The Cumberland Throw

Whisky Musings – Round 8: Four To The Floor; Sivo Rocks The Cowboys In Career Night

Round 8 Drink Of Choice – Dimple 15YO


The Parramatta Eels keep on keeping on. In doing that one simple thing they continue to separate themselves from the spectres of the past that have held them back for so long. The stars had aligned in Round 8 for the sort of self-destructive loss against the North Queensland Cowboys that has derailed many a promising run in years gone by.

Parramatta were fresh off a heroic golden point victory over the Raiders – the last leg of a draining month of footy against a bevy of title heavyweights. Now they faced a bogey team that was almost impossible to not underestimate given their struggles in 2020. Worse still, it was a milestone game for the team’s central pillar. That isn’t even mentioning that the Eels were missing three key pieces in Mitchell Moses, Nathan Brown and Kane Evans.

A drop-off in intensity was less a possibility and more a given. It wasn’t so much a trap game as it was the Eels attending their own funeral.

A swirling storm front of excuses had been manifested by destiny to produce a Friday night horror show. Instead, the Eels defied the fates and delivered a commanding performance that left the Cowboys strewn on the canvas shortly into the second half. Brad Arthur will still be asking for more from his charges after a lapse before half-time dashed any hopes of a shut-out but the Eels are growing in stature with every passing week.


Gutherson’s Finest Hour (And 20min)

It was only fitting that Clinton Gutherson had a hand in everything tonight. Parramatta’s lion-hearted leader was a tour-de-force on the freshly laid Bankwest turf in his 100th NRL game. Those who are hard of sight could be mistaken for thinking it was Jarryd Hayne delivering his trademark bullet passes to Semi Radradra down the left edge – such was the quality of Gutherson’s ball-playing tonight. Scything kick returns, laser guided goal-kicking, tireless support play, big time shot-calling…you name it and short of scoring a try of his own the King did it against the Cowboys.

22 255 2 1 3 3 7

Gutherson might have as well been Bo Jackson in Tecmo Super Bowl out there because he was a human cheat code. Rugby League Week, may it rest in peace, were always stingy about handing out their vaunted 10/10 grading but this was an effort that would challenge for that title.

It was the culmination of everything that Gutherson brings to this team. Everything that he represents in the grand vision that Brad Arthur first dared to dream of way, way back in 2015 when a cheeky fist pump (and probably an accompanying ‘fuck yeah!’) at a junior footy game signalled that Arthur had secured the man who would eventually stand at the heart of rugby league’s greatest rebuild.

There is no doubt that James Tedesco, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck or Kalyn Ponga would all equally be superstars at Parramatta but Gutherson is ours. In spite of his origins he is quintessentially Blue & Gold. The unwanted son of a bitter rival that has carved out a hell of a name for himself against all the odds and all the adversity that the gods of footy could throw against him.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is my captain.


The Grinder And The Sidewinder

The contrasting fates of Blake Ferguson and Maika Sivo could not be any more stark. Ferguson remains scoreless after eight rounds while Sivo’s historic four-try haul moves him into second place in the competition (just one behind Kyle Feldt). Ferguson would have been the most conflicted man on the field given that he had the best view in the house to see Jai Field scorched past Tom Opacic to score in the first set of the second half. While it was an exhilarating reminder of Field’s electric change of pace, Ferguson was unmarked on his right and I have no doubt that the luckless winger was thinking about the backflipping that monkey off his back the moment that Waqa Blake so brilliantly tapped that ball back.

On the other side of the field the Eels were serving them up to Sivo on a platinum platter. Clinton Gutherson and Dylan Brown combined to deliver three gorgeous cut-out passes to secure a hat-trick for Sivo before a deft tap-on from Brad Takairangi notched up up the fourth try. It was the easiest of tasks for a winger of Maika’s calibre and he duly obliged as his legend continues to take root on the left-edge.

A breakthrough meat pie still eludes Ferguson but he kept on the grind in Round 8. His 236m from 22 carries was only eclipsed by the comic book hero stuff of Gutherson while the right edge looked ever so slightly better in defence due in part to a marginally more cohesive approach from himself and Waqa Blake. At the very least we saw the Eels beaten mostly down their right due to jam/slide principles (winger/centre jamming in with the interior defenders sliding underneath to contain) rather than Waqa arm-grabbing. It is a start.

