The Cumberland Throw

From The Stands – Credit Is Due!

 “A champion team will always beat a team of champions.”

Over the past few weeks, I have sat back and listened to all the experts as they desperately find ways to discredit the Eels superb start to the season.

From the Stands it annoys me.

I am the first to admit that our club made huge mistakes in the past and I’ve never shied away from the assertion that the team has had a soft underbelly. I have openly written about this numerous times, all the while maintaining my support for the club.

But this team is different and the agenda and click bait stories churned out by many so called experts is wrong and fails to give our team or the club the credit it deserves.

In 2018 we came last by a long way. I attended all but one home game and five away games that year and it was hard to do. I can only imagine how hard it was for the players and coaches to go through that. It was not that long ago and the way our club has rebuilt both within the squad and in the front office deserves so much credit.

There have been some acknowledgements, such as the piece by Michael Chammas and the good news stories from Adrian Proszenko, but overall the credit falls far short of what is deserved.

The storylines since the resumption of the competition have been very predictable: we have not left Sydney, we’ve played at home, we’ve had an easy draw and of course we can only win from in front. The NRL media are like sheep; once it becomes the narrative they all follow without a second thought. So let me correct a few of the mistruths. 

After nine games, our team has left Sydney three times. During the last seven games, they have played the Sea Eagles, Panthers, Roosters, Raiders and Knights. The only serious title threat or top team the Eels have not played yet is the Storm.  

And here’s another fact – no Sydney based team has left the state and/or Sydney area more than the Eels. In fact, Penrith have played all of their games in Sydney (at three different grounds). Yet Penrith are lauded for their performances far more than the Eels. And if you check the Panthers draw for the rest of the season, you’ll be hard pressed to find a team who will offer much resistance, other than the Eels in their return match.

And the venues for other Sydney teams have been fairly similar. Manly have only travelled as far as the Central Coast for games. The Rabbits have played six games at their home grounds, one at ANZ and five at Bankwest. The Tigers have played all but two games at their home grounds and have left Sydney once. The Bulldogs have left Sydney once and the Sharks just twice. 

I encourage Parra fans to fact check the media stories by checking simple facts like the draw. Parra have not had a soft draw, and have not had an unfair advantage in playing at a home ground without fans. 

The final mistruth relates to the Eels only being able to play from in front. Any journalist or commentator would only need to check first and second half match points to find this out.

This year, the scoreboard has rarely recorded Parra enjoying big first half leads. It has been our second half in which we have heavily outscored the opposition. We have stuck to our game plan, played with discipline, tired out our opponents and come home strong. Did we not come home strongly after being down by ten against the Panthers?

These untruths are churned out almost daily by so called experts so the real question is, why?

Is it possible that the truth lies in the not so hidden agenda held by many media commentators?

I laugh every week when Greg Alexander tips against us and scrambles to come up with a valid reasoning. On a cold winter’s night, at a slippery Bankwest, with fans back in the stands for the first time, he picked the Cowboys to beat us. Just think about that for a moment. 

I listen to and read Gus Gould criticise Parra for being too inexperienced to match the Roosters and Storm, then listen to him say the Panthers have a huge chance to win the competition because of their youth and potential to improve. You cannot have it both ways.

So many commentators have based their job around criticising Parra, after all we sell papers and get clicks. In the past we have given them much to legitimately criticise, but to watch them now struggle to give our team the credit deserved is both hilarious and worrying.

When reading or watching media coverage and opinions, it’s worthwhile reflecting on what Denzel Washington once said: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read it, you’re misinformed.”

I should not really care, and there are advantages to flying under the radar. But there is a serious, related side to this.

I have concerns about the potential influence that the media has regarding some decisions made in our game. If you doubt this, consider rule changes that have been brought about by media pressure, representative selections fuelled by the media pushing certain poster boys, disciplinary action resulting from media headlines.

Is it unreasonable to question the strength of the media’s influence?

That’s not to say that the consequences are always bad. Andrew Voss’ campaign to take the corner post out of play for try scoring situations was a fantastic result from media pressure. But if we accept that influence can create positive outcomes, we must also accept that the other end of the spectrum is also possible.

Some of Mr Annesley’s responses to refereeing controversies have only served to fuel my concerns.

BA doesn’t use pressers as a platform for criticism

Annesley literally contacted the broadcaster whilst that Parra/Manly forward pass decision was being vehemently criticised on air to say that the touch judge had erred. No waiting till his usual briefing. No waiting to confer with others. No defence of his official for a split second decision on what was a line ball decision. To my recollection, such action was unprecedented.

Contrast this with his report on the Raiders try off a blatant forward pass against the Eels, which he first of all conceded was probably forward but then defended the decision because Badger was in a good position to adjudicate.

