The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – Parramatta Eels: Remember Who You Are!

Remembering who you are, is how you take your power back. Lalah Delia

I never thought I would use a quote from a blogger, let alone a spiritual blogger. But in trying to describe the path that I believe the Eels must tread, I could find no words more perfect than these.

http://www.starrpartners.com.au/office/starr-partners-auburn

Every successful NRL team has its identity.

It’s created by the combination of its players, the coaches and in some instances the long term culture of the club.

The football played by the winning teams, or those in strong contention, might have a distinct or even a subtle difference from their opponents. However, what defines them is that when they find the key to success, they rarely stray from it.

Therein lies the current problem for the Eels.

In the first nine rounds of this season, Parra was playing the type of football which worked for the team. Their only loss was in a cracker of a game against the Roosters. And make no mistake, the Tri-Colours were at close to full strength and needed to produce some of their best footy to regain the ascendancy in the final twenty minutes of the match.

What defined the Eels team earlier this season?

Bruising, uncompromising defence ✔️

Strong kicking game and kick chase ✔️

Composure and discipline✔️

Patience in attack✔️

The Eels played a brand of football that left a physical imprint on their opponents. Their preparation for the year ahead had involved conditioning them to win a battle of attrition over their opponents. Points would be earned, and if it took till the 80th minute to score the winning points, so be it.

The Eels forwards punished their opponents in the collision – whether that was carrying the ball or defending against it. Opportunities came from the brutality of what occurred in the middle of the field. It tired opponents, creating space for second phase play and shifts. The Eels set the agenda from the opening whistle in the early season games and maintained their commitment throughout the match.

Such football suited the parts of the whole Eels team. Big, mobile, aggressive forwards with ball skills. Elusive halves. Athletic outside backs. A highly involved fullback.

At the end of Round 13, Parra boasted an 11 and 2 record, but a couple of narrow wins over less fancied opponents had started the outside noise.

Waqa Blake

There’s no denying that there was validity in questioning the right side defensive combination of Waqa Blake and Blake Ferguson. However, the media and supporters demanded more from the Eels attack.

The more that it was demanded, the worse the performances became.

Quite simply, the team started to look for the short-cut to points. Unfortunately, offloads and shifts against a fresh, advancing defence puts pressure on the offence. Hence the errors and incomplete sets.

There are no short cuts in rugby league.

Nor is this the identity that this Parramatta Eels team set about establishing earlier in the season.

Rugby league is a simple game.

When the players take the field, they have a responsibility to the coaches and to the fans.

Brad Arthur

Their responsibility to Brad Arthur and the coaches is to follow the match plan. In the first half of the season, the players’ adherence to the game plan was obvious.

Their responsibility to the fans is to put themselves in the best possible position of winning. This was being delivered.

But, the responsibility of the Parramatta team does not extend to delivering an “entertaining” brand of football – especially if it does not suit the team. The Panthers team boasts some of the most explosive attacking players in the competition. They can play that brand of footy because it suits their players.

Consider this quote from author Jim Watkins: –

“A river cuts through rock, not because of its strength, but because of its persistence.”

In sporting parlance, a river plays the long game.

For the Eels to fully impose themselves on this season, they too have to play the long game. They have to persist with what worked for them. I would argue that the outside noise has impacted their mindset. Instead of focusing on the type of football they needed to deliver, they have been responding to how the critics and the fans wanted them to play.

Impatience is a contagion. From the moment it entered the psyche of some players, it spread. It manifested in attack and, like rotting fruit, contaminated the other half of the game – defence. That was demonstrated in a significant number of players missing their defensive assignments last week. You don’t register around half a century of tackle failures if the fault lies with just a couple of individuals. The problems originated in the middle of the park on Thursday night and spread across the entire team.

The good news is definitely that there is no big fix needed for this team. Ignore the death riding critics and fans. Block or mute any negative Nancy looking for an audience. The Eels can put their recent funk behind them. This is a team which had only conceded a grand total of 176 points in their previous 15 matches.

That’s not to say that it won’t be a challenge for the coaches.

Back in September last year, I wrote this about the Eels mindset:

Being pumped up for a big performance is not enough. It can lead to being overawed by the big occasion.

Being focussed on consistently producing your best, knowing your role, owning it and taking pride in it, removing the external noise – all of those things happen in the head. When you get the head space right, the difference between your best and your worst becomes minimal.

That’s the next step.”

I believe these words to be as true now as they were just after the end of the 2019 season. In the first half of this year’s premiership, I believed that Parramatta had turned the mental corner.

The last couple of losses have proven that the team is still about 30 degrees short of completing that turn.

However, the players have demonstrated that they are capable of producing football that’s worthy of a top four team. It’s up to them to return to what their identity should be, and to not let a couple of recent defeats define them or their season.

Forget the outside noise.

It’s time for Parra to take their power back.

Eels forever!

