What a trip this 2020 season has been.
Will it, won’t it? Pledging the moolah. You can’t go, you can apply to go. The euphoria of so many victories, the downer of a finals exit. It was far from primo, but rarely dull.
With the Eels season now over, I’ve got the mind Kombi packed for my version of an off-season Byron escape.
But to create space in my mental backpack, there’s stuff I need to lay on you.
It’s another opportunity for you to decide whether I’m right on or trippin’.
Not Cool, Brad
I regard BA as a righteous dude. He tells it like it is man.
But when he was rappin with the journos after Saturday’s final there was a word that he used that was definitely not cool.
That word applies to a surrender. To capitulate means to give up. To stop resisting.
There’s no argument that the last quarter of the game was played without composure, and errors blew the score out. And apart from the awful officiating blunder of not sending Cook to the sin bin, we were masters of our own failure.
I was disappointed, even angered, by our errors and the performances of a couple of individual players.
But given the circumstances of the week, and the body blow delivered on the day, there was plenty of merit in an effort against the odds.
It was not a capitulation Brad.
Power To The People
Though we had to share the stands with Bunnies’ fans, it was a complete gas to have a genuine crowd atmosphere on Saturday night.
In getting the action back on to the field despite the COVID-19 threat, the NRL and the clubs have done spectacularly well. However, with attendances capped at 25% capacity, a trip to the footy hasn’t quite been the same.
Just under 15,000 fans filed into Bankwest Stadium on Friday night, and the vast majority joined me in exercising the lungs. Anyone listening to the most recent Tip Sheet podcast would have heard the battle scars evident in my voice.
And that’s exactly the way it should be!
Hazed But Not Confused
What a groove to see Haze Dunster make his debut in top grade threads!
The Cumberland Throw has been watching this Kiwi lad since his Harold Matt’s days. It’s a buzz to follow a player’s progress through the grades like that.
Though he didn’t leave the field as part of the winning team, he was still a winner.
Played strong, Dunster good!
Jennings Shock A Huge Drag
In their worst nightmares, Eels supporters could not have imagined the game day news about Michael Jennings.
After testing positive to banned substances Ligandrol and Ibutamoren, and being immediately stood down, Jenko has since gone public in declaring his innocence.
A long wait is ahead for the results of the B sample to become known – typically two to three months. It’s normally a forlorn hope for that second sample to clear an athlete, which doesn’t auger well for Jennings or an Eels team at risk of being short of a quality centre.
However, without raising too many hopes, B samples have proven to be the saviour for a handful of stars over the years.
In a high profile rugby case, All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu was cleared in early 2017 after testing positive in late 2016.
Should Jenko be innocent, his suspension will have been a high price to pay for both him and the club.
The Numbers Are Doing My Head In
There was some heavy news on the big screens at Bankwest Stadium when a tribute was played to eleven departing Eels players. I’ll be thanking those players in a dedicated post coming soon on TCT.
Most of us weren’t aware of the scale of the roster movements in what can only be described as a clean out. A couple of those announced probably came as a complete surprise.
Peni Terepo, David Gower, Kane Evans, Jai Field, Stefano Utiokamanu, Andrew Davey, Rhys Davies, Jaeman Salmon, Brad Takairangi, Watson Heleta and Kyle Schneider were all listed. That’s 11 of the 32 players who were part of the “bubble” at different stages of this season.
That leaves 21 players under contract, with strong rumours that the departures have not finished. Throw in the uncertainty surrounding the immediate future of Michael Jennings, and there’s a huge task ahead for the Eels recruitment department. If Jenko is lost, and more players depart, the roster starts to approach 50% of requirement.
There is also the challenge of signing an entire squad of second tier players for the 2021 Eels Canterbury Cup team.
On the plus side, a very large group of young players will be doing the NRL preseason. I’d liken it to the influx of pathways players such as Brown, Kaufusi, Utoikamanu, Dunster, Parry and Schneider who all joined Eels preseason training after the 2018 season.
The Eels need to get the senior recruitment right, and make no mistake, that is absolutely critical. First grade players need to be signed. But if we nail that external recruitment, exciting times await.
Bad Vibes From NRL’s MC
Ain’t no big thing, more of a personal hang up that I have during finals series matches.
Those at Bankwest Stadium know where I’m coming from with this.
Here’s an example of how Saturday night’s MC duties went down:
“At fullback for the Eels, Clinton Gutherrrson.
AT NUMBER ONE FOR THE RABBITOHS, COREEEEEY ALLENNNNNNN!!!!!“
And so it continued.
No big deal, but could an NRL appointed MC have something approaching equal enthusiasm for what was an Eels home final? Maybe?
It’s a matter of good vibrations.
Media Flakes Or A Bigger Bummer?
Recent media commentary from Danny Weidler and Michael Chammas have paraphrased Eels “insiders” raising concerns from within the club about Arthur’s methods. Weidler also suggested that his Eels contact had confided off the record that Gould’s criticisms throughout the season were regarded by the club as correct.
Through the media, and fuelled further via some supporter forums, assistant coaches have been proposed, with Chammas even raising the prospect of the Eels looking to replace Arthur before his latest extension even begins.
There’s two schools of thought.
The preferred thought is that the journalists are looking to make news about the Eels where none exists. The contrasting reports seem to back this thought up. In one report Arthur is apparently too lenient on the players, in the next he’s too old school, forcing the players to sweat out extra laps rather than adopting mindfulness principles.
The alternative thought is of someone in the club talking out of school to the media.
This surely cannot be true, especially as the club looks certain to enter an era of being regular finalists.
Leaking any unsubstantiated or unsanctioned club “thoughts” would be nothing short of treachery. Destabilising talk has no place in the Parramatta Eels. It could take the club back to darker times.
The Parramatta Eels have made great strides as a professional organisation. Very little leaks out of the club, which is the way that it should be.
However, if there’s someone whose actions threaten to take the Eels back to an environment of mistrust, they need to be outed.
Stability and professionalism have been the cornerstones of the club’s climb to a brighter future. Should I find out that there are Eels people destabilising our football department via the media, I will speak to the club to name names.
Digging The Ken Thornett Medal Winners
There were no minds blown by the winners list from the Eels annual Ken Thornett Medal night.
Clint Gutherson took home both the prestigious Ken Thornett Medal and the Blue and Gold Army Player of the Year. Junior Paulo was awarded the Jack Gibson NRL Coaches’s award, Reed Mahoney took home the Ray Price NRL Community Award whilst Andrew Davey clinched the Eric Grothe NRL Rookie of the Year Award.
Hard working staffer, Don Musson was awarded the Michael Cronin Club Person of the year in recognition of his diligence and commitment during this difficult year.
The Ken Thornett Medal is one of my fave nights of the year. The Cumberland Throw is normally represented by multiple contributors and a great night is had by all. Unfortunately, supporters were not able to attend this years event.
So, on behalf of everyone at TCT, I’d like to extend belated congratulations to all of the recipients.
Time to mellow out.