He has also been very quick to say that key decisions made against Manly and Canberra were incorrect. Though I concede that those clubs have been on the wrong end of a couple of calls, so too has every other team. But it’s no coincidence that the media has taken up the cause of a couple of “much loved” coaches and the response from the NRL appears to support their calls.

I pose this question with regard to inconsistencies. In what world does an angered and intentional off the ball incident like Mitchell’s high shot on Reynolds draw the same penalty as Nathan Brown’s accidental contact with a falling Victor Radley? The two incidents are worlds apart.

All of this leaves supporters, like myself, questioning the influence of the media and their agendas. I decided to write this week with a focus on calling out the media because it does matter and it does impact us. It shouldn’t, but it does.

Enough of the negatives.

I began this post with the maxim that a champion team beats a team of champions.

I feel that is the Eels real strength, and something that is due more credit.

Few teams can buy superstars. History shows this to be true. But for a few exceptions, probably Teddy and JT, most superstars come into a team young and stay there.

Most clubs will do almost anything to keep superstars. Parra doesn’t have any superstars at the moment. We have a few who could become one but not just yet. That is why we have so much strength and potential across the field.

When you play the Storm you need to stop Cameron Smith and if you can, you will probably win.

When you play the Sea Eagles, you need to stop Tommy. When you play the Panthers, you need to stop Cleary.

Most NRL teams have those 1-2 superstars. They command big dollars and have a huge influence on the result.

Who do you need to stop to beat Parra?

Mitch Moses

Even with my blue and gold eyes I can honestly say this is a  hard one to answer. If you focus on Moses, Brown and Gutherson can take over. If you focus on Nathan Brown, RCG and Junior can take over. If you focus on kicking away from Sivo you are kicking towards Fergo.

The Eels are so well balanced. We have talented individuals that could become superstars, but they are not on million dollar contracts and thus we have a potentially champion team.

Of course the team we must beat to win this year is a champion team – the Roosters. They have a well balanced team with a few players that have gone from potential superstars to superstars. They let Mitchell go because they understand a champion team will beat a team of champions.

We are not on the Roosters level yet but we are travelling down that road. The media won’t acknowledge it, but the fans need to.

I am proud of my club and this team. They are giving their all each week, they are talented and are being led both on and off the field by people with good football brains. They are not beyond criticism. When players are being interviewed they themselves know the areas for improvement. But if you listened to certain quarters you might believe that luck and being favoured by the NRL draw has led to the Eels table-topping position.

We won a game last Sunday, we would not have won in the past. This is a story reflective of our season. We are now winning games in situations we have found too difficult to overcome in our recent past.

I am proud of my team and luck has nothing to do with it. They are sitting first because they have worked hard, recruited well and are playing as one.

Shelley

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Anonymous

We’ve earned our position. Every inch of it. Well said, Shelley!

Shelley

Thanks, sometimes you have to speak up and call out mis truths. I am proud of the team and now we have areas to fix and also some demons we must face, such as matching up to the Storm but we deserve credit for what we have done and not a focus on what we still have to do.

Tim

Can’t agree with this more Shelley, great read. I’m torn between being happy to slide under the radar (notice we hardly got a mention even in the players poll) and some recognition for efforts. Our only real weakness at the moment is our bench and this due to the current injuries. Even the game on the weekend we were “Slammed” for not playing well enough. It was a tough grinding game with tough defense from both sides. Worthy of praise really.

Shelley

Happy to be under the radar and not spoken about but not happy to accept blatant mis truths from people whose job it should be to be informed and give well educated honest opinions. If commentators cannot be objective when commenting on a team they should not be on the coverage. When we made the so called mistake from the kick off it became a big test. I cannot remember the last time we have been able to hang in long enough to find a way to win. I am sure we all understood how Newcastle fans felt and they… Read more »

Milo

Well said Shelley, we thoroughly deserve our table position and we will always cop some comments until we put away the stronger teams consistently, that is my thoughts anyway. Penrith are going well….but it is a long way and i think they have too many loose areas around the sqaud. Melb and Easts for me are the dangers and Canberra if they can get a roll on. I had Manly in my top teams but discipline seems to have hurt them along with one key injury. I am ok for the media to play our team down and look for… Read more »

Shelley

Agree that until we do prove that we can beat seasoned teams in the finals we can rightly be questioned with regards to the big games at the end of the year. It is just the general inconsistency that annoys me. The only two teams that have proven they can consistently beat the best in the big games are the Storm and Roosters. This criticism should be applied to everyone else, including the Panthers, Raiders and Eagles but it isn’t because of the bias that is rife in the NRL media at the moment.

