That long Easter weekend was a true footy feast.
Five days of NRL, including our Eels Easter Monday win over the Tigers. Round Four finished and it almost seemed like Round Five was the next day.
Here at TCT, Forty and I even churned out two episodes of the Tip Sheet podcast in three days, such was the extent of the content.
From my perspective, the hectic schedule forced me to miss a week of Bumpers Up. But never fear, I’m ready to come off the back fence today.
Today Bryce Cartwright will play his first NRL game for the Eels. Those who’ve watched Eels media footage of his jersey presentation at the Captain’s Run would be aware of how special debuts are to players.
When Carty was signed by the Eels, the reaction was mixed. His performances for the Titans were fresh in people’s minds.
Personally, I was extremely pleased when he joined the club.
I remember the Bryce Cartwright who was a constant threat when he played for the Panthers. The bloke was on the fringe of Origin selection and possessed a skill set that very few forwards can showcase.
His preseason with the Eels only served to confirm my opinion.
Cartwright would be one of the fittest forwards I’ve ever watched at training, and regularly led the conditioning work of the pack. Actually he bettered the times of many backs.
The opposed sessions convinced me that he would start the season in the top 17. His work rate was good and he produced moments in attack that were a point of difference for the team. The jaw injury ultimately robbed him of a Round 1 debut.
But what about my expectations for his debut?
I don’t want Carty to overplay his hand. I wouldn’t care if he didn’t look for a single offload. As far as I’m concerned, today will be the start of his Eels journey and I’ll be looking for him to find his feet. His opportunity for creating bigger plays will come on future days.
Regardless I wish him well.
Welcome to the Blue and Gold mate.
On the subject of milestones, we have just witnessed Maika Sivo’s 50th game for Parra and today will mark Shaun Lane’s 100th NRL match.
Again, we should be grateful to the club and the players for the vision of Shaun Lane being congratulated by RCG at the Captain’s Run jersey presentation.
After a wobbly first round match against the Broncos, Lane has come firing back into form over the last three rounds.
Though milestone games are just another game that needs to be won, the players should be proud of such markers in their careers.
Anyone who plays one NRL game has already achieved something that places them at the peak of the footy playing pyramid. We all dream of playing first grade when we run around with a footy as kids, and that funnel gets extremely narrow as youngsters move through junior footy and into seniors. It’s a minute percentage that get to the top. To hit milestones is a testament to their talent, sacrifice and desire.
Yet To Debut
How long will it be before Wiremu Greig makes his NRL debut for the Eels?
The answer to that question will probably be determined by injuries or Origin selections, but I’m already backing this young Kiwi giant to make an impression at the club.
You can’t miss the 21 year old – he’s 192 cm (6 ft 4 in) and 124 kg (19.5 stone). Though I believe that the club might be looking at getting him a couple of kilos lighter, from what I’ve seen at training and in his first NSW Cup game, he’s fit and carries his frame well.
If the opportunity comes for a debut this year, I reckon he’ll be ready.
Fergo The Fish?
Did you catch Fergo declaring that he has the memory of a goldfish?
That statement was made in a post-match interview which focussed on his two tries which had “redeemed” some earlier errors against the Tigers.
Seriously, how good is that attitude!
I don’t want any Eels players to focus on their errors. Fergo went on to explain that it does him no good to be thinking back on a mistake. He just gets on with his game.
All young players would do well to adopt a similar attitude.
The regular season has now concluded for the Junior Rep Competitions. With only eight matches in the nine round season, teams have to find form quickly to qualify for the six team finals series.
All three of the Eels teams were victorious in their final round matches against the Sharks. Unfortunately, only the Harold Matthews Cup team will play finals footy. They finished second and have a bye in the first week of the finals. Their next match will be the grand final qualifier in two weeks time. Congratulations to the team, coach Steve O’Dea and his staff for that achievement.
The SG Ball team finished equal sixth, having only lost two games during their campaign. Points differential pushed them back into seventh place, with the sixth placed Steelers enjoying an 80 to 10 victory in their last round win over the Bears. It’s hard to find the words to describe that score line.
Parra’s Tarsha Gale team finished in 7th place with a 30 to 12 win over the 6th placed Sharks in what was unquestionably their best performance of the season.
Should failure to qualify for finals be regarded as a lack of success for these teams? I’d suggest not.
The Tarsha Gale team had their biggest turn out when trials for the team took place, a measure of the growth of the game for females. The performances of the team are trending upward and the Eels have ambitions to field an NRLW team in the near future. Coach Ryan Walker and his staff can feel proud of the growth in the team.
As for the SG Ball, if the Eels were simply focussed on finals footy or titles in their development programs, then there’d be a raft of age eligible players from the NSW Cup and Flegg teams running around in the under 19s.
But holding players back doesn’t help their development. Furthermore, holding players back also blocks the pathways and opportunities for others. There are players in this SG Ball team who have been able to show their potential because other players have been accelerated through the grades.
Supporters have been treated to inner sanctum vision of the weekly preparation that coach Craig Brennan and his staff put into this SG Ball team. It is literally preparing the players for the next stage of their development as they progress to senior grades. They are learning about the dedication and commitment required to be NRL footballers, and they couldn’t have a better grounding.
A massive thank you needs to be directed to Parra’s Elite Pathways Coaching Director, Joey Grima. He has a critical role to play at the Eels, and it’s one he’s dedicated to and passionate about.
We’ve been fortunate to have him join our podcast, “The Tip Sheet”, every week to keep supporters updated with the latest news in Eels pathways programs, in addition to insights about coaching and match preparation.
Don’t forget, you can submit questions for Joey about junior coaching or about some of the terminology you hear in rugby league though any of TCT’s platforms using the hashtag, #askjoey.
Head Injury Assessments
Protecting the health of rugby league players is receiving the priority that it rightly deserves. We are now seeing those with concussions taking extended breaks from the game, or in the case of Jake Friend, deciding upon retirement.
I have a recent observation and question that I hope one of our readers might be able to answer.
It seems to me that more players are failing HIAs than in any previous season. I don’t just mean that there are more HIAs occurring, but rather more failures.
Perhaps the outcry over the impact on replacements has caused me to note this, but is this observation something that can be supported statistically?
Maybe there are tighter protocols in the tests that we aren’t aware of, but it seems that fewer players are returning to the field than ever before.
With all of that said, and with concussion protocols taking better care of players, there is an elephant in the room.
Surely the next step should be increased punishments for those who perpetrate illegal, deliberate tackles which result in head injuries.
Maybe then the NRL will better protect players, and it might send the strongest message yet to those who have a history of committing such tackles.