The man with the chromest of domes and the s-bend snoz might be stranded on a doughnut but his work to start sets is hugely commendable and a sneaky cog in the engine of the dominant run of our forward pack. Don’t sleep on that fact.


The Fastest Feet In The West

Brad Arthur made a statement on Tuesday when he eschewed the smoke and daggers and named Jai Field to the vacant #7. Arthur made of a point of wanting to back Field from the get-go and that carried through to the game where the Eels entrusted the new baby-faced playmaker to the first clearing kick of the game.

It didn’t go so well.

Reece Robson shot out of marker and put a truckload of pressure on Field and the subsequently rushed kick screwed badly off the side of the boot. It was, to put it bluntly, a shit start to the game. Yet neither Field or the Eels went away and when the next clearing kick required the talents of Field, he identified the shooting marker, deftly brushed past him and then got to his kick.

It was a tiny victory, a momentary piece of validation of the young man and the team’s faith in him but it was enough to suggest that he wasn’t going to be overawed by the occasion.

The man with the fastest feet in the West would go on to score a try in a showcase of his rare acceleration while he topped both teams with an eye-popping 8 tackle busts. While he missed 4 tackles, he kept himself busy in defence (18 tackles) and crucially played a part in holding up Coen Hess early in the first half.

It was as much as you could ask from a back-up half, let alone one that hasn’t seen any playing time in months. Arthur’s vote of confidence in Field was every bit as much a vote of confidence in the systems that he has put in place to facilitate such a performance. The Roosters and Storm are proud owners of similar such systems and it is one of the foundational keys to their sustained success.

Parramatta’s ability to call on hungry, young talent and expect them to do their job will define whether the Eels are ready to join the pantheon of the competition consistently elite. Tonight was a real step towards that goal.


Brad ‘Belichick’ Arthur Strikes Again

Of course full credit should be shared among the entirety of the coaching stuff, particularly defensive coach David Kidwell. The Eels held the otherworldly Jason Taumalolo to an actually human total of 162m from 16 carries and importantly, forced him into 58 tackle attempts. Of those 58 attempts, Taumalolo could only complete 45 – missing a staggering 9 tackles while also piling on a further 4 ineffective attempts.

The game’s most destructive middle forward was rendered to a complete non-factor by laser focused efforts on both sides of the ball in yet another showcase of astute tactical coaching that has now become a weekly feature in 2020.

It also shows a level of focus and diligence from the playing group that we have not seen in long time, if not ever, as they enact the detailed strategies of their coaches with gusto. Eventually, a marquee player in the opposition will break out for a big game against us, after all that is the nature of superstar talents, but the attention to detail and willingness to execute intensive plans to disrupt the best players lining up against the Eels is yet another step in the growth of this team.