Poppa

Your article and references to the media and the culture it takes up are very very true Shelley. Only this week Steve Renouff came out with a NSW origin side that he would pick on current form. Not one Parra player in the 17…. for the side that is running first? Guth couldn’t get in at 14??? Paulo and RCG were not mentioned, neither was Matterson. He goes on and justify’s Latrell Mitchell’s selection as having done enough, now he is back…..really…. Now I know he (Renouff) is not a journalist but he gets accreditation because of his greatness as… Read more »

Anonymous

Well said Shelly and there is a viable anti Parramatta Eels bias from commentators Alexander, Anasta, Voss , Ennis etc.

Big Derek

The media bias was never more evident than our last game, Ennis just refused to acknowledge anything other than how gallant Newcastle were , and that they didn’t deserve to lose. Yes, he is a Newie boy, but like Brandy and Gus when Penrith are playing, or Gus with the Roosters too they do not commentate on the game, more on their favoured teams. The narrative that even Ritchie, Hooper and Crawley continue on with re past teams is excruciating, there is little praise for the job BA has done in rebuilding the club and the different psyche the team… Read more »

John Eel

Well said BD. That comment about Newcastle’s injuries and Eels injuries not mentioned all week just grates on me. The Eels had 5 players unavailable for the Knights game. If any one of those players had been available for the game they would have been in the team. MM in the run on side. Gus seems to have a real issue with the Eels. Coming from Greystanes it seems odd. He did an article last week on the Eels and wrote them off virtually saying they can’t finish off games. Based on the fact that they have only lost one… Read more »

Anthony

Hi John
Gould actually comes from Merrylands, I went to primary school with him. He was a Parramatta junior player but was not good enough to get graded, admittedly this was the mid 70’s when Parramatta were just starting their 10 year golden era. As he wasn’t good enough to play for the Eels he now has an intense hatred for Parramatta. An average player and coach and terrible commentator.

Shelley

Ennis was painful. They did not deserve to lose, yet they did even when they had more ball, more penalties, more six agains, almost 40 tackles in our 20 and had their representative half guiding them around the field and still they could not win. We also played for 50 minutes with effectively 15 players. Our defence has been solid all year and that won us that game. Nothing lucky about it. Not a pretty win but a well deserved win.

Jeff Cooke

Well said Shelley and well researched. I have followed Parra since 1963 and have seen the best and worst our teams have produced. I have to say I can’t recall even one better balanced team than our best 17 right now. Yes, they’re winning games we would have lost in previous years and that’s what has us on top of the table. Certainly not luck!!

Shelley

Jeff, could not be summed up better. Let’s just enjoy the ride and support our team, including calling out mis truths and praising their skill and hard work.

Anonymous

Fantastic Article!!

Shelley

Thank you

June

This is great Shelley, you’ve mirrored exactly my sentiments on Parra , the media and the refs. I found myself yelling at the tv on Sunday , I was saying there are two teams playing you idiot, not just Newcastle, when one of our kicks went wrong they jumped on it but when a Michell Pearce kick or pass went astray it was called very uncharacteristic from him. I’m over the media and their favourable calls for their pet sides. Parra won on Sunday by great unrelenting defence.

Shelley

Like you June I am over them, unfortunately they do have much influence. I will not write about the media anymore in future posts as I want to focus on our team but there is some deep seated dislike bordering on hatred from certain commentators towards our club that has been too much lately. We all know when someone like Fatty or Sterlo comments on Parra / Manly they don’t pretend to be neutral. They admit the rivalry and bias. It is part of what makes the commentary enjoyable. You can see what some NRL officials do and why they… Read more »

Jonno

Shelley great write up, and it will be this year

Rocket

If we manage to win I suspect the media will jump on the bandwagon as if they had no doubts.
Great article Shelley

parrathruandthru

Great read Shelley
Plenty of fodder for Hooper to get a story from in there

sixties

🤣🤣🤣

Parra forever.

Love love love your article, and love love love my Parra. I totally agree with everything that you have written. Eels are, and probably will always be the underdog. So many people write them off but they continue to upset the “know it all’s” week after week. I am a proud Parra supporter who ends up screaming at the commentators more often then not. And the refs, argh! Let’s not go there..

Anonymous

Awesome read thank you for sharing Shelley, you are spot on

!0 Year Member

Shelley. Best article of your TCT career. As you allude to, how good is this team to deal with all that adversity? Yes there were 50/50 calls against both teams on the weekend, but like you stated, the soft underbelly we had is there no longer. When, off the kick off we handed the ball over, I thought “here we go again” ,but no, the boys now know there will be mistakes, either from themselves of the officials, but they just get on with it, that is footy, things go for you and against you, but if you are good… Read more »

Shelley

I momentarily thought the same at the kick off and after 5 minutes and wonderful defence I was reassured. We don’t need to be attacking well at this time of year, it is mid season and we have the strike power. Moses is our main kicker and organisers our attack. When he does this Dylan can play eyes up and Gutho can float. Take him out and they have to change how they play. These commentators know this, they are ex footballers or have watched 1000’s of games. They simply fail to acknowledge it. So while the attack can and… Read more »

