Alright. It is time for the Parramatta Eels to get right. They did well for week upon week to grind their way to a string of victories in spite of a team-wide form slump but the pluck and grit ran dry last week against the St George Illawarra Dragons. The 14-12 loss was punctuated by soft unforced errors and sloppy attacking shapes that did little to challenge the brittle edge defence of the Dragons.
Through pure effort and sheer will at times they kept themselves apace of the competition ladders as they tried to shake out the kinks and iron out the wrinkles. However, Friday’s loss to the Dragons means that the Parramatta Eels are no longer afforded the time to figure things out. They need to get right now or face the risk of losing touch with other contenders both literally on the ladder and mentally on the field.
Enter the Melbourne Storm. A Storm team sans Cameron Smith, Cameron Munster and Dale Finucane. Not to mention there is a huge question mark over the health of Jahrome Hughes. And yet there is not even a shred of space for the Eels to underestimate this line-up after they systematically dismantled the Sydney Roosters in Round 14.
Brad Arthur has countered with an unchanged First XVII. The Eels are at full strength. Heck, the only TLT-21 change this week is Will Smith slipping onto the shadow bench for Stefano Utoikamanu. Parramatta can not afford to trundle out with the same level of intensity this week as they have over the last month and change.
Don’t look away. Don’t blink. Don’t waste a single breath. The moment the Eels lapse into sloppiness and stray from the game-plan is the moment the Melbourne Storm will rip the game away from Parramatta’s grasp and put the contest beyond reach.
Mitchell Moses, Dylan Brown and Reed Mahoney have to be on point for the entire 80-minutes on Thursday night. If Reed is going to roll the dice on a grubber kick on the goal line then he has to be certain of a result. Dylan needs to get his house in order on the left-edge. His timings with Shaun Lane and Michael Jennings simply can not be as broken as what was displayed against the Dragons. Finally, Mitchell has to keep himself involved in the game up until his eyeballs. He is our general. Our game-plan runs through his hands and feet and as soon as he allows the game to flow away from his influence then we see the cracks emerge in our efforts.
I know that the Storm will be primed for this game. They will have done the video on our recent performances and will be confident that they can pull us apart this week – regardless of their injury toll. The Eels need to face this challenge head on come Thursday night and take the Storm, a team that absolutely has a psychological advantage on us, to task for the entire game.