What a week!
Could we, as Parramatta supporters, expect anything less than the roller coaster of emotions that charged headlong at us in the eventful Round One action against the Broncos?
Social media went into meltdown during the Eels diabolical first half showing, but as we head into Round Two, the only thing that matters was the two points next to the Eels on the ladder.
Of course, the action on the field wasn’t the only Eels news from the past week.
It’s Bumpers Up as I offer my opinion on the last seven days.
It’s my column, so I’m allowed to gloat.
Throughout the preseason, I’ve been singing the praises of Isaiah Papali’i. He’d been slaying it on the training track and had stamped himself as a player to watch in 2021.
“Parra Papa” as I’ve dubbed him, or the “Smiling Assassin” as others have tagged him, duly delivered at a time when the Eels most needed it against the Broncos.
The Kiwi and Samoan international has now played 64 NRL games but is still only 22 years of age.
There’s a big future that still awaits him and he’s started his time at the Eels in rip-roaring fashion.
Late edit: incredibly Papa didn’t receive a single Dally M point.
New Buys Provide Early Validation
Not all Eels supporters were happy with the Eels additions to their 2021 roster. There had been calls for a strike centre signing, and a general belief that Parra were just filling spaces.
It’s early days, but the club’s three debutants in Friday’s clash all contributed to the Eels victory over the Broncos.
After coming off the bench, “Parra Papa”, Isaiah Papali’i, was a major talking point after the match. His outstanding performance pushed that of Reed Mahoney for man of the match honours.
Tom Opacic provided exactly what I had predicted throughout the preseason. He’s an experienced centre who reads the game well and remains composed when under pressure.
Keegan Hipgrave responded to criticism of his trial performances with a valuable short interchange stint, adding just on 50 running metres from his five runs and no missed tackles.
It’s a huge test facing everyone this week, but the start from the new fellas was very encouraging.
Congratulations to Junior Paulo for achieving 100 NRL games in the Blue and Gold.
Our champion Origin prop is a success story from our pathways, and despite his time in the nation’s capital, he’s only an Eel in our eyes.
Junior always seems to be creating plays that set up line breaks or tries for others. How appropriate that he could cross for a try of his own in this milestone game.
I’ve got a feeling it won’t be his last for the year.
How times have changed!
Parramatta has confirmed the addition of McDonalds Australia and Taubmans Paints to their list of Corporate Partners.
Signing on for three years and two years respectively, these companies now complete the Eels jersey assets for the 2021 season. In other words, there is no more available space on the Eels match day jersey.
The confidence in the Eels brand is at an all time high and Andrew Mikhail and his Commercial team and the Eels can feel proud of their achievements in securing such partnerships.
Strong on-field performances, great leadership, first class facilities and a massive supporter base all help to make the Eels a destination club.
It comes as no surprise that the media would be reporting on outside interest in the contracts of Nathan Brown and Maika Sivo.
With Manly apparently ready to throw a big offer to Brown and French rugby lining up to take another winger from the Eels, supporters start to feel agitated.
However, the managers of both players are simply doing their job of testing the marketplace for their clients. I see such stories as nothing unexpected.
With a tightening of the salary cap after the COVID impacted 2020 season, the club too has to consider the size of its offers, relative to the overall spending on the rest of the squad.
If both parties are keen for new deals to happen, it’s unusual for a player to leave. If both parties have vastly different opinions on contract size, that’s when the process takes longer or a parting of the ways occurs.
Whatever the outcome, the genuine stuff plays out behind closed doors.
Adam Hawse On The Tip Sheet
If you haven’t done so already, I recommend that you have a listen to sports media identity Adam Hawse talk to Forty and I about his passion for the Eels and his special project, Eels86 – The Story Of Parramatta’s Last Premiership.
The half hour documentary tells the story of the 1986 campaign through the players themselves. That season is often referred to when describing Parra’s extended period without success, but the inspirations that drove the team are rarely discussed.
Adam provides The Cumberland Throw with the background to the project as well as his take on the bonds that existed within that team.
It’s something special for all Eels supporters.
The Eels recently named their 28 man roster, complying with March 1, NRL regulations.
However, as discussed by Forty and I on The Tip Sheet this week, that number includes Michael Jennings, effectively leaving the Eels with 27 players in their top squad. After excluding injuries and the recently upgraded Will Penisini, the 21 players named for Round One was basically all that the coach could call on.
The Eels are not an island. Other clubs are already seeking dispensation to use players outside their top squads, and there were TBA listings in the NSW Cup teams.
For Parra, a decision on the Jennings case can’t come soon enough, and despite the temptation to hold off signing anyone else right now, the club must surely be looking to add to their depth.
Junior Rep Update
Two wins and a draw against the Raiders keeps all of the Eels Junior Rep teams in finals contention with only three rounds remaining.
The Matts and Ball teams each recorded important wins to remain in the Top 6, whilst the Tarsha Gale followed up last week’s win with a come from behind draw.
The finals series has changed to a top 6 this year, played over three weeks, with the top two teams automatically placed in the grand final qualifiers. This makes these final three rounds incredibly critical on what remains tight ladders.
Don’t forget, for the best insights into Eels Junior Rep results, you can’t go past Joey Grima’s regular segment on The Tip Sheet Podcast.
Massive Live Event
Speaking of The Tip Sheet, our Podcast will be going live in Eels Lane this coming Thursday as part of an epic pre-match afternoon at Parra Leagues.
Kicking off at 4pm, and going through to 5:30pm, we’ll be joined by the Eels Joey Grima, Mary K from Ladies Who League and the one and only Parra legend, Brett Kenny as we build up to kick off in the Eels big clash with the Storm.
The fun won’t stop there at Eels Lane. The entertainment will continue with Oscar Kami, along with a balloonist and a jumping castle for the kids.
Come and say hello to TCT, listen to our footy talk and join us for a drink and a feed at the “Home of the Eels”, Parra Leagues.