropping the interchange allotment from its current rate of 8. Fatigue and attrition already have huge roles in the game and with ever-growing importance of safe-guarding against serious head injuries, teams should have access to 8 interchanges a game.


Raymond 3:16 says I just whooped your ass

COVID-19 may have robbed him of a shot at a starting berth for the better parts of months but Ray Stone did his damndest tonight to ensure he gets a long look in first-grade as an interchange forward. Stone’s punishing burst off the bench saw him unseat several Broncos with his granite shoulders while he proved a capable ruck option in attack against the fatiguing defence. He finished the the latter part of his 21min stint at dummy-half as Reed Mahoney was put on ice and while his passes weren’t as crisp as Parramatta’s rep calibre rake, it certainly put the nightmares of his debut against the Storm to rest as he found Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown every time with nary a bounced pass to be seen.

I am never going to be tagging him with superstar billings but Stone plays the game with a chip on his shoulder that is the size of the Mariana Trench and whenever I see someone bring that edge and intensity to a team I can’t help but root for them. So here is to hoping he can stay fit and really carve out a niche on the bench for the Eels.

Can I get a hell yeah?


Payne Haas Appreciation Post 2.0

I gave him a deserved shout out in the 58-0 embarrassment at Bankwest last year where he stood head and shoulders above his compatriots and once more he draws an appreciative golf clap from this blogger. Haas churned out 162m from 16 carries and piled on a further 49 tackles (1 missed, 3 ineffective) as he played a lone hand in a pack that was beaten 7-ways into next week. He is an out and out superstar that will only get better pending his ability to stay healthy and it is hard not to admire his special qualities.

In saying all that, while he had a good game tonight, it felt like the Eels honestly bottled him up perfectly and even if the production was there, the impact wasn’t. Denying the opposition their best weapons is another tenet of a prospective premiership team and the Eels are making good on this in the opening rounds of 2020.


Eels on historic defensive pace

I teased it in the lead-in for tonight’s musings but Parramatta’s defence hasn’t just been good it has been G O O D. So good in fact that you have to go back over three decades to find a team that set a better pace after three rounds as Dan Ginanne points out on Twitter. This isn’t to say that the Eels can definitely maintain this ironclad pace throughout the abbreviated season or that there isn’t a hefty loss or two in the tea-leaves but defence, something that has traditionally been the Achilles’ Eel (more puns, yay!) of Parramatta, is more than just setting the tone so far in 2020 – it is defining their victories.

We will have to wait and see how it will all entail down the road but the intent and enthusiasm from the players is clear as day and that is all you can ask for at this time of the season.


The Final Word

I could have splurged out the word count on superlatives for Dylan Brown, or for the fittingly golden boot displayed by the resurgent Reed Mahoney or indeed on any of the three backrowers who starred in their various capacities. Junior Paulo deserved a second write-up dedicated to his insane engine and ridiculous play-making skills – something that could easily be transplanted to the ineffable Clinton Gutherson. Yet it is 1:15AM and the buzz of the win is finally dying down so I will wind down my ramblings accordingly.

Next week we meet an old arch-enemy in the Sea-Eagles but we will be playing on the hallowed grounds of Bankwest so there is plenty of cause for optimism. Many media pundits have tipped Manly as their dark-horse for the 2020 title while the Eels, barring the Round 2 debacle of 2018, have matched up extremely favourably with their traditional rivals in recent seasons so this shapes up as an entertaining match.

Catch all the coverage for that blockbuster and more on TCT in the coming week and as always, stay safe in these trying times!


Credit to the NRL and AAP for all images used, statistics provided courtesy of Champion Data.

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Bert Kenny

I understand you’re excitement.! Great result tonight

But i don’t share your enthusiasm for Stone.

Passing is dismal

Stone is not a hooker at all. Full stop.

On a positive i thought Dylan Brown was outstanding tonight.

Lane and Matterson Where both amazing

Paulo led from the front.

