“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
After last weekend, I can’t help but channel the famous Howard Beale character to express my rage.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, your usually affable correspondent is on the angry pills and ready to vent.
As far as I’m concerned, the rugby league world is going mad, with stupidity or ignorance in abundance.
Maybe it’s the frustrations of being in lockdown. Maybe I’m the one with blinkered vision finding fault where none exists.
Fortunately, this column provides the cathartic medium for my mental health.
Hold on tight everyone, it’s going to be a bumpy ride on this edition of Bumpers Up.
Everyone is entitled to support their club in whatever way they choose. You spend your money and invest your time and emotions in following your team, so you can feel however you want about the performances and results.
But as a creator and reader of social media content, there are times when the reactions from some Eels supporters leave me dumbfounded and even angry.
This was very much the case when the Eels lost to the ladder leading Panthers by one point. The prevalence of doomsday predictors and “sack BA” proponents defied belief.
I won’t ignore the fact that the Riff were without Cleary or even Edwards. It didn’t hurt our cause. Yet, the media and those supporters almost blissfully overlooked that Parra were without Mahoney and were likewise affected.
The fact is that Parra played a brand of football that should have delivered a win over their Western Sydney rivals, and would have were it not for the missed kicks. The match featured two quality teams, two big rivals, and a one point margin either way was a fair reflection of the ebbs and flows of the game.
In the instant reaction episode of The Tip Sheet podcast, I expressed my annoyance at the match commentary which praised the Panthers and criticised the Eels. It was incongruent with the vision unfolding on the screen. It’s not the first time that this has happened, nor will it be the last. Unfortunately, it seems that there were Eels supporters whose perceptions were influenced by the likes of Ennis and co.
Parra returned to a brand of football which works best for them. Until Gutho threw the intercept late in the first half, the Eels were strangling the Panthers out of the contest, dominating field position and offering the Riff minimal opportunities to attack. In the second half, the Eels defence held resolute against a Penrith offence fuelled by their six again boosted possession.
The expletives flowed at various times at my house, most notably when Burton kicked the field goal and then when Moses missed the penalty kick. There were individual errors which also had me fuming. All up, I was as upset as any supporter would be with the loss.
However, in light of the opposition, the standard of the contest, and in the context of all of the blowout scores, this was a game of many positives.
To find otherwise was ridiculous.
The Cumquat King
I was at odds with myself about whether to give the comments of Ray Hadley any more oxygen. Ultimately I decided that I would make this my parting shot as I don’t intend to highlight his nonsense commentary any further.
I don’t choose to listen to this shock jock. In fact, rather than listening to his oft repeated comparison of the intelligence of footy players to small Chinese fruit trees, I now switch off NRL 360 during his screen time.
However, circumstances sometimes place me within earshot of radios tuned to his program. I also receive text messages from friends whenever this bloke makes absurd comments.
I’m not sure why Mr Hadley is so critical of the club or the coach, but his track record is reaching ridiculous proportions. And the truth doesn’t always feature.
I recently wrote about his laughable description of Papali’i’s knee incident as being one of the worst things he’d seen on a rugby league field in 35 years. When it only attracted a fine, he reacted by naming and criticising the members of the MRC.
But it is his unrelenting campaign against Brad Arthur which has now earned my ire.
At various times over the years he’s made claims that Arthur has lost the dressing sheds.
This week, in his morning program, he referred to social media stories about the Eels replacing their coach. After saying that such people won’t get their wish given the coach’s contract status, he then went on to state that he “knows there are people within the Parramatta club unhappy with the coach”.
Who Ray? You imply that it is people within the club, and by doing so, you try to ignite sparks of instability.
Well Bolts, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many people “within the Parramatta club” numerous times over recent years and not once have I heard even the slightest whisper of dissatisfaction with the job being done by Arthur. Quite the opposite, as evidenced by his contract extensions.
I won’t pretend that there aren’t Eels supporters out there who are critical of BA, after all, I’ve had a shot at them in the section above.
But to state that there are club insiders with the same opinion, is nothing more than the work of a trouble maker, not a commentator.
Hadley enjoys a massive audience, which makes him an “influencer”. His ego is renowned. To be fair, it’s probably the driving force behind his success.
Thankfully, his influence on the Eels is negligible. His comments are nothing more than an annoyance to people like me.
I now declare this column a Hadley free zone.
Smell The Roses People
Are the lop-sided scores, the mid year transfers, the conduct of players getting up your nose?
If you’re an Eels supporter, it’s time to stop and smell the roses.
I’m no fan of the rule changes (more on that shortly) but our team has been one of the few to adjust to the “new game”. To that end, our losses have had identifiable issues which can be, and have been, addressed.
Other clubs are displaying a multitude of signs of internal disharmony. Of course, some of that can be explained by the strains of a losing season, but for certain teams, it looks to be the root cause of their form.
And when it comes to the Dragons, they responded to a victory with their now infamous Party at Paulie’s – apparently disobeying explicit instructions from team management.
In contrast, Brad Arthur and Eels management have reinvented the Eels culture. Talk to any player who’s arrived at the Eels from another club and you’ll begin to understand the family environment that’s been created.
With the club aiming to break the premiership drought, the foundations for success are being built.
We now cheer for a team that we confidently expect to win most games, in the best suburban stadium in Australia, backed by the largest paid up membership base in the NRL.
Throw in the Kellyville development, the professionalism of Eels management, and the financial support of the successful Parramatta Leagues Club and there is great cause for confidence.
Peter – ConfessIon Is Good For The Soul
As a lifetime follower of rugby league, my dismay about recent rule changes is rapidly becoming a fury.
