How does that saying go?
There’s a first time for everything.
I had never once watched the Eels beat the Storm live From The Stands.
I have been to Melbourne three times and watched my team score 0 points all three times – and even worse, those matches saw the Storm score 30 points and then twice notch a total in excess of 50 points.
I have watched us lose finals, grand finals and grudge matches consistently to the Storm.
To finally be in attendance, cheering From The Stands, as the Eels triumphed over Melbourne was absolutely brilliant.
Make no mistake, Parra left some points on the ground, but unlike previous weeks, they created opportunities. As an icing on the cake, the Eels communication in defence and line speed was much better. It was not only a step forward, it was a victory over the Storm. That’s a good night in my books.
I get conflicted when I watch the Storm play.
The obvious purpose of any coach is to prepare your team to win. Watching from the stands, Melbourne are brilliantly drilled and they consistently win. I would normally acknowledge that and applaud it.
But it’s hard to like them or applaud their results. To hear Bellamy complain after the game and his puppet journalists stage questions to create a headline and put pressure on referees should we meet the Storm again was laughable.
Bellamy has zero right to question any coach or opposition team when it comes to tactics employed to get a victory. His team, the team he has coached brilliantly to become the most consistent team of the last two decades, have achieved that in large part because they introduced, mastered and continue to manipulate the wrestle.
Consider the following blights on the game all introduced by the Storm:
* the grapple
* the chicken wing
* the crusher
* the cannon ball
* the rolling pin
* the head pressure points (ie Mr Smith’ ear lock)
They may not like it being pointed out, but just because it is an inconvenient truth does not make it untrue.
Success meant that other clubs followed suit. It was their way of competing with the Storm, and when such tactics caught on, the NRL had no choice but to act.
These tactics slow the play the ball, allowING the defence to set and make it hard to score.
I like my team to play tough and I hate players staying down. However I hope every team stays down whenever the Storm employ these dirty and deliberate actions. It is the only way to get it out of the game. The referees will do nothing about it unless it is highlighted.
You cannot say that the Storm are brilliantly coached and drilled and then turn around and say these tackles are pure coincidence. The end result of not calling these tackles out will be certain victory for the Storm, as they will dominate the ruck and control the speed of the game.
So instead of complaining, maybe Mr Bellamy should stop his players from ‘wrestling’ their way to victory. He can avoid any dramas by eliminating the crusher, grapple, cannon ball or the chicken wing from his team’s repertoire.
Bellamy’s hypocrisy in criticising any other coach is undeniable. He has mastered the art of manipulating the rules to achieve victory. People in glass houses, Mr Bellamy, people in glass houses.
Back to Thursday’s game, I thought Parra played with much more energy and desire. There were some poor handling errors but they were made when trying to set up or finish attacking plays.
The ball shifts were quicker and Parra did not stand as deep in attack. Mistakes were made, and the timing needs some work, but precision and execution will come as BA shifts his emphasis back onto the attack in the run home. The Eels signalled that shift as they were less predictable against the Storm.
I thought both Lane and Matterson defended really well. They made good choices as to when to slide or come up quickly. This made it much easier for those outside them, particularly Moses and Blake, to make decisions and stick the tackles.
Likewise, Moses and Dylan Brown defended really well. The Storm ran Nelson and Tino at them on the line and both stood up and either made the tackle or slowed them to allow Lane and/or Matterson time to slide and help them out.
I also want to congratulate Sivo. He attacked the bombs kicked to him and ran much harder with the ball. He deserved the criticism he got over the last few weeks, but it is always good to see players bounce back.
Finally I want to single out two players – Nathan Brown and Clint Gutherson.
These blokes are the heart and soul of this team. They lead the team’s energy, they perform consistently and they have an intense desire to win.
This team does not function without Brown or Gutho. With all due respect, they may not be the ‘ best’ player in the competition in their respective positions, but what they bring to our team cannot be quantified and I would not trade them with anyone.
They are skilful, talented individuals who are natural leaders. They lead through actions. Brown secures the Eels middle defence, and takes the tough runs. Gutherson cleans up kicks, directs our defensive structures and is the link between the middles and the outside backs.
When Eels supporters acknowledge the improvement in the Eels defence, they should be directing plenty of gratitude towards these two men for the roles that they play.
Parra supporters in the stands were certainly applauding Gutho and Brown for their brilliant efforts in helping to keep the Storm scoreless on Thursday night.