Congratulations boyz

Go Parra


Bert, his passes could have been better, and it’s fair to say that if that service was replicated across 80 minutes, we’d have an issue. But, that’s extracting a big negative out of maybe one or two passes that weren’t up to Mahoney’s standard. For now he’s there as utility cover, and he continues to work on his passing at every training session. He spent more time in the middle than dummy half last night, and I thought he was outstanding. Long term, the next specialist dummy half is Kyle Schneider and unfortunately with lower grades gone this year, he… Read more »

Longfin Eel

Dummy half could be an issue. We were very fortunate that the injury to Mahoney did not result in any missed games. Could you imagine the past 8 weeks without a true dummy half? We’ll need to sort this out unless Mahoney can stay injury-free.

It’s disappointing about Schneider, especially given his injury woes over the past few years.

Last edited 1 month ago by Longfin Eel
Trouser Eel

I think you may be under selling Stoney. He’s a versatile player which makes it difficult at this stage to see where his career will take him but I wouldn’t rule out rep honours.


Trouser, I think Stone’s future, and this is a Captain Obvious moment, depends on game time. He’s a genuinely brutal player for his size. Anyone who’s watched him in lower grades can attest to the pain he inflicts in one-on-one tackles. We saw a glimpse last night. He’s very much in his NRL infancy still, and BA is renowned for slowly building NRL match time. I hope he gets more opportunities and Stone is guaranteed another week on the bench due to Brown’s suspension, but after that it’s a battle with Taka to retain it. Its terrific to know that… Read more »


Wonderful to have musings back. So many potential discussion points, the Eels just dominated territory but your listing highlights how much of team effort it was. Agree defence was GOOD, again across the park. Junior was a beast and with Reg & Evans we have a formidible middle. I’m a Stone fan, he just brings some zing in defence, has good footwork at the line and covers dummy half – I think he provides balance to the bench in a way Taka doesn’t. I really liked the new rule since refereeing didn’t dictate the flow of the game – the… Read more »


Great coverage Forty. We were blessed with possession and did what a good team should do when it falls that way. For the first time, I got the feeling that Nathan Brown’s attitude was on the field while he wasn’t, early days but that’s huge. I liked that marginal knock-on and forward passes were ruled consistently, although Mitch Moses is probably still wondering why he got 6 agained. Keen to watch other games (ie not my team) to observe the new stuff.


Sorry, but I disagree with your assessment off Ray Stone.

The rev aka Snedden

Stone was brought in to cover Mahoney n nothing else. What I liked about stone was his standing at DH not to the side he was passing to like Reedy. Stone is a lock in the future like arrow kinda mould.

Colin Hussey

I actually believe that standing upright as he does, while not helping in his passes makes the opposition unsure of which side the ball will go, when compared to Reed, in saying that Reed has a bit more off the mark and speed to assist him, also he often is looking from side to side a bit which creates the same aspect as Stone shows.


What is your assessment of Stone?


Why has BA dropped Stone for the Manly game, if he’s supposed to be there at DH?? He may have a position in the team but it ain’t at DH, and at the moment it ain’t in the top 18. Cue the dislikes….


Stones a keeper


I’m in the Jonno squad on this one.


Lol no surprise there.


Lol? You’re yet to elaborate Terry.

Colin Hussey

Watching this new game last night, I saw Stone play a very good role, sure he had a couple of poor dummy half passes, but outside of that he added more to both attack and moreso in defence than Terepo. Sadly I think both Taka and Peni are no longer first grade players even off the bench, maybe the break affected them more than the others but time for a generational change. Out of last nights 4 bench players I would be looking at both of the above to be replaced going forward with Kaffa replacing Terepo, and Brown putting… Read more »


The first three weeks are very positive Colin, and you’d have to suggest that we played maturely across all three matches.

I think that last night showed that it’s possible to give some fringe players some bench time over the rest of the season, on perhaps a rotational basis. The minimal minutes played by a couple of our players proved that, in the right circumstances, those spots could go to a number of different players to keep them in the mix should injury strike.

Colin Hussey

I would like to see more rotation especially with the players that are contracted going forward along with the fringe players who are in the probable keep group. Without CC, its going to be harder for some to make any mark for their future.


What sort of rotation are you suggesting col and which players ?