  1. Another week, another gushing spiel about our forwards. Both Junior Paulo (23 carries, 205m) and Reagan Campbell-Gillard (20 carries, 200m) cracked the double-ton on the ground while Shaun Lane, Ryan Matterson, Marata Niukore and Oregon Kaufusi all found themselves comfortably into triple figures for metres earned at the end of the game. Paulo also unleashed 8 (!) offloads including a lovely slip of the arm in the lead up to Maika Sivo’s third try. Tonight also marked Kaufusi’s third straight game where the young prop has breached 100m+ from bench. He has been immense in the absence of Kane Evans and will only get better from here.
  2. I watched this game from the comforts of my own home on account of COVID related fears pertaining to the well-being of other family members. Even so, it was awesome to hear the ‘SIVO, SIVO!’ chants booming through the sideline microphones from the small but raucous home crowd. Well done to everyone involved!
  3. Dylan Brown did everything required of him in his maiden game as the team’s primary shot-caller. He over-cooked two attacking kicks that resulted in 7-tackle sets and was visibly annoyed with himself in a sign of the standards he holds himself to but beyond that he kept his cool throughout the contest. He regularly tested the defensive line of the Cowboys (11 runs, 102m, 4 tackle busts) and will almost certainly break a home-run try at some point this season. Oh, by the way, you might very well be looking at the best defensive half in the competition.
  4. He might end up being stranded on 99* (as an Eel) for a while moving forwards but David Gower can still bring the juice. A first up error meant the rest of the night could only get better for him but Blake Ferguson’s stunt double (they were actually difficult to separate on the broadcast angle at times!) made it all count in the second half. He very nearly punched through into the backfield at one stage before tripping over and ended the night with an industrial 82m from 8 runs, 1 offload, 4 tackle busts and 20 tackles (1 missed).
  5. Milestone games have been the bane of the Eels for the longest time. We have made strides in that regard more recently but gee it was terrific to see the entire team rally for their captain’s 100th game. The weekly grind of the NRL absolutely wears down even the best of teams and that is why finding that extra gear for these sort of games is so important as the pomp and ceremony can help break the monotony. Well done to the team for doing their captain right.
  6. He has earned my ire in our last few outings on account of defensive deficiencies but tonight was a reminder of the spectacular athleticism of Waqa Blake. Blake scored a try of his own due to outstanding ball-tracking and also set up Jai Field with a beautifully timed leap and bat-back. He also picked up a penalty late in the second half when he was tackled in the air as the attacker under new 2020 interpretations. The Eels have a myriad of attacking tools at their disposal and this is one of the more jaw-dropping ones.


The Final Word

The Parramatta Eels keep on keeping on. We started this week’s musings with that thought and it is important that we finish with it. Brad Arthur and his offsiders have the Eels all about that business in 2020. Familiar stumbling blocks and pitfalls are being navigated expertly while the iterative process continues to churn out positive results every week. In spite of its success so far. this team doesn’t know how good it can be yet and that should excite all of us.

Next up are the Newcastle Knights, one of the more manic presences in the assortment of contenders in 2020. Parramatta have been up for every game of the 2020 season regardless of their opponent and they will be ready to take on the best and worst that the Novocastrians can throw at them next Sunday.

If you liked this article, you might consider supporting The Cumberland Throw.

18 thoughts on “Whisky Musings – Round 8: Four To The Floor; Sivo Rocks The Cowboys In Career Night

  1. Jonno

    Great write up mate, we weren’t rushed in attack last night. We appeared composed and went through our sets, Dylan Brown brings that as playmaker I believe. Still work to do, but a great game

  2. Parastew

    Glad I’m not the only one that has trouble seperating Gower and Ferguson, one of them has to dye his hair a different colour.

  3. John Eel

    Forty just on Dylan and how calm he is during a game. Last night in my position behind the Southern goal posts, the Eels were lining up for the Cowboys to restart and the music was playing out over the sound system. Dylan started dancing. I was gobsmacked at how calm he is.

    Hope you get to a game soon

    1. Anonymous

      John, I’ve had so many people tell me similar, even staff. He’s always marched to the beat of a different drum. Hope that never changes.

  4. BDon

    The way we applied ourselves to that game was really pleasing, as you indicated Forty, maintaining intensity was an issue. Big tick.
    In the 10 minutes before halftime, I couldn’t fathom that the Cows were suddenly doing 50/60 mtr sets, my theory was that the bench players, new to the rhythm of the game, were trying hard not to infringe in the ruck, allowing momentum and the Cows taking it. I don’t know,it was a bit weird, but our intensity/scramble remained. In the 2nd half the Cows bombed one and were dudded by a forward call on another, both down our right. We hit back straight after the bombed effort, Cowboys still thinking about it, a lesson in intensity.I reckon the Cows botched at least 3 raids when they had numbers and us in panic alert on the right. Mitchell Pearce was probably watching.

    1. sixties

      BDon, there’s little doubt that in defence, our right is a vulnerable area. It’s requires work, and I can assure you that it receives attention at training. However, another take is that every team has looked to attack us there. And most success has come to the opposition there. But we have also leaked few points overall and have been victorious. I’m very conscious of that aspect of our game but confident that it will continue to improve.

