The Cumberland Throw

Bumpers Up – May 31, 2021: There’s The Good And The Not So Good

Isn’t it terrific to be an Eels supporter!

Just when we think that everything is smooth sailing, and we’re one big happy family, a couple of losses soon has us all pointing fingers at coaches, players, administrators and even fellow supporters.

I guess that comes with the territory of being passionate about your team and your sport.

Just on that, who didn’t see that there’d be problems emanating from the NRL’s knee jerk crackdown on head contact tackles? Those of us raising concerns are now being labelled dinosaurs. I reckon that unlike the powers that be, critics of the NRL see the bigger picture. More on that later.

On the Eels front, outside of the losses, we’ve had debuts, re-signings, Origin selections and junior pathways news.

With so much going on, there’s only one thing left to do.

Hit it up – bumpers up!

The Good Stuff

I’m in the Mitch Moses bunker.

Moses in action (image credit Channel 9)

News of him committing to the Eels until the end of 2024 is a huge bonus for the club. Very few halfbacks are in the Thurston or Cronk category, but Moses is one of the best in the NRL and I continue to see growth in him as a person and a player.

Speaking of halves, Jake Arthur had his contract upgraded and extended. Though an upgrade was initially required so that he could be selected for his debut, the contract is a sound investment for the future.

There’s a shortage of quality halves in the NRL and I can assure readers that Jake’s form in NSW Cup had attracted the attention of rival clubs. His appearances in the NRL would have only increased that attention. Undoubtedly, the preference for Jake was to remain at Parra with BA, but if the club had taken that for granted it would not have been respecting either Jake or Brad.

The other recent signing news was Ryan Matterson taking up his player option for 2022. Given Matto’s issues with concussion, this is probably a wise move from both parties. I reckon he won’t put himself at risk if he has further head knocks, and the club has taken a strong player well-being stance with him this year.

Now that Nathan Brown, Mitch Moses, Ryan Matterson and Jake Arthur are sorted, there are more players looking to have their contracts finalised for next year. This includes a host of individuals who’ve played NRL this season, such as Ferguson, Smith, Stone, Cartwright, Opacic, Lussick and Hipgrave.

I’m expecting some news on that front over the next few weeks.


More Good Stuff

Jake Arthur’s debut was like a rugby league fairytale. Coming into the team in Magic Round, then scoring the game-clinching try in front of family and friends, the script was perfect.

The two Eels losses since then were not stories from the same book, but the lessons learned would have been just as critical.

Jake Arthur

All players need the reality of matches that don’t go to plan. The elation of winning might be what everyone strives for, but you don’t discover how to be better without receiving a bit of schooling.

I thought Jake acquitted himself quite well in his three match stint. He came away with tries and try assists to his name, proving that he plays heads up football and isn’t overawed by the pressure of top grade footy.

For an 18 year old who’s come from schoolboy football in 2020, with only one game of Flegg and seven games of NSW Cup to his name, it’s been an impressive start.


Even More Good Stuff

The Cumberland Throw thoroughly enjoyed our coverage of the Junior Rep season, and our investment in junior football in the district will be continuing with our Parra Stories feature series. Please check out our recent post which provides an overview of the entire district.

Joey Grima and the City Reps

Last Wednesday we were honoured to attend the Parramatta Junior Rep Presentation Night. We were both surprised and appreciative of the acknowledgement given to us in the speech by SG Ball coach, Craig Brennan.

I’ve already dedicated a post to the evening, but the overwhelming vibe of Parra being a unified club was what grabbed my attention.

The evening was attended by senior Eels management, Leagues Club and Football Club directors and current full time squad members. Terrific applause greeted the award winners, and players and staff across the three teams mingled and took photos to celebrate their seasons and the event.

And long after the formalities ended, the majority of those in attendance were still mixing and taking photos.


The Not So Good

Last week, Dean Ritchie wrote a thought provoking column about the mental load carried by NRL coaches. Earlier in the year, we witnessed players standing up to on line abuse and threats.

This is the ugly side of professional sport.

As supporters we have the right to express disappointment or to criticise performances. But when it becomes personal, a line is crossed.

We cannot begin to understand what high profile athletes and coaches are subjected to. The majority of supporters realise that those in the spotlight have a life and families away from their sport, but there is no shortage of those who attack without hesitation.