It’s not too late for the NRL to admit that they’ve made mistakes, but there’s no indication that such a confession is on the horizon.
Praise is due for Peter V’landys, Andrew Abdo and the “can-do” attitude of the new NRL administration. Their navigation of the code through the challenges of COVID has been world-leading.
What was even more impressive was the strength of NRL leadership in the face of the precarious financial situation of the organisation when the pandemic first struck.
But just as fans should acknowledge the magnificent achievements of PVL and Co, so too must Peter V recognise that the “make it happen” stance has not worked with regard to the rule changes thrust suddenly upon the game.
The most significant impact of the rule changes relate to unstoppable momentum in games and the corresponding fatigue.
The question must be asked, wasn’t this an obvious consequence? And if not, wouldn’t it have been evident if they’d taken the time to trial it in lower grade competitions?
Consider this sequence. Back in 2016, the number of interchanges was reduced from ten to eight. In 2020, the six again was introduced. Despite evidence suggesting that the rule had created confusion and increased fatigue, the NRL more than doubled down in 2021 by expanding the scope of six again to offsides, along with eliminating scrums from touch finders.
There are two questions which come to mind.
Firstly, what was so wrong about the game in 2019 that it had to be so fundamentally changed? And make no mistake, the 2021 version is a different product.
Secondly, do those who conceived of this sequence of changes truly understand the game?
Yes, there is a gulf between the top and bottom teams in the NRL which can explain some lop-sided scores. However, we are regularly witnessing unexpected blow outs in matches between supposed evenly-matched teams. Just last week there were scoreboard massacres in Knights vs Cowboys, Titans vs Raiders and Storm vs Roosters.
In each of those matches, once momentum was gained, it was game over.
If your team is being flogged, you won’t arrest momentum from an aggressive opposition giving you six again on an early tackle as they pin you on your line.
Furthermore, you won’t have an opportunity to slow things up or control the tempo by kicking for touch. In one fell swoop the NRL administration removed a century old staple of the game.
This scrum rule change would have been understandable if they were removing an unskilled tactic from the game. However, the intelligent half or game manager used to be able to take hold of the direction of a game, or create much needed rest periods for their forwards, via their kicking game.
Now such skill simply results in a turn over for the opposition with barely a stoppage. And don’t dare suggest that any stoppage is bad. Players are human. Consequential stoppages are an essential part of the game. If you want nothing but hand-overs, then may I suggest watching touch footy.
There are suggestions that the NRL is considering changes to restarts, with scoring teams kicking off. Have they considered the impact that will bring? It seems like rules on the fly, bringing in a new rule to address the problems created by their previous changes.
Surely the simplest solution is to admit error, roll back some rules, and let the game find its feet for a period of time.
Right now, I’m looking for wisdom rather than strength in NRL leadership.
The Draw Loses Integrity
I am somewhat dumbfounded by the lack of criticism of the NRL’s actions in punishing the Dragons players.
The suspension of the “Festive 13” for Party at Paulie’s has affected far more than the Red V’s finals chances. What was never a level playing field in the draw has now become seriously unbalanced.
Forcing St George to go into their next four matches with a significant combination of players absent via suspension will basically award the two competition points to each of their opponents. Furthermore, each of their opponents are likely to drastically improve their for and against.
Some may say that such is the luck of the draw. It’s true that each season some teams have the good fortune of facing the likes of Melbourne, Penrith or Easts without their stars during Origin. Injury riddled periods for some teams can also be beneficial for some opponents. For example, the lucky teams faced Manly early in the year when Turbo was absent. It happens, that’s footy.
That said, Manly, Gold Coast, Souths and Canberra are about to receive an advantage that other teams do not, and it’s one signed off on by the NRL. For the Sea Eagles, it’s their second such gift.
In deciding to spread out the suspensions of the Dragons players, the NRL were reportedly concerned about not punishing the club with the limited availability of players due to
However, the first duty of the NRL should have been protecting the integrity of the competition.
If they were prepared to effectively write off four weeks of the Dragons competing for a win, then surely an eight point penalty should have been the best action.
Allowing the players to take the field would mean that their opponents have to earn a win – just as every club had to do.
As it stands, four teams are being handed a decidedly unfair advantage.
A Positive Note
Congratulations to Mitch Moses for his selection as the new Blues half.
Since moving to the Eels, Moses has worked tirelessly to improve his game. Though unjustly described as being a “flat track bully”, Mitch has ignored the critics to become an effective game manager as well as a devastating ball runner.
It’s no coincidence that the top four clubs are the homes for the best four halves. Whether Fittler chose Moses or Reynolds, he was selecting a player from a leading club and in doing so bringing in a player in form.
Congratulations also go to Clint Gutherson and to former Eel, Stefano Utoikamanu, for their inclusion in the extended Blues squad. In being pleased for Stefano, I must also admit to being stunned that RCG was overlooked. The big bloke with the even bigger mo is the form prop in the NRL.
He must wonder what he has to do to get selected.
One More Positive
Exciting times lie ahead with the creation of the Eels inaugural NRLW roster.
Last week’s announcement that Simaima Taufa, Tiana Penitani, Botille Vette-Welsh, Filomina Hanisi, and Kennedy Cherrington will set the ball rolling as the club’s marquee recruits certainly stirred up plenty of interest in Eels supporter groups.
It’s going to be a challenge for each of the six clubs to be ready to play in a relatively short time, but every club will be on equal footing in terms of assembling their squads.
Having an NRL team to cheer for this season will be massive for the Blue and Gold Army as well as a huge fillip for the competition. It will be interesting to find out how many members are adding NRLW memberships to their package.