Anyone with more than a passing interest in rugby league understands how fired up supporters can be about news or events in our game.
I’ve certainly been no stranger to mixed emotions over the past couple of weeks.
There’s been the good news surrounding the junior reps returning to the field after their competitions were abandoned in 2020, and the outstanding success of Parra Leagues when confronting the challenges of COVID last year.
Conversely, I have some strong opinions about the Payne Haas controversy and the ridiculous injury rumours that regularly circulate around social media.
Fortunately I have this column to vent my spleen.
You can add your two cents worth here too.
Read on, then please add your hot takes.
Is Haas, Is Not So Good!
The recent atrocious behaviour of Payne Haas is something that can be forgiven, but it should never be forgotten.
Moving forward, the NRL must ensure that future punishments suit the indiscretion, be it on field or off.
Forget Haas’ public apology with the coach by his side. That sort of stuff usually has club media all over it, and the public hears enough similar statements from repeat offenders that it just washes over the majority of punters.
The fine and the community service was a decent place to start for reparations, and hopefully the proceeds of fines like this can be directed towards charities or community groups.
However, we need to get serious about the suspension.
Players receive longer time out of the game for tackles that go wrong!
Let that sink in for a minute or two.
In a brutal contact sport, a momentary lack of execution can receive a longer suspension than this bloke’s vile and threatening approach to a female police officer.
Just today, young Dragons forward Eddie Blacker has been charged with making dangerous contact with the neck of Sharks player Jack Williams. It is alleged that in trying to palm Williams, Blacker instead used an elbow. He faces a four week ban.
Jack Williams suffered a significant injury, and if guilty, Blacker will deserve the four weeks. But how does a palm gone wrong attract a longer suspension than an offensive act against the police?
The actions of Payne Haas, and any similar actions in the future, require a response that puts players and clubs on notice. If supposed role models want to engage in behaviours that are an affront to community standards and bring disrepute to the code, then they need to pay a much higher price.
And that means significant time on the sidelines.
If the game wants the message to really sink in, remove offenders for a period that impacts their immediate career. It’s not a mistimed tackle, it’s behaviour with intent that deserves punishment commensurate with that intent.
Maybe then, clubs will think twice about signing these blokes to rich deals or even signing them at all. Maybe then, the NRL can get closer to their goal of zero off-field incidents.
An Amazing Success Story
Last week TCT brought you the latest in our series of “Parra Stories”. It’s one that we hope many readers familiarise themselves with.
Parra Leagues Annual report was released last week, and the bottom line of returning a surplus of over $2m in 2020 was astounding.
But that wasn’t what most interested us.
Having the opportunity to speak at length with PLC President, Greg Monaghan, Forty and I found out more about the value that the club places on being part of the community within the football club’s catchment area.
From club grants to junior clubs and community groups, through to financially supporting the Eels, the tougher times of 2020 only seemed to sharpen that focus. And when the club had its doors suddenly closed during the shut down, the first thought was to ensure that the food in stock went to Mission Australia.
The Directors, Management and Staff of Parramatta can feel deservedly proud of what they have accomplished.
Junior Reps Already In Action
As a Development Club, the Eels place a high value on their pathways, and we’re proud of the coverage our site provides. Our thanks to Joey Grima and the staff and players for their support and for the recent invitation to the Round 1 Captains Run and jersey presentation.
On the footy front, the Eels Harold Matthews (under 17) , SG Ball (under 19) and Tarsha Gale (under 19 girls) sides all suffered first round losses, though each team was in a position to clinch victory during the second half of their matches.
Round two saw the Matts and Ball teams secure victory over the Bears in waterlogged conditions at Macquarie University. The Matts really flexed their muscle in a dominant display of intelligent wet weather football.
The SG Ball clash was a much tighter affair, and it took nearly 50 minutes for the Eels to find their groove and play to the conditions.
Unfortunately, the Tarsha Gale team couldn’t hold out the powerful Newcastle Knights in a home match at New Era Stadium. I spoke with their coach, Ryan Walker, and he is very encouraged by the resilience that the girls have displayed in their matches. The combinations within the team are continuing to develop and they’ve played some enterprising football in their first couple of rounds.
As an example, check out the deception in this try from Loreen Luamanuvae.
Looking ahead, the Matts and Ball teams have a bye this week, whist the girls travel to Mascot Oval to take on the Dragons.
The Bryce Cartwright Injury (and ignoring rumours)
The jaw injury to Bryce Cartwright has been confirmed by the Eels in a media announcement this past weekend.
Cartwright is expected to miss between 4-6 weeks after a training mishap last Thursday. It’s a bitter pill to swallow in the week leading up to the first trial as the back row recruit had really impressed during the preseason.
I’ve gone on record as saying that his conditioning work has been close to the best I’ve seen from an Eels forward and I’d tipped Carty for a huge year.
Fortunately the former Titan should only miss two NRL rounds. We wish him well during his rehab.
On another note, there’s been some crazy injury rumours floating around over the weekend. I won’t give them any further oxygen other than to say it was complete crap.
I’m not sure who makes this garbage up, but I can only advise supporters to wait for the club to make official statements.
Do The Math?
Will 16 plus one eventually become 17 minus one?
Whether it be the Dolphins, Firehawks, or even the merged Bombers/Western Corridor bid, a 17th team by 2023 might just have some unwanted consequences.
I’m not opposed to expansion, though I believe that it should be two extra teams and it should include Western Australia. The old chestnut argument about whether there are enough quality players to support more teams will undoubtedly raise its head in any debate on the topic, but let’s leave that for another day,.
The immediate result of a one team expansion will be the introduction of a weekly bye – and multiple byes in some rounds (probably around Origin) to equalise bye points for the season.
But here’s the critical factor. Adding one extra team maintains the 8 matches per round for the majority of the season. It also safeguards this number in broadcast contracts should a team withdraw or be removed from the Premiership.
Over recent years, the NRL has flagged that it will no longer bail out financially struggling clubs. A 17th team removes any pressure from broadcasters about the potential loss of a weekly match.
Are there any teams with their heads currently on the chopping block?
Will the NRL revisit reducing the number of Sydney clubs?
Personally, I believe that nothing will be forced. The reality is that the loss of a club results in the loss of supporters. It’s never a popular decision.
As for the prospects of a second Brisbane team, the timing is interesting. If an entry date of 2023 is agreed upon, the franchise will have just over a year to secure players. They’ll likely be doing so at a time when the Broncos will be looking to improve their roster.
Ultimately, the game itself will benefit from the media coverage that’s sure to unfold. The battle for talent north of the border, and the quest for the hearts of south east Queensland supporters places a new rugby league soap opera on the horizon. And who would want to ignore such drama!
The Eels/Dragons Trial
If supporters aren’t yet aware, Thursday night’s trial will be live streamed by the NRL. With the match taking place behind closed doors, it’s terrific news for all supporters.
I caught some of the live stream of the Sharks and the Dragons last Friday, and was impressed with the quality of the coverage. How good will it be to watch some new recruits and up and coming players in action!
Eels training this week is likely to move into regular season mode.
In other news, the new Eels apparel from Macron has dropped this week. I’m tipping that the white alternate strip will be a huge seller.
You can almost smell the opening round right now.