For some there are no boundaries. They attack the partners, and even the children. It’s totally abhorrent, and regardless of the high salaries earned by the identity, it shouldn’t come with the territory.

Unfortunately, the reality is that there will always be those who will cross lines. Those who cannot see beyond their own anger or frustration, or those that get some sort of demented enjoyment out of hurting others.

But if we all reflect on what we say, or call out those that cross the line, maybe things can improve just a bit.


More Not So Good

The Eels have unquestionably hit a bump on their 2021 season road. It would be unrealistic to not expect losses in any season (Penrith might disagree) but some defeats are uglier than others.

Tom Turbo created havoc on our right edge. (Photo credit Channel 9)

Losing to Manly and Souths in consecutive weeks isn’t the end of the world, let alone the end of the hopes for the season. But we’d be sticking our heads in the sand to not recognise the considerable problems with the Eels right side defence.

The Eels operate a compressed defence. If it’s working, the ball doesn’t get out wide as often as it has over the past two weeks. There is a capacity to slide within that method, and to be fair, the system was working through the early rounds.

However, something has gone very, very wrong over the past two rounds.

Last week I wrote that it was folly to look for a single scapegoat in Waqa. The loss to Manly started in the middle, and the entire defence line – not just the edges – didn’t get the job done. The loss to Souths featured even more right side problems, this time without Waqa there.

I’m still of the opinion that our defensive line was too static against the Rabbitohs. However, the ease of the overlaps on the right was astonishing and it was acknowledged by BA in the post match presser.

There is no shortage of work dedicated to defence at training. Maybe a rethink about the system used should be on the agenda.

Even More Not So Good

I won’t be the first or the last to write about where the NRL is getting it wrong.

You cannot justify decisions based on the best of intentions and little else. And surely this is the point that critics are trying to make.

The supporters of Mr V’landys’ crack down on head shots point to the necessity in his decisive action to eliminate a big negative in the game.

Peter V’landys

His opponents don’t disagree with the intent, but rather the method. And that seems to be missed by his supporters who want change at any cost.

Reducing the incidence of high, deliberate or reckless contact to the head can definitely be achieved by decisive on field action and meaningful suspensions.

However, we seem to be throwing the baby out with the bath water in penalising defenders for actions that are completely unavoidable. The very fabric of defence in our game is now under threat.

Rugby league is a tough contact sport. There will be accidental contact to the head. It is unavoidable because whether they are attacking or defending, players inevitably put their heads into positions that result in such contact.

Ball carriers fall into tackles in a split second – they stumble, they lower their body to beat a defender or to hit the ground on their stomach in order to have a fast play the ball. 

These are accidents which cannot be significantly reduced without putting the onus on the ball carrier.

Unfortunately, the rushed introduction of the crackdown ensured that consultation wasn’t sought about the method of the implementation. Just like the six again rule, it’s all about intent and little about practicalities.

Consequently, players are being penalised for contact that is both accidental and insignificant. Worse still, the bunker is directing referees to go back to earlier plays to award penalties.

The number of players placed on report is absurd, and games are being impacted by such calls. In this round alone, Reed Mahoney and Nathan Brown escaped suspension as they were eventually found to have no case to answer.

Given that the majority of these reports are made after a bunker review, it’s obvious that there is a disconnect between the intent of the crackdown and the delivery via the officials.

Is that really a surprise?


Origin Selections

A huge congratulations to Junior Paulo and Reed Mahoney for their respective selections in the Blues and Maroons squads. There a couple of other Eels, especially RCG, who could consider themselves unlucky to miss out on a spot.

Junior will be looking to go one better this year by being the member of the winning squad, whilst Reed is no doubt overjoyed to earn his first call up for Queensland.

It will be an interesting moment when they face each other for the first time, but that mate against mate has always been a major attraction of Origin footy.

Eels forever!


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25 thoughts on “Bumpers Up – May 31, 2021: There’s The Good And The Not So Good

  1. Troy

    The passion brings the odd silly comment but the most important thing to remember is that no one has carried the trophy around the ground yet. Heads up, work harder, fix our shortcomings, play to our strength, we have a lot to be optimistic about…..

