The Cumberland Throw

Post Game Grades – Round 23 vs Cowboys


Parramatta Eels 32

NQ Cowboys 16


We won. By golly, we won.

Almost from the kickoff you could see the Eels looked infinitely more interested in the outcome, in playing attack and defending our (many) errors. There was intent from the halves in attack, and from the forwards in our defence.

It was also good to see the boys smiling a bit, too and Will Penisini got his first ever NRL try – how good!

On the other hand, it’s still not where we would hope it would be (even though it’s miles better than what the Eels have been dishing up in recent weeks).

At one point looking like locks for the Top 4, the Eels have now likely locked in that 6th spot (although theoretically could move up) and the results of the next two weeks probably won’t change that. With that said, mistakes like tonight will mean we are only cannon fodder to the top teams and stand next to no chance come Finals. We’ve still got some work to do.

However, some of the butter finger butchery of a couple of our forwards (I won’t mention names, but these tweets pretty much do) is beyond concerning, particularly as they’ve each got a couple of years worth of contract up their respective sleeves and we only have four seats on the bench.

Finally, despite the slew of points, I’m still not in love with our attacking shapes. In short, I’ve always thought Eels block plays are too easy to read when there is no legitimate hard running inside option; in most instances defenders can simply pick off Gutho/the half out the back and if the Eels do go short, the forward is easy enough to stop. If the Cowboys have got it figured out (as they did on more than one occasion tonight) you can be sure that Melbourne, Penrith and friends have too.

There’s not a great deal of quirky stats tonight, although the fact that Tom Dearden has still NEVER won a game he started is worth noting. Coming into tonight’s clash, Parramatta lead the NRL for offloads with the Cowboys dead last, but were nonetheless out offloaded by their northern counterparts 11 to 8. 

Speaking of flinging the ball around, Parra’s completion rate in the first half (15 from 23, 65%) was putrid, but thankfully the ship steadied in the second stanza (17 from 20, 85%).

In other news:

  • Cowboys 53% possession, Eels 47%
  • Cowboys and Eels both with 14 errors
  • Cowboys 4 linebreaks, Eels 5
  • Cowboys 1954 running metres, Eels 2098
  • Cowboys 362 post contact metres, Eels 387
  • Cowboys 38 missed tackles, Eels 30

I think people could make a case for Waqa Blake or even Will Penisini tonight; but the Prince of Egypt was back to some of his best form tonight, and when Mitch even gets in the same postcode as his best form, he’s usually very tough to beat for this award. The linebreak (1) and linebreak assists (2) were nice, the try assists (another 3) splendid, but I thought it was the return of his running game (4 for 63m) and in particular his sublime kicking game (11 for 473m) which made all the difference in the world.

It feels good to give it out again. Ladies and gentlemen, your MVP for tonight’s victory over the North Queensland Cowboys is Mitchell Moses.




Clint Gutherson

1 – Fullback

Sending up more Captain’s Challenges than you’ve had hot dinners, Clint Gutherson looked much more like his usual self tonight, getting through a try, 15 runs for 139m, 3 tackle breaks and booting 4 goals. I’m also glad I can now release myself from the theory that the Eels runs of form was somehow tied to Gutho’s haircut.


Maika Sivo

2 – Left Wing

I’m no doctor (or NRL Physio), but that knee injury did not look good for the Big Fijian. I hope I’m wrong, but depending on how the Finals pan out, I think it might be the last we see of him in 2021.


Will Penisini

3 – Right Centre

I really, really, really like Will Penisini.

It was so great to see him score his first ever career try tonight, adding it to his impressive statistical tally of 11 runs, 111m, 1 offload and 12 tackles.

For first grade stud comparisons look no further than the recently retired Michael Jennings, not just in style but in body shape and footwork too. Will is a legitimate strike centre and I think he will be costing us a lot more money in a couple of years time; and he’ll be worth the investment.

I’m still working on a PG appropriate nickname, however.


Waqa Blake

4 – Left Centre

Six weeks ago, who would have thought that Waqa Blake would be consistently be our best player, and would go within a whisker of claiming MVP?

Not me.

