My post is called “From The Stands” for a very simple reason. There is nothing I enjoy more than being part of a crowd and the big match atmosphere at a stadium.
Conversely, I hate watching the game from the lounge room. I have to either listen to Brandy or Gus find the most minute fault with Parra and repeatedly magnify it to the point of making me mute the TV.
What a choice – and yes Fox went on mute after halftime on Sunday. To think I pay money for that experience.
Any Parra fan who tuned in for that broadcast will understand what I mean.
Unlike the loss to Souths, there are some positive reflections to take from the victory over the Warriors.
I have a general love for sport and I respect teams and organisations that can continually win. Nick Saban is regarded as the best College NFL coach in history. When asked about why his defensive team remains strong year after year he said:
“Players need to trust and respect the fact that if I do my job we have the best chance of being successful. I don’t have to make every play I just need to make the plays I’m supposed to make in the gap I’m supposed to make them, and trust the guy next to me will do the same.”
Trust is such an important aspect of any team and two things happened this week that told me that there is a genuine trust in our team.
The first relates to a few home truths which were no doubt spoken after our loss last week. The video would have exposed some really poor defensive attempts and attitude. What was said, who criticised who, who called out poor attitude?
We don’t know, and that’s a terrific thing!
Obviously, that bag of negatives was opened and shared around during the lead up to Sunday as the Eels defended much better collectively against the Warriors. But it stayed behind closed doors – as it must.
Parra has not always been like that and we know not every NRL club is currently like that – note the Wests Tigers airing their dirty laundry. What I do know is that trust is developed off the field, in the locker room, in the review room and on the practice field. You will not get better if you cannot be honest, and people will not be honest if there is a lack of trust.
The second thing that happened relates to Blake Ferguson. Like many, I have been frustrated watching Fergo over the last few weeks. But when he ran out onto Central Coast Stadium, I noticed straight away that he had no strapping.
From the opening whistle he moved freely, he ran quicker, and he did not look in pain every time he got up to play the ball. Obviously he has been carrying an injury, and similar to Moses calf injury after the ISO break, it was kept quiet as to how bad it was.
Just like keeping honest conversations about form behind closed doors, keeping quiet about injuries is also important. It allows for a climate of trust and growth.
I feel that this team is developing a genuine trust for each other both on and off the field. In high pressure moments any lack of trust will be exposed. This Parramatta team, this club, still has much improvement to make but the cornerstone of that will be built on trust. Well done to our boys. I don’t need or want to know how things are dealt with, I just need to see the results.
And on the subject of results, I was happy with the result and the effort of the Eels team at Central Coast Stadium.
Perfect? Absolutely not.
Good enough to win a final? Not yet.
Played with desire and commitment? Yes.
Played with more composure and stayed within our systems? For the most part, yes.
Effort, desire, attitude and teamwork will always be the yardstick by which I judge my Eels team. If they genuinely try, I will live with the result and expect them to get better. So overall there was more upside in the victory over the Warriors, but improvement is still needed.
The first 30 minutes of the match would be a good template moving forward. Parra went through the middle and stayed there. When they shifted the ball, there were points of difference. It was not just pass long, pass long and go over the sideline as it has been lately.
Short kicks to Fergo as the Warriors defended up in his face, and Lane throwing the cut out ball were early highlights.
Moses long kicking game was good, even if his short kicking game remains a work in progress.
At times Parra were clunky and literally got in each other’s way, but that’s a timing issue, not effort. Timing can always be fixed, poor effort is deadly, as we witnessed against the Rabbits.
From this point on, the Eels simply need to remain focussed for bigger stretches of the game. I suspect that RCG, Junior and Nathan Brown will not be on the sideline together in the lead up to halftime when the finals come, but managing their minutes now is smart. Our middle got exposed when all three were off against the Warriors, particularly for that second try.
So while a long way from perfect, Sunday was an encouraging step in the right direction. The boys tried hard, even when at times they tried so hard that they got in each other’s way.
A repeat of that level of effort will give us a chance come the finals because without it, we are no chance to improve.