Sixties

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John Eel

Very good article Sixties. There are a number of games this season that demonstrate our best game plan. However the one that stands out for me is the game against the Panthers:

The 9 commentators made a huge gaff in that game saying the Eels were running out of ideas about 5 minutes before they piled on 16 points in about 10 minutes to win the game

Was that the last time that the Panthers were beaten?

Prometheus

You don’t moonlight as the Dalai Lama do you Sixties ? After reading that I feel like cutting all my hair off and wrapping a bed sheet around myself. Namaste.

jack herd

Great read Sixties…We have been listening to the outside noise for way to long…Massive test for us this week. Make or break…You are bang on point in that the team needs to return of playing through the middle and being patient..We have not done this for weeks. We were suffocating teams in the first half of the season…even if it was tied up after 60 minutes I know the damage done in the first half meant we would run over the top of them….that just has not been the case recently. I just hope that our top performers Junior, RCG… Read more »

Anonymous

Well said sixties, I can run with that thought line. My only reservation is that even though we were best defensive record, we always looked thin as the ball got wider, our scramble improved..Moses, D & N Brown nearly always remain in play. OK, it has only unravelled badly once but it has concerned me. The Dogs, Sharks,Dragons all looked better out wide in their red zone than we did. A good spine, with an attacking plan, well executed was just waiting for us. These are NRL professionals, surely we can make the required adjustment or will we stick with… Read more »

Gustarny

When we beat Penrith we were clearly being outmuscled I recall thinking there was no way out of this but we hung in the contest and the tide started to turn.Scoring our first try we grew another leg and Penrith became frustrated they didn’t put us away and errors followed.Our confidence saw us spread the ball and go on and win the game.What I am getting at is from your strong defence comes confidence in your attack it has all been relevant since the manly game where they virtually walked through our D untouched and our season has unraveled since… Read more »

Gustarny

Great read Sixties.

Wilhelmina

Spot on Sixties, we were attacking with defence early in the season, and that’s leaked out of our game. If we can get our defensive mojo back, we’ve got the talent and ad lib players to take advantage late in the game. It may not be the ‘Parra-ball’ we all love, but a slippery Bankwest Stadium surface under lights isn’t the right conditions for it. And I’d rather see us win. I can see a few things contributing. Moses doesn’t look like he’s fully comfortable with that calf, which is affecting his kicking game, and therefore our field position. The… Read more »

Rowdy

Wonderful food for thought once again Sixties. I just read an article quoting Mick Cronin extensively on the impact a massive loss at this time of the year can have. In fact a belting like the one we just suffered at the hand of souffs can actually be the catalyst for a return to the focus that got you where you are on the ladder at that point. Mick said Parra was belted by Saints 44 to 2 just before the semis in 1983 and we won the GF handsomely. In 2001 Parra belted Newcastle 40 – 10 and we… Read more »

Glenn

Newcastle belted us earlier in the year and they didn’t have Andrew Johns playing for them when we belted them. Anyway knew they were the team to beat and so it turned out that way in the gf.

Achilles' Eel

That game in 1981 ended up 20-6 (4 tries to 2) in favour of the Roosters. Manly beat Parramatta 20-0 (3 tries to zip) in a semi-final in 1982, with the Eels bouncing back to thump the Roosters by 33-0 (7 tries to zip) on a muddy SCG the following week.

I started supporting league in 1981. After the third year I thought that the mighty Eels would win the competition forever. Oh to be young and hopeful again!

Glenn

Sorry 60s but your statement ‘Instead of focusing on the type of football they needed to deliver, they have been responding to how the critics and the fans wanted them to play’ has little validity. Players might read what we say but coaches have their ear. A whole team doesn’t play busted because 1 or 2 of them read critical comments from fans or journalists. One could say that Parra played last week because of the the long term culture of the club. Years of mediocrity and 3 wooden spoons in the last 10 years is testament of that. Unfortunately… Read more »

Prometheus

Terrific assessment Glenn. No good believing in fairies anymore. As I said before this next month will prove where this team and coaches are going. The future direction of our footy team will be determined.

Prometheus

The only reason we offer a critique 60’s is because we want our eels to win the bloody thing. I’m at an age that if they don’t do it soon I will be cheering them on with St Peter at the Pearly Gates.

Prometheus

Somebody just told me St Peter is a Manly supporter. That it be f—– g right.

Colin Hussey

Great post sixties. While I am concerned regarding a couple of the players, overall I believe that we have the team that can take the comp out. In the end though its not all that much about the coach per say, but its whether the players as a team actually want to be premiers. If they do they need to show, the coach, & supporters that they still want to.

Why the last bit? Well from memory they showed that in the early part of the year, and are just as capable now as then.

Colin Hussey

No reason why if they show that early form ongoing that all things are possible. Riff vses eels for GF?

Hows MM going with his calf issue? Hopefully Field may be able to take on some of the load in that area.

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