Is it the second edition of Sixties Mindtrip already? It seems like only last week I was compiling that first venture into the not so deep recesses of my mind.
If you’ve come back for a return journey, many thanks. If this is your first time in the departure lounge, please let my meanderings take you where they will. The replies flew in last week and with finals footy upon us, the old stream of consciousness is flowing freely and ready for more of the same.
And on that subject, is there a bigger footy high than being involved in the finals?
After seven years of planning holidays for this time of year, the Eels have now qualified for three of the last four series. Breathe it in baby!
When Wilbur plunged over for the match-winning try against the Tigers, I started my old man transcendental dance in the stands. I’ve been dancing, on the inside, ever since.
Is that right on or trippin?
Wildcard Finals – Not digging it!
My Spidey senses start a-tingling whenever there’s a chorus of media types championing a change in the NRL. Far too often it precedes said change coming to fruition.
The media topic du jour has been wildcard playoffs for the NRL finals series.
Could there be a more insulting suggestion! They need to cool it!
No matter how any spin doctor tries to dress it up, having teams 9 and 10 play off against teams 7 and 8 (or whatever bogus arrangement they conjure up) is nothing more than having a top 10 finals series.
Why stop there? If the argument is maintaining fan engagement, let’s just go the whole hog and have a top 16. Please!
There’s been the rare year, see Parra in 2009, when an 8th placed team has made a miraculous impact in the finals. Apart from that, most teams finishing that low are fortunate to still be playing at this time of year.
We don’t need finals football extending to teams who will probably achieve less than a 50% win rate throughout the season. A ninth or tenth placed team like the Titans, beating a 7th or 8th placed team like the Sharks, wouldn’t validate a wildcard system. What it would do, unfortunately, is emphasise that the Top 8 is often rewarding too many teams.
Buzz Killers – Not Digging It
No matter how the “realist” Eels supporters try to point to certain form lines to justify their Debbie Downer stance, if you’re not excited about the Eels playing finals footy then maybe it’s time for you to find another team to support.
It’s perfectly fine to not be confident about your team’s chances against the best of the best. The majority of Eels fans might just be feeling that way as we approach this weekend.
It’s perfectly justifiable to consider what your team needs to improve to give themselves a better chance of victory.
However, it’s another thing altogether to take your place on the podium alongside opposition fans and the media in rubbishing your team’s season after they win 75% of their games to finish the regular rounds in third place.
I don’t want those cats laying that sort of buzz kill on me.
This is the time of year to embrace still being in the contest. The 2020 Parramatta Eels aren’t done yet.
The NRL Player Market – Gigging It 😁
With half of the teams now finished for the year, and two teams dropping out every week from here on, the silly season has well and truly begun.
There’s a raft of players looking for a gig, which explains the flood of contract rumours that have already been communicated to me.
Though the number is yet to be finalised, the departure of numerous squad members who’ve played first grade for the Eels this season means that the club must enter the market for players of at least the same caliber.
Kane Evans and Stefano Utoikamanu are moving on. Andy Davey’s future is yet to be confirmed, but nobody is denying that he’s signed with the Sea Eagles. A group of others remain off contract.
The good news is that around two thirds of the squad, including the starting 13, are under contract for next year, with key players locked into deals beyond 2021. A terrific cadre of young pathways stars can be expected to join preseason training, with development spots and maybe even top 30 berths awaiting.
A near certain reduction of the salary cap means that quality players will come onto the market, some of them quite unexpected. The Eels have places to fill. The maths will be interesting.
The Fresh Prince Refreshed – Digging It
Surely the form of Will Smith has been an unexpected and pleasant surprise for most Eels supporters.
I was doing handstands of joy (metaphorically of course) when this bloke first signed with the Eels for the 2017 season as I believed he was an underrated talent.
In the years since, despite making 35 top grade appearances, Smith has failed to secure a permanent first grade position. A popular squad member, his versatility has seen him retained by the club as he covers all spine positions.
Injuries to both Reed Mahoney and Ray Stone saw Wilbur once again called on to cover the dummy half role off the bench, a job he performed with great composure. Given that he had spent much of this season training at fullback, his execution in the middle of the ruck would have pleased the coaches.
But it was his elevation to the starting five-eighth position against the Tigers which really caught the eye as he helped guide the left side attack with aplomb, before crossing for the match winning try in a terrific solo effort.
The return of injured players may yet push the off-contract Smith back out of the team, but he’s definitely done enough to keep his name in the selection conversation for a bench spot.
Might that also mean a contract extension?
Six Again – Not Digging It
It’s a bummer man.
I’m not salty after the 6 to 1 count against the Eels on the weekend. I’ve already written and spoken on the topic ad nauseam. All teams have copped strange decisions under this farce of a rule.
The fact that the team which allowed the faster play the ball speed could suffer a lop-sided count against them merely highlights what I’ve been banging on about all year. You can pick moments in just about every set of six when the rule can be applied.
Despite this, confusion still reigns because it often appears to be called when there is no obvious indiscretion. I won’t even go into the compounding impacts of late count calls against early tackle decisions.
Now the NRL is looking to extend its parameters. Lord give me strength because we might not have seen the worst of it.
What A Joint – Suncorp – Digging It
I was gearing up for a clash with the Riff this week, organising my plan of attack to secure tickets to a venue I truly despise.
Yet despite the change from western Sydney to Brisbane, the large Eels supporter base north of the border might just be able to make the scene and turn Suncorp Stadium into something close to a home ground this week.
Despite recollections of our nightmarish 2019 magic weekend encounter up there, Parra have close to a fifty percent record at Suncorp Stadium since its redevelopment. The Broncos aren’t the Storm, but they have had strong teams during what was a lean period for the Eels. Even so, the Eels have enjoyed reasonable success when travelling to the Queensland capital.
Better still, Parra won’t be weighed down by the burden of expectation.
There’ll be plenty of analysis to come this week, but for now I give us a genuine chance.
Can you dig it?