  2. Big Derek

    Think we all understand that there will be bumps in the road, and that happens every year. The most disconcerting thing is it’s the same friggin bump that we seem to find each year. That bump has reoccurred with the compressed defence , which apparently is favoured by the defence coach.

    Despite all the work done, it’s not working and easy to read and good opposition coaches with decent attack take advantage.

    No way will I advocate a change in the Head Coach, but refreshing the assistants is probably overdue, this is what we see at other clubs to bring in fresh voices and tactics. If we see more issues on failing to number up and getting beat continually on the right edge, it shouldn’t be difficult to implement change at seasons end.

    1. sixties

      Derek, you and I have disagreed on this many times. And I do so on the basis that we have two fresh coaching voices in Joey Johns and Ryan Carr, and a fresh voice in trainer Trent Elkin. Dave Kidwell has only been on board since mid 2018 – so just on three years. The only long term assistant is Steve Murphy, and just like many head coaches have an assistant that they like to work with (and those that move around have been known to take assistants with them), Murf is obviously that bloke for Brad.
      Ultimately, Brad would decide about which defensive systems we use, and what changes – systems or staffing, are needed.

        1. sixties

          Yes, he has been a ten year assistant at the Roosters, and obviously someone that Trent Robinson trusted and valued.

      1. Big Derek

        Of course BA will make the decision, we all have opinions and it’s good that we can talk about differences. Hope for the good of the club, I am completely wrong, as that would see the club improve both their defence and do more in attack than block and sweep plays.

        There’s a lot of water to pass under the bridge and let’s see where we are at the end of what should be a successful season given the roster.

  3. John Eel

    Firstly I would like to hear more of the discussion between BD and Sixties. There clearly is no easy solution to this problem as it has lingered here for a while and was diabolical last season

    A surprise for me also is that only 2 Eels players were picked up for SOO. The way I see it though, especially in the case of RCG, is that their loss is our gain.

    With the crack down on high shots I raised the issue a few weeks back regarding defenders getting hurt while making a tackle. It happened again on the weekend. I need to look at it again but where do ball runners fit into this philosophy of going on report or in the bin. A head knock obviously can be just as debilitating to a defender as it is to a ball carrier.

    There are three areas of concern here. Firstly a defender getting hit with a stray knee or hip, a defender getting hit by a ball carrier with elbows raised and thirdly a player getting hit by friendly fire

    With possibly the exception of the second contact these are basically accidents. As far as damage to the player from head contact goes these three are as dangerous as a swinging arm.

    These are examples of accidental contact that have the potential to cause as much litigation pain as any contact to the head. What they are currently doing is not going to prevent this type of head contact

    1. Milo

      Well said John,
      The issue with defence has caused our seasons to falter, and maybe not solely but its been a huge issue. The coaches need to fix it, its simple. I am not seeing us a genuine ‘top 4’ team I am afraid. Yes we are 9 and 3 but the last two weeks have been poor….and I believe good teams do not lose like that. I hope I am wrong.

      John, the words ‘crack down and NRL’ go hand in hand like a Curry Beef from Kens. Its reactionary stuff and I will say it again, V”Landys for me has not been the saviour as the media make out; yes he has done some good but this crack down is mid season again and not unlike all the other crack downs.
      I cannot watch the games anymore beside my own team as the officiating etc. has become the distraction.

      1. sixties

        Milo, I don’t disagree about our form not being premiership winning based on the last two weeks. But I would then argue that only two teams would make up the top four based on that criteria. The Rabbitohs, Roosters and Manly have all had bad losses. In fact one could argue that the Eels have not had a loss of the scale that the others have experienced. And if we suggest that Manly hasn’t with Turbo in their team, I would counter that Parra hasn’t with Dylan present.
        if we only look at recent form and ignore everything else possible, then only Penrith and the Storm have legitimate claims. I guess we’ll see over the coming months whether anyone can consistently step up to match them.

        1. Milo

          I am happy to chat about this one mate, even over a Curry beef and Mornay. I guess my point relates to last season where we fell away and developed bad habits again in defence. To me that is what ended the season, as we faltered towards the end of the season. It seems some similar patterns are showing.
          Personally I see Penrith and Melbourne as the yardstick, and of course that can change, but this is based on defence.
          We need to be great over the park against these teams and while we cannot win each week, its the effort, application and attitude for me that needs to be consistent.

