It was a weekend of mixed emotions.
That simple statement probably sums up my Eels supporter reflections this Monday.
In sport, outside of a significant injury (see Brett Morris), there are few things more gut wrenching than a grand final loss.
Unfortunately, the Eels Harold Matthews team experienced that sensation after the Sea Eagles proved too strong at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday arvo. It would be challenging for the squad and the coaching staff to feel proud, but they should.
Saturday night then offered some cheer when the Eels NRL team overpowered the Bulldogs at Stadium Australia.
Despite that win, a slight emptiness remains.
There is, of course, one solution
Take that next carry.
The Arthur Investment
From the time that we first launched, TCT has been open about our support for Brad Arthur.
And it’s not just because of the way that BA has transformed the NRL squad.
From watching his coaching in action, to being privy to many of the things that he’s done for the club and the players behind the scenes, we know that he continues to be the man who will lead the Eels into a bright future. He epitomises a total investment in the club that he loves.
Last Friday night was another example.
That night, I was privileged to be invited to attend the captain’s run and the Grand Final jersey presentation for the Eels Harold Matts team.
Arthur’s speech to the team wasn’t just a one off appearance. He’d attended their matches – when it hadn’t clashed with his NRL commitments – during the season. In fact, just one week earlier, BA rushed back from the Eels Friday night game in Darwin to watch the Matt’s semi final at Blacktown on Saturday morning, before heading down the Great Western Highway to catch the Flegg and NSW Cup games at Ringrose Park in the afternoon.
You could hear a pin drop as Arthur spoke to the Matts team.
His investment in this team, in the players, in the Eels pathways, was obvious.
I won’t repeat his words. They belong to the Matts boys and to that moment.
The Eels might not have collected the trophy, but their effort against the powerful and undefeated Sea Eagles team did themselves, their families, the club and Parra supporters proud.
Harold Matts Graduates
Brad Arthur was not the only special guest at the Matts captains run and presentation.
Four current NRL squad members (see the photo above) handed out the special event jerseys, and they just happened to be part of the last Eels Matts team to play in a grand final.
Will Penisini, Jake Arthur, Sean Russell and Sam Loizou ventured back to familiar surroundings to wish the team well, and the message would have been clear to the young players in the room.
It was only three years ago that these four played in the then under 16 competition. All were also team mates at the Rouse Hill Rhinos. They have now progressed to the full time squad.
But further to that, a further three players from that 2018 Matts grand final team completed the recent NRL preseason, and another four players remain in the Eels pathway system.
That’s a total of eleven Matts graduates continuing in their journey with the club. Not a bad strike rate from one year.
I suspect that this current group will also produce its own success stories.
The Grand Final
Some of you might have ventured out to Leichhardt Oval to cheer the team on. Others might have watched the live stream or followed Forty’s live blog.
Regardless, you would have witnessed the fight in this Eels Matts team.
The Manly team were undefeated for a reason, and their “name” players produced big time to match their big frames. They probably also produced their best team performance of the season.
But the Eels boys never backed away from the physicality of the contest, and their determination was exemplified when they scored the last try of the match.
Forty and I will offer more observations about the grand final when we speak with Joey Grima in this week’s episode of The Tip Sheet.
A Word Or Two Of Thanks
The Harold Matts Grand Final wrapped up The Cumberland Throw’s coverage of the Junior Rep competitions.
It’s been a busy year, beginning with the trials and continuing through to the Big Dance.
Along the way, we’ve documented jersey presentations, brought you video of a week in the life of an SG Ball team, kept you up to date via Joey Grima’s weekly segment on The Tip Sheet, and of course provided match day blogs.
Joey, head coaches Craig Brennan (Ball), Steve O’Dea (Matts) and Ryan Walker (Gale), along with all of the staff and players, have made TCT very welcome on match days and at training.
The support of Parramatta Leagues Club and the Eels is integral to our Junior Rep teams, just as it is for the clubs that compete in the Parramatta Junior District Rugby League competitions. This season, we’ve appreciated their support of TCT’s pathways content.
Importantly, our junior content won’t finish with the grand final. Stand by as The Cumberland Throw will feature many of the local junior clubs in our upcoming “Parra Stories” series.
There’s so much terrific community work that happens via the junior clubs and we intend documenting this for our readers.
Bench Bring It Again
Though this has been a special pathways edition of Bumpers Up, it would be remiss of me to not comment on the impact of the Eels NRL bench in yet another victory.
Brad Arthur provided the master stroke against the Broncos when three bench players were introduced very early in the energy sapping conditions in Darwin. Their contributions were significant, and the injection of energy which they provided effectively took the game away from Brisbane.
BA continued to mix it up on Saturday, firstly selecting Haze Dunster as part of the interchange, then elevating both Kaufusi and Matterson to the starting side.
Introducing Lane from the bench allowed Parra to continue his transition to being a middle forward, whilst swapping Oregon and Junior was a potential dress rehearsal for Origin time.
But it was once again Bryce Cartwright who proved to be a point of difference as an interchange forward. His two try assists originated from effort plays – the chase to catch a Moses bomb, then rushing to the opposite edge to provide the key pass in a blindside play.
The depth now available for selection has provided the coach with arguably more options than there have ever been at his disposal. It will be interesting to see how Arthur makes use of his interchange as we head deeper into the season.
Beware The Cooked Chook
Don’t let the Roosters’ long injury list fool you for one minute.
Despite the type of player absence that would derail the premiership aspirations of most clubs, the Tri-Colours will once again field a seriously impressive team this week against the Eels.
Indeed, were the players in this week’s team unexpectedly put on the open market, most other clubs would launch into a signing frenzy to secure them.
It goes without saying that playing a Roosters team without Keary, Morris, Collins, Cordner and others is far more appealing that taking them on at full strength.
But try telling any of their recent opponents that they still can’t go all the way.
Our Eels will need to be near their best to get the win on Friday night.
Having a full Stadium of Eels supporters won’t hurt either!