Clintorian

Cracking blog post-Shelly, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and you absolutely nailed the criticisms we’ve been copping from everyone, including the media. We’re in the position we deserve to be in, but it’s still neck and neck with the Roosters, Storm and Panthers. A lot can happen between now and the finals, let’s hope we can maintain our momentum till then. The best thing about the year so far is what you’ve pointed out with having a well-balanced squad right across the park. This has been recognized by the media after almost every match so at least they’re giving us… Read more »

sixties

Clintorian, no doubt Shelley is fired up on this topic and she has nailed the overall response from the media to the season. Yes there’s been some good press. And there’s some acknowledgement about BA’s resilience and the job he’s done. But you also get the impression that most in the media have the Eels down lower on the credentials rung than quite a few teams. Its evident in match analysis where the teams that Parra have beaten were deemed unlucky or “robbed” of defeat. Poor calls against the Eels are ignored. And yet the consistency from the Eels forwards… Read more »

kjkila

Well said yet again…..another parallel is the continual adoration of Kayln Ponga so much so that Waqa had to be placed on report…any other game or player and it wouldn’t be an issue..

Another protected species on the cards groomed thanks to the media ..

sixties

So true. Thinking also about response to Brown’s tackle on Radley.

BDon

Tks Shelley, for me that was therapeutic, I feel better now. Send me an invoice. Like another poster, found myself shouting at the TV. The Knights were handed every opportunity to win that game, and I reckon they copped only 1 howler( v 6 against us, one wasn’t even in the rule book, it was invented).As the second half wore on I reverted to old habits and started yelling for a penalty or restart to turn momentum around, we couldn’t buy one, but that’s the thing isn’t it, we won on merit not charity.

sixties

BDon, I think we all understand the swings and roundabouts of footy. You get some good calls, you cop some bad ones. But the matches that I don’t understand are when the calls/penalties don’t fall the team’s way in extremely dominant performances. Against the Cowboys, we couldn’t get a penalty until there was 16 minutes left on the clock. This was despite the Cowboys struggling to stay onside, and indeed operating a rushing offside defence in the first half. Another that comes to mind was the Eels thrashing of the Broncos back in 2017, despite a 10-2 penalty count against… Read more »

Shelley

Nothing I said is news to fans, not just the Eels but many fan groups. I spoke what most know to be true, the NRL are highly sensitive to any media criticism and any administrator who stands up to 9 or Murdoch will be removed, even if it takes time.

It will make zero difference but it made me feel better and put some facts out there to counter the mis truths.

BDon

The Ch9 owned newspapers rarely, if ever, publish a blog of anything critical of NRL events, even when accurately fact based. They offer response but suppress what they don’t want aired. The bunker and MRC are protected species. If constructive comment was permitted these ‘experts’ may actually understand what accountability means.

Achilles' Eel

When people don’t take you seriously you just have to keep working harder and not let it get to you. Parramatta are winning on the scoreboard. Who cares about media sentiment? It’s not as if sections of the media put much thought into what they write – that was the main point of what you had to say Shelley. For that lot will turn up to this year’s grand gala donned in last year’s fashion.

Shelley

I agree in parts as it does not impact my view or fans that genuinely follow league. But the media does have an impact. Last night on NRL 360 Kent complains, to support his mate Stuart, about the poor Raiders having to bus it up to Sydney and how unfair that is and today the NRL change their mind and allow the Raiders to fly. It stinks and borders on rotten the way the media manipulates to suit certain teams and support their mates.

sixties

True Shelley. In my opinion, it’s not a matter of what is fair or not for the Raiders, as I think it’s fair for them to fly. It’s an example of how the media can influence decisions. Would that change happen without them taking up Ricky’s cause? Everyone can judge that.

Achilles' Eel

Our society is built on influence. Merit or bias in the use of that influence is open to conjecture and the result of one’s access to power. Perhaps Shelley’s piece and its feedback has influenced Andrew Jackson’s write-up today on Dylan Brown.

As for former footballers in the media, most tend to be emotional creatures. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when they promote their biases unwittingly or otherwise. It takes time to develop critical thinking; and they’ve been handed a free pass into the media – or an honorary doctorate if you like.

Gwen Leaver

really well said & I agree wholeheartedly

Chris Petersen

Like Sam Thiaday and Wally Lewis talking up Harry Grant because he is leading tigers around , where are they on the ladder 8th Reid Mahoney not even mentioned so I can’t wait for Parra to put tigers to the sword

Shelley

The Tigers have played four top 8 teams, Knights, Rabbits, Panthers and Raiders and lost all the games. See how good he is after they have played The Storm, Roosters and us. He has potential but almost anyone could look like a superstar in that Tigers team.

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