Colin Hussey

Its a hard question to answer in many ways, as not having a reserve grade (CC) competition means around 17+ players are not getting the game time and by that its contact game time with opposition teams, meaning a number of them are unable to press their claims in any grade of note. Beyond that the primary reason as simple though we have a number of players off contract end of this year, several of them I cannot see getting an extension, the others and using the eels home page/team link as the prime example is that there are 27… Read more »


If BA was to decide on some rotation, I’m going to make a Captain Obvious statement and suggest he’d have a very small group of players that he would utilise. These would be players that he had already earmarked as being in contention this year. Unless something extraordinary happens at training to push a claim, the other players are unfortunately disadvantaged by the lack of lower grades.


You would have to be reasonably confident injurys or suspension would take care of rotation i would suggest , i wouldnt want to be the one telling a player in form hes being rested ,actually i think its detrimental for some and insulting to the real footy players , i think anyone whose “ rested” will be for non disclosed sensible reasons only , nathan browns allready having a rest , how many more do you think he will need ??


In reality you are probably correct Sevo. This situation is not ideal, but injuries or other issues aren’t ideal either. In this case they might be the avenue for keeping more of the squad involved. It’s up to the coaching and training staff to keep the players as involved, match hardened and as fit as they can be without Canterbury Cup. The best options will show they’re ready.

Soren Lorenson

Any news on when we can expect a new signature from Reed?


I think it’s harder to get anything rumoured with all of the restrictions. Haven’t heard a thing.


While being a huge fan of Stone and would select him on most occasions, I believe there is more at play here regarding who to pick while we have a full roster to select from. Regretably without a Reserve Grade Competition this season, I believe its important to get game time into those players who will undoubtedly play a part in this years campaign. Players such as Kaufusi, Alvaro, Salmon, Field, Gower etc should form part of a bench rotation to ensure they are match ready when required. Id be surprised if this wasnt being considered by our brains trust.… Read more »


Gazza, I just replied above with similar thoughts about rotation. Not too much, just with one or two bench spots.

As for Dylan, I believe we are just scratching the surface. Look at his composure. Amazing for such a young player.


Great minds…………



The rev aka Snedden

Good write up. What I saw last night was by all means a big surprise I wasn’t expecting that kinda of Game. I was expecting broken down plays n offside penalties n so on. I’m truly lost for words after last night’s Game so excited with the pace of the Game the big hits fast play the ball’s. Great Game to restart the season. Will give a big thumb’s up for our starting props junior Paulo n RCG outstanding work rate. Both ran over 170 metres n would have played the full 80 if Brad didn’t bring them off. Our… Read more »


Don’t read too much into one play from Sivo. He will be more damaging than last year.

The rev aka Snedden

Forgot that badly missed tackle on staggs.


should we drop him or sack him , you nitpicking guys bewilder me .

John Eel

BA was interviewed on 2BG WWOS and he spoke about how well both Jr and RCG had trained during the period of isolation. He said both players came back fitter and lighter than they had been in some time. Didn’t it show on Thursday night. They were both on fire and you would not have been able to argue against either of these players being named MOM. Jr played some of the game a little wide of the ruck creating havoc. His passing game sublime. RCG ran at the defence all night making the Broncos nervous. When MJ made the… Read more »


John, Junior’s skill set is incredible. I’ve obviously seen a bit more of it at training where the players get a bit more opportunity to showcase their abilities. He’s one of the best goal kickers in the squad, nails them regularly from the sideline after training (Obviously no pressure) during their shoot outs for bragging rights, but can’t quite get the same distance as Moses or Gutho. I detailed how hard Reg was running and hitting during my preseason reports. He prepared for a big season.

paul taylor

Another great read mate, well done. I think we have a serious footy team here fellas. They are big, strong, fast, great line speed, points of attack, kicking and some individual bling. The new rules suits us too a tee. I mentioned it before. The new fast rules rewards technique tacklers. Blokes that hit low and hard and stop them in their tracks and roll away. Allows another defender to remain back in the line whereas before they would have been the third man in. REED , STONE, BROWN have almost the perfect execution of a legs tackle. Love it.… Read more »

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