    2. sixties

      Absolutely true John. There are two major aspects to the game – attack and defence, and the crackdown is putting all of the onus on the defender. Though heaven help our game when their attention does turn there. It won’t look like footy as we know it and the stage will be set for a rival competition to be established.

    3. Big Derek

      John, there’s obviously an issue and if Sterlo (who never openly criticise the club) takes to the defence and its structure in his review, then there should be attention paid. I just know from junior coaches that I speak to are aware of the frailties of the defence system, and are surprised of how it is employed.

      I’m not technical on it, but it needs adjustment.

      1. Bigger roy

        Which junior coach ?? Junior being the key word here , tv critics that coach juniors at simple levels but know everything , their resumes are flimsy results with kids in kids comps , the higher you go the harder and faster it gets i would think , wait till they coach men before they declare themselves gurus ! As for sterlo hes never put anything back into the game let alone the club .

      2. sixties

        I’ve said before that in my opinion the problems are with players not doing what they should. The video analysis from Sterlo actually pointed out that the players identified the wrong attacker. That said, if you don’t have the players who can execute your systems, you either change the players or change the system. If you can’t change the players at this time of year, maybe there is no choice but to change how it’s done.

        1. Milo

          That is spot on 60’s and to me its the coaches who need to make some tough calls on players.
          I just feel while our defence has been good up till Manly, it seems the last two games when we have played against other teams in the 8, albeit teams on the up and with mixed results we have not cut the mustard. I hope we do not falter out like we did in 2020.

          1. John Eel

            Milo to your point that the defence was good up until we met Manly.

            What changed at that point was that we lost Dylan and Marata to suspension.

            Dylan was making 20+ tackles per game with very few misses. Given his earlier life in the centres Marata was rock solid. Tackling as hard as any Eels centre since Ben Smith.

            Opacic has been a very good defender up until the Bunnies game.

            The problem as I see it is that the compressed defence was working until Dylan was removed.

            His cover tackles are almost Raper like. He has been missed.

            The club according to the media was chasing Staggs for next season. That door has closed.

            For this year BA will have to make do with what they have. I think that he will be hoping that Dylan takes up where he left off.

            I think that he will be tempted in the meantime to leave Opacic at right centre because he badly needs Marata’s go forward off the bench.

  4. BDon

    Tks sixties. Is Papali’i signed beyond this year?
    i watched a few games on the weekend to see if anyone else was being carved up like us out wider. Of the better teams…no. I was trying to see where we re getting it wrong, using the many plausible theories I read here. Here’s the letdown, it’s not blog friendly, it’s a book, and you get distracted by one continuous message, the good sides always have numbers and don’t sit on their heels, then last resort, scramble really well, usually in numbers. And then you hope Brad Arthur can solve it, because I can’t.

    1. Anonymous

      It always comes down to the quality of your squad , theres a few holes in it out wide , warren ryan always said , i coach a lot better when ive got all the best players “ its that simple , we need to recruit a couple of seasoned backs for 2022, weve got plenty of tough forwards emerging in reggies and a few likely prospects in flegg so spend all money on backs my opinion !

      1. John Eel

        The club has identified that the backline needs strengthening. Their interest in Katoni Staggs is proof of that.

        The problem is the recruitment fix is not available this season. Nor was it available last season with Michael Jennings taking a big chunk of cap.

        1. Anonymous

          Fair call , we improved opacic , theres more fair price players out there john i think looking for coaching and opportunitys .

      2. BDon

        Anon and JE..I watched Sterlos review, it’s hard to argue that wrong decisions are being made, and his other point was pushing across by the middle and ruck edge defenders. Aren’t these things resolvable? Where is the marshalling and communication on field? There’s probably something more than natural football ability, the player personalities could work against competent outcomes. I watched Cherry Evans, in red zone defence, from around where Jake Arthur was in the line,DCE persistently moves up quickly to immediately throw the inside ball players off stride, we just seem to sit back and wait, which allows the training drills to kick in for our opponents, and,in these clips, Opacic react to danger. Having said that, Warren Ryan was spot on.

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