Welcome to the first edition of “Bumpers Up”.
Towards the end of the NRL season, I introduced the “Sixties Mind-Trip” column. The goal was to cover a range of topics from the previous week of footy. It was proving a popular format with our readers, but I felt that a little fine tuning was in order.
The first order of business was to take myself out of the title and make it more reflective of its rugby league subject matter. And so we have “Bumpers Up”.
You might still consider my opinions are “trippin’”. but there’s always something going on in footy or with the Eels and I’m going to have my say.
I welcome your opinion in return.
It wasn’t a winning campaign for the Blues, but having four Parra players in the squad can only be a positive for the club. These blokes have now experienced the preparation and hype involved for playing on arguably the biggest stage in the game.
Reagan Campbell-Gillard was not new to an Origin Camp, but for him and Nathan Brown, Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo, the 2020 experience would certainly leave them with a determination to return to that arena in 2021 and change the outcome.
The Parramatta Eels are aiming to establish themselves as a destination club – one that players, sponsors and fans want to be associated with. The 2020 Origin series has proven that wearing the Blue and Gold can be a pathway to higher honours. That’s a huge fillip for the club as it strives to achieve its goal.
Freddy Fit For A Full Time Footy Gig?
Still on Origin, what is the future for Brad Fittler?
There’s been talk about whether he wants to continue in the Origin gig or maybe even have a crack once again at an NRL head coaching role.
Freddy dipped his toe into the water with the Roosters over a decade ago. After taking the helm as a caretaker coach late in the 2007 season, the legendary player immediately lifted the performances of the team and was rewarded with a three year deal.
The short term results for Fittler were brilliant. A top four finish in his first full season vindicated his approach to coaching. Unfortunately the results didn’t go his way the following season, and he exited the club with a year to run on his contract after his side wrapped up the wooden spoon. The following year Brian Smith took the Roosters to the Grand Final.
Since 2012, Freddy has focussed on representative coaching, first with City and then with the Blues. His alternate methods seem to resonate well with the short term coaching of elite players who enjoy an approach which is different to the demands of regular season footy.
Though I believe that Fittler made some costly errors in his selections for certain positions and in his use of the bench in the 2020 series, I hope he remains in representative coaching rather than club football. Freddy has been a breath of fresh air in the Origin arena, but a full time NRL gig with its array of demands is vastly different to managing and motivating the game’s best for a brief period each year.
Just quietly, the Blues Origin series wasn’t helped by the NSW media hyping the “worst ever Queensland team” tag. It might have helped with some clicks, but the Maroons were the real beneficiary in the motivations stakes.
Some journos should be on the Canetoad’s payroll!
A Message Of Gratitude
It’s been said before, but we can’t wrap up a season without thanking the players. I wouldn’t like to imagine this year without sport. In some respects, life feels like it’s approaching something close to normal on a local level, but the bubble for NRL players kept them in a form of lockdown for such an extended period.
Of course, those conditions extended to everyone inside the”bubble” – coaches, trainers, physios, team managers, support staff. Importantly, we can’t forget the top 30 players who never got to lace on a boot this year. They had to keep training and living under these restrictive conditions without having the opportunity to showcase their skills or push for a spot.
In many respects, football people lead privileged lives. But as we saw with a couple of “breaches”, grabbing a meal with your partner could become front page news because of the potential to shut down the Premiership.
Like other businesses, staff at NRL headquarters, at clubs, at media organisations and broadcasters, at apparel manufacturers, basically at a raft of organisations associated with the game lost their jobs. Whether some were much needed rationalisations or not, there were people and families impacted and this should not be forgotten.
Of course, the footy wasn’t the same for fans. We went from no access to grounds, to restricted access. Many members pledged their fees regardless of attendance, regardless of their own circumstances during the pandemic.
This has been a time when those associated with the game pulled together to ensure that the NRL could remain a strong and viable professional code. Special mention to the Warriors and the Storm for their relocations and sacrifices.
Mind you, I do feel dirty thanking the Storm for anything.
NRL Schoolboy Cup Champions
Earlier this month we witnessed the final of the NRL Schoolboys Cup and congratulations must be extended to both Westfield Sports High and Patrician Brothers Blacktown for overcoming the challenges of a bizarre year to reach the decider.
There were around a dozen Eels pathways players involved in the campaigns of the two schools, with the Blacktown side and it’s nine Eels juniors emerging victorious, 22 to 16.
Led by Jake Arthur, the Pats squad included fellow Eels Sean Russell, Sam Loizou, David Langi, Bailey Nouredine, Blake Martin, Jontay-Junior Betham-Misa, Maximus Tupou and Myles Martin.
For Westfield, young Eels Vlado Jankovic, Caleb Tohi and Cooper Sinclair can also hold their heads high.
My apologies if I’ve failed to mention any other Eels pathways players involved.
The encounter was one of the most physical schoolboy matches that I’ve ever watched, but importantly it was played in the type of spirit that was a credit to the players, their schools and the game of rugby league.
During TCT’s interview with Parramatta’s Manager of Football, Mark O’Neill, we were informed that the first players will be returning to training on November 30. We can expect the younger players doing their first or second pre-season to be involved in this early start.
The majority of the Eels NRL players will then return on December 14, and complete just one week of training before breaking for a couple of weeks for the Christmas and New Year period.
Of course, this is simply following NRL and RLPA protocols with the mandated leave periods. The late finish to the 2020 season has resulted in returns that almost fall into the festive holidays.
The Origin players won’t return till some time in January. It’s not ideal and leaves them with a very short preseason, but every club with representative players will be in the same boat.
The Tip Sheet
Thank you to everyone who has listened to, shared, or expressed their opinions on TCT’s recent interview with Mark O’Neill.
It’s been terrific to have so many messages supporting our endeavours to bring you closer to what’s happening at the Eels. We thank Mark and the club for such access.
Our podcast was also fortunate to feature the insights of Bernie Gurr during the finals series. We were particularly grateful to be able to share the perspective of a rugby league professional with a lifetime of involvement. Thanks Bernie!
The Tip Sheet will continue through the pre-season and into next year. We promise to be bigger and better. The listening numbers are literally growing on a weekly basis, and we thank Rob and Clint for their contributions to the pod.
Thanks for taking the time to read this first edition of “Bumpers Up”.