That victory over the Bulldogs was a strange game to witness at the ground for this Parramatta fan.
Normally, whenever we play the Bulldogs, I expect a close game with moments before and during the game when I fear that we may suffer defeat.
However, both in the lead up to and during this game I never really felt that the Bulldogs would challenge us. It was far from a perfect game from our Eels but the boys held their nerve when they had to, straightened the attack when they needed it, and in my eyes always had that game under control.
From the stands my feeling of confidence with regards to the result during this game probably says as much about our team’s development as it does the Bulldogs.
For me, the game played out as I expected. We had that class across the park to step up and do what needed to be done.
Like many in the stands and watching at home, I feared the worst when Nathan Brown went down. Hopefully for him and the team he makes a speedy recovery. Many who have read my column in the past know that I rate Nathan Brown highly as he brings some intangibles to our team that we cannot easily replace in big games .
In looking back at the game, I want to focus on two plays – one that led up to the second try for Sivo and one that led up to the try by Marata.
There was beauty in the execution of each try. It took enormous skill, and from the stands a few things stood out that really impressed me.
Firstly, let’s consider Bryce Cartwright.
When Carty was mooted to be coming to Parra I confess that I did not understand the signing. It’s not that I was concerned about it as I knew he was not on a big contract but I just did not think we needed the distraction.
After watching him play three games live at the ground, most notably the Dragons and this game against the Bulldogs, I put my hand up to being wrong.
While Cartwright was criticised in the Dragons game, I felt that he had simply tried too hard and therefore I was willing to give both Bryce and the coaches some time to work with him and help him fit into our way of playing.
Though many will rightly talk about his beautiful pass to Marata for the try, it was Bryce’s involvement in the lead up that was so impressive to witness in action.
Bryce was over on the left and followed Moses across the field as the available inside runner when Moses threw the long pass out to RCG. RCG got a quick play the ball and Dylan Brown, who went to dummy half signalled for Bryce to wrap around.
We all saw the end result.
The play only happened because Bryce played his role and stayed in the game.
Last week I saw him stay in the game in defence, this week I watched at the ground as he stayed in the game as an attacker. He did not try any miracle offloads. I feel he is starting to realise that with the attacking players and straight runners he has around him, that playing fast, direct and quick football is what we do best. It just may be that his ability to bamboozle retreating defences might become more and more evident as the season progresses.
After not understanding Cartwright’s recruitment, I can now see why I am simply a supporter and nothing else as I have a feeling this team is going to be as good for helping Cartwright resurrect his career as he will be in helping us take that next step. He is a uniquely skillful young man who is willing to be coached.
Moving on to Maika’s second try, I singled this out because it was beautifully executed. There was so much to like about the try. Dylan and Mitch combining with Gutho. Gutho’s skilful tap on and Maika finishing powerfully.
But what I really liked about the try was how it was set up in the previous attacking set.
From the stands we made the Bulldogs defence become confused. In the past we have been guilty of being a little predictable with our shifts. But in the previous set we ran almost the exact same play but Gutho passed the ball to Opacic who came back on the inside.
When we set up for the shift on the play we scored on, we had two forwards offering options for our playmakers, Opacic running the same line as the previous set, but this time the ball was directed towards Sivo.
From behind the goalposts, you can see the decisions that defenders make and we could clearly see the Bulldogs defence had no idea who was going to get the ball so they guessed and got it wrong. The executions and options were so impressive. You could genuinely run that play and have three- four different players end up with the ball.
That said, against the top teams you may need to run that same play a number of times before you get the misread. That is why I believe our destiny at this point in the season is entirely in our own hands. If we are willing to be disciplined and patient enough in attack, stay in the middle corridor and tire out the opposition, get the repeat sets and stay in the attacking zone, we have the sort of attack across the field that could open up even the best defences, especially once fatigue has set in.
I am looking forward to going back to Bankwest this week as we take on the Roosters. I am a little nervous, not because I don’t think we can beat them but more so because much like our recent wins against the Storm and Raiders I cannot remember the last time I watched my Eels beat the Roosters live.
I can certainly recall too many thrashings from the Roosters at the SFS for my liking.
What I do know is that the Roosters will not beat themselves. They will hold the ball, they will defend as a straight line.
I have absolute confidence that the Eels have the game to beat them, but they need to play with patience and discipline. If the Eels do that I feel they may just overcome an obstacle that has been in their way as as they climb the ladder – namely finding a way to beat the Roosters.
I expect that the fans will turn out in big numbers as this team, our team, have certainly earnt our support.
My family and I cannot wait to welcome our boys onto the ground with one almighty cheer.