But your prayers have been answered and Waqa has been turning in some of his most consistent footy in Blue & Gold in recent weeks, almost in direct contradiction to the collective form of his teammates. Sure it’s by no means perfect (a backwards pass to Dylan Brown would have been nice), but a statline reading a try, 17 runs for 145m, 2 linebreaks and a team high 8 tackle breaks? Forget COVID, scientists are concerned that if Waqa’s hot run of form continues for much longer, climate change may be completely irreversible.


Haze Dunster

5 – Right Wing

How about that kick for Gutho’s try? Hot stuff from Haze.


Dylan Brown

6 – Five Eighth

It was so good to see Dylan more active and more involved in tonight’s game, and despite Parra dropping the ball like it was a vaccine rollout, Dylbags had an impressive 36 touches of the footy (compared to 26 last week and 28 the week before), as well as his try, 7 runs for 48m, 2 tackle breaks and 33 tackles. It was the little things, too. Dylan showed good desperation early in the second to chase down an attacking kick from Tom Dearden, and was rewarded with said try after chasing through on a spilled Mitchell Moses cyclone. Even before we scored a point, you could tell it was the best Dyl had looked in weeks.


Mitch Moses

7 – Halfback

Tonight Mitch Moses’ kicking game was as good as our handling was bad; and that is very.


Isaiah Papali’i

8 – Front Row

Near … Far … Wherever Papa.

I know how much has been made of this all season, but I’m going give it more air time: Isaiah Papali’i has gone from speculative, bargain basement signing to one of our best players. The star of the NRL player vaccine promotion got through 9 for 106m, 7 tackle breaks and 22 tackles, also going incredibly close to the craziest of short range, slow motion tries, carrying 4 Cowboys with him.

The Parramatta Eels need to stop whatever it is they are doing and extend him for longer than he’s been alive.


Joey Lussick

9 – Hooker

Although he’s no Reed Mahoney, Joey Lussick is simply too good to go back to England. Tonight he made 51 tackles and had exactly 100 touches of the football, also running 5 times for 42m. It’s a luxury to have a back up 9 who isn’t completely inept and to be honest I hope there’s a chance we can hold onto him in this role going forward.


Junior Paulo

10 – Front Row

After one of the worst Junior Paulo games in living memory last week, Junior knocked out the aesthetically pleasing 11 runs for 111m, 1 offload, 1 tackle break and 25 tackles; which happen to be incredibly similar numbers to young centre Will Penisini. The big guy also had one very sweet tap on for Will Smith’s try (which was appropriately credited as a try assist).


Shaun Lane

11 – Second Row

Shaun Lane’s stint back in the starting 13 is a little like our current lockdown; I know it’s necessary, and we don’t really have any other options, but it is lasting a lot longer than I thought it would and to be honest, it’s starting to grate on me a little.

Sure he got a try with a nice line, and made a bone rattling tackle on Tom Dearden but the pushed passes and dropped ball are too much, Shaun; they’re too much.

Tonight Laney had 10 runs for 86m, 1 offload, 1 linebreak, 1 linebreak assist, 5 tackle breaks and 34 tackles. He also had a variety of terrible moments which made you throw things; let the record show that one of his early drops lead to me knocking over a glass of Coke.

In other news, it’s nice to see they were able to sneak Shaun’s Mum into the Eels camp on the Gold Coast so she could cut his hair like it was when he was 6 years old.


Marata Niukore

12 – Second Row

You know, even though it was a forced move with Matto out for another couple of weeks, I liked seeing Niukore back on the edge (particularly if it could keep Shaun Lane on the bench/in the middle/in the stands). On said edge tonight Simba had 11 runs for 107m, 1 offload, 2 tackle breaks and 33 tough tackles. Hakuna Marata!


Nathan Brown

13 – Lock

Not really, no.


Will Smith

14 – Interchange

Seeing the Fresh Prince in Waqa’s left centre spot was interesting to say the least. And in true utility fashion, Will did his job well (12 for 83m, 2 tackle breaks, 10 tackles), but not so well that you think he should start.


Bryce Cartwright

15 – Interchange

Things I didn’t think I’d be saying at the beginning of this year: I am very pleased we have extended Bryce Cartwright for 2 more years. Sure it wasn’t vintage highlight Bryce (4 for 27m), but it wasn’t bad (2 offloads, 14 tackles), either.


Oregon Kaufusi

16 – Interchange

Solid stuff from Big Country (6 for 64m, 1