As a fan who wants to see my team continually improve and become a genuine premiership threat, I was so happy with what I saw last Friday against the Broncos.
I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to play any sport in those conditions, let alone a physically demanding sport like League and in some ways you could probably have understood if Parra took it easy once they had to game under control. In such circumstances you had to be impressed with their scramble and desire in defence in the last 20 minutes of the game. The desperation to stop any more tries was evident and was certainly noticed by this fan sitting in the comfort of my lounge room.
It is easy to dismiss this win and say it was only against the Broncos. While there is no doubt that the Broncos team of 2021 is a far cry from the once all conquering team of past years our fantastic defence, scramble and attitude is all about us and our development.
Before writing this article I watched the Storm play the Warriors and once again they were clinical. They play to the same standard no matter the opposition. This is what I want our Eels to become and hence my joy with what I saw last Friday.
There was no doubt that our big boys in the pack were always going to find it challenging in those conditions but they held Payne Haas nicely. Incidentally, Haas is an incredible athlete and really is wasted in that Broncos team.
Then our bench came on and turned the game beautifully. Watching the development of Oregon Kaufusi each year is such a fine example of why and how our club has changed for the better. Obviously he has always displayed immense talent but he has not been thrown to the wolves too young and had his potential ruined by getting physically overpowered and exposed at a young age.
I know Oregon is a very different player and has a different skill set to Junior Paulo but watching him mix between hard runs with excellent post contact and the skill to manoeuvre his body to create the offload that gave the opportunity for Papali’is try was wonderful. The offload came about because he hit and spun in the tackle, in other words he had the skills and game smarts to create the opportunity and not simply rely upon a missed or poor tackle.
However it is what I saw after that from Oregon that pleased me more. He did not become offload happy, he went back to hard running, with excellent post contact metres. It all tells me that these players know and accept the game plan and their roles in it. It also tells me that these players have been exposed to skill development, in Oregon’s example over many years, to get them ready to step up and succeed in first grade.
There comes a time when you can no longer pass something off as a fluke so I will give my take on the direction our club is going; our players are well coached and their skills are developed to make them better players. Gutho, Sivo, Opacic, Moses, Nathan Brown, RCG, Lane, Marata and Papali’i have all become much better players since joining our club.
This coupled with the careful development of skillful, young talented players such as Dylan Brown, Oregon, Reed as well as some excellent prospects in the Reserve grade such as Dunster, Arthur and Russel points to one thing. We have a clear vision for the type of player we want and need and we have the right people in place to manage, recruit and develop those talents.
I left one player from the list, not by mistake but very deliberately. You would have to blind not to notice how good Bryce Cartwright’s body language and demeanor was last Friday. He was very skillful and equally disciplined on both sides of the ball.
Congratulations needs to go to him. I respect people who can face up to some truths and give their all to turn it around.
However, one game does not make the comeback complete. From the stands I have faith that he can do it and will have the right people around him to help him do it but the ball is still very much in his court and he needs to prove to me as a supporter of this wonderful club that he can play with that level of discipline and commitment each week. I really feel he will and think he could be a real weapon for us if we can help him develop that discipline in his game and I look forward to cheering him on and applauding his contribution to our team.
Looking at this week, it’s that time of the year when we take on the Bulldogs.
I know the Tigers like to claim us as rivals but for my family and I nothing comes close to the rivalry between us and both the Bulldogs and Manly. We cannot wait to go to ANZ on Saturday to watch our boys take on the Bulldogs.
I hope our team comes with the same attitude they displayed in Darwin. A ruthlessness and discipline to play our game and not lower our standards because of the opposition.
I have a feeling many Parra supporters will think the same as me. I have sat through many large defeats to the Bulldogs and it would be nice to give them one in return – of course that means once we have earned the right in the game to do so.
See you all there at ANZ. Let’s outnumber their supporters and create the noise for our team. Our Eels!