  5. DDay

    I didn’t realise how effectively the Eel’s game plan neutered Taumalolo until your write-up. The forwards are collectively in fine form and dominated a good Cowboys pack with massive metres and high work-rate – it’s geting competitive just to get a bench spot for the forwards. Agree we are better for Waqa’s attacking contributions and his defence was better last night but remain a WIP.

      1. Gazzamatta

        They managed to restrict any impact from Turbo, Teddy, Taumalolo, Kikau, Hass and Wighton. Not a bad effort.

  6. Anonymous

    Great game by the boys last night, I’m still so hyped after that win!! Honestly did not think cowboys were that bad, though their over reliance on Taumalolo is their downfall – expecting him to be a one man team like Jarryd Hayne was for us for so many years.

    While we wax lyrical about missing our stars in Moses and Brown, and to an extent Evans, it is worth noting that these absences were directly canceled out with the cowboys missing Morgan, McLean and Asiata. I’m not saying these players would make a difference, only that cowboys fans might use these injuries as an excuse for the blowout? Just goes to show the quality in our depth to be able to do this with such high profile players missing.

    I kinda see cowboys where we were a couple of seasons ago, and as such thought it be fun to review their team:

    19 – Val Holmes: A few nice touches, showed good footwork fielding a grubber to spin away for the initial tackle. Still looks rusty but in my eyes will be a great winger but average fullback.
    2 – Kyle Feldt: Looks visible frustrated and shows as must trust on his inside man on defence and Fergo does (SFA). Despite leading the comp on tries for the season, looks a shadow of the player that pushed for an origin spot last year.
    3 – Tom Opacic: Thought he looked strong and troubled us a bit. Solid, did his job and by no means let his team down. Deserves to hold his spot for a while longer.
    4 – Esan Marsters: Wow what can I say. Reminds me of Ben Roberts in his ability to be a rocks and diamonds player within the same game while also being awful defensively. Seriously, one play you’d think he was the best centre in the comp, the next he’d be lucky to make an u16’s division 4 side at the local.
    5 – Justin O’Neill: Hands down the slowest winger to ever lace the boots in first grade. I’ve seen George Rose run faster to a weight watchers clinic than this bloke. Got hooked with 20 to go but the damage was already done and if he’s replacement played the whole game I have no doubt they score a few more points in that first half.
    6 – Scott Drinkwater: I actually like this bloke. Ran the ball well and looked dangerous only for a few of the aforementioned blokes to bomb almost certainties.
    7 – Jake Clifford: Alright kicking game but went missing when pressure was applied. Can see him having a long first grade career without ever really shining, maybe similar to a Blake Green.
    8 – Josh McGuire: I hate this grub but got to admit, I thought he was their best. Was in everything.
    9 – Reece Robson: This guy was quick, especially pushing out of marker to put pressure on our kickers early in the game. Obviously taught well by Granville as I thought there were a lot of suspect passes out of dummy half. If his forwards can get a roll on with quick play the balls, this kid could be special.
    17 – Francis Molo: One of the great improves of this year. Had a great first stint but did not notice him later in the game.
    11 – Shane Wright: The poor man’s Dave Gower. Does a job for he’s team and tries he’s best, but if this man is in your starting 13 you know you’ve got serious problems.
    12 – Coen Hess: Early in the game he looked strong like Ivan Drago. Then just didn’t see any ball and forgot he was on the field.
    13 – Jason Taumalolo: Quite game for he’s standards, limited impact and looked tired. This man needs some help and teams are working out if they target him and tire him out, he’s attacking output will be less damaging and no one else in the team will pick up the slack(?Harsh?)

    14 – Ben Hampton: On the field late for O’Neill, damage was already done so didn’t see much from him on either side of the ball.
    15 – Gavin Cooper: This guy should have retired when Thurston did, at least than people may think he was once a great representative player. The game in 2015 when cowboys chased us down, this bloke was unstoppable with Thurston pulling the strings. He looks slow, he looks old and I personally think he is playing to he’s talents as a nothing player that offers nothing when greats aren’t around him to make him look good. May as well not of been even on the field.
    16 – Peter Hola: Limited minutes, spending must of his time defending. Thought he held his own individually. Would like to see more of him as a player before passing too much judgement on his game.
    18 – Reuben Cotter: Did he take the field? Okay he did but what did he offer? Not much. If Robson is not an 80min hooker, I’m not sure why the cowboys use this bloke as surely Granville, despite not being the same player he was 3-4 years ago, would still offer more than Cotter. Actually, the cowboys bench in general is a little strange. A specialist hooker and an outside back in a game that was always going to be a physical contest? Please. I’d persist with Hampton there as I think he has the ball skills and speed to give Robson a spell if needed and replace Cotter with another forward, probably a damaging ball playing second rower, that could create space and danger out wide, causing defences to over commit and open the middle for Taumalolo to be destructive again.

    1. Anonymous

      Coach – Paul Green: Man, similar to Ricky Stuart with Freddy, this guy is living on the coat tails of a great half(Thurston). The coaching and structure of this team has not changed since 2015! Being up in Townsville seems to protect him for the media onslaught that would have seen the axe come down at least 18 months ago if he was coaching a Sydney based team. Easy to read block plays are still the backbone of this team, with it all likely killing Granville’s career and limiting Robsons impact as there is not much creativity out of dummy half. A fresh playbook would do this team a world of wonder, but whether Green is the man to bring this? I just don’t think so.

      1. sixties

        Anonymous, this was an outstanding reply. I’m hoping you can add an opposition analysis like this every week.

  7. Milo

    For me this was one of those danger games as the Cows have given us some grief, but from the first 40 mins i sensed we had a resolve that was not there 12 months ago in terms of staying on track for 80 mins with teams we ‘should’ beat.
    It was great to watch the second half and i only hope this resolve / resilience keeps going. I am personally not fussed if we win the comp this yr or not but something tells me if we hold things tough in the middle we can give the comp a shake over the next yr or two/ three.
    Field was good in my view for someone who came in so quickly to the team, well done mate.
    The Knights are another physical challenge and again we need to have the right mental atttude for this and with Evans back and Brown who knows what the team will look like. I hope Oregan stays….

  8. John Eel

    When you look at the experience in the respective halves pairing of the Eels and the Cowboys it is relatively even.

    Where the spine contributed more to the Eels play was the Gutherson factor. He had a MOM performance contributing significantly to our attack which took a lot of pressure off our young halves combination

    However having said all that it was all made possible based on a brilliant effort by the forwards. They are all working together for each other. They are effective on both sides of the ball and becoming, if not already the best pack in the NRL

    Which brings me to my point. Hopefully Mitch will be back in a few weeks and once again, with the grace of god we will have all of our players available which means Browny will be back at 13 and Marata moves to the bench.

    Who will fill the other three spots on the bench? Players in line would include Evans, Kaufusi, Stone, Gower, Alvaro, Terepo, Takairangi and Field.

    I included Field based on the thought I had a little while ago where I said he could possibly be used as an attacking weapon against tiring defences.

    For me I am at a loss. I would not envy BA working through this lot. Then again maybe he already has his mind made up.

    1. BDon

      Was thinking about that too. We lost a year with Evans, he was carrying injury, then took half of last year to get right and start performing. Could say we lost 18 months of a 3 year deal. He is now consistent and effective. Niukore, Evans and Kaufusi should anchor the bench and based on game fitness ( no CantCup) and opposition, the other spot is rotated, or maybe 2 spots are viewed as rotation.. But injury will intervene in any plan.

  9. Longfin Eel

    I find it hard to believe that people are saying Junior Paulo could be a dark horse for State of Origin! Is he not the best middle forward in the NRL at the moment? Certainly even without blue and gold glasses you would have to say he is at the very top of the class.

    It’s great to see the team adjust to deficiencies in previous games, and it’s incredible to think we have not put in a dominant 80min performance all season yet are still doing enough to get the wins. That is testament to the coaching and also the buy-in from the players. Coaching is only as good as the players are willing to listen and learn, and it seems the coaching staff have the respect of the players.

    1. Prometheus

      For me RCG has made an outstanding difference to this team. He is very tough with an incredible work rate. His contribution has allowed Junior to do the fancy stuff. It is also obvious they are a much fitter team this year. We now go the distance and finish over teams.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: