The shock suspension of centre Michael Jennings has stunned the NRL world. The longer term ramifications for him and the Eels will play out and be covered by the media in the coming days and weeks.
More immediately, the suspension has forced a last minute change in the Parramatta Eels side for tonight’s big finals clash with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Haze Dunster, the Kiwi born Eels pathways outside back has been named to make his debut. At this point, it’s speculated that he’ll take his place on the right wing outside Waqa Blake.
For Haze, his excitement would be understandable.
He’s been on the fringe of first grade selection throughout the second half of the NRL season. During this period, the Parramatta coaching staff have dedicated individualised training for him, working on his skill set in preparation for his debut.
Furthermore, his inclusion in the top 21 and top 19 over numerous weeks has familiarised the young winger with match day preparations and protocols.
During that period, following an extended coaching session with Ryan Carr and David Kidwell, Haze spoke with me about the prospects of his debut. He expressed that he was extremely keen to get a shot this year. He was ready.
Well Haze, dreams can come true.
You’ve earned this opportunity via a fine preseason, a great showing at the Perth Nines, and continued hard work during a challenging season that’s been limited to training, opposed sessions and that dream of an NRL debut.
Your dedication to achieving your goal via all those hours in the gym has given you the frame required to play first grade footy. At 187cm and around 95kg, it’s made a difference. You’ve always been able to beat that first defender in your carries but now you thrive in the collision too.
I know I’m glad to be there to watch you take the field.
It seems like only yesterday that TCT was watching Haze play alongside Dylan Brown in the Eels junior pathways. He’ll only need to look to his left to see his good mate wearing the Blue and Gold beside him once again.
For his Parramatta team mates, the disappointment of losing Jennings has been overshadowed by their excitement about Haze. Positivity and desire will not let negative thoughts enter their psyche.
Congratulations Haze and brace yourselves Eels fans. There’s a memorable match heading your way.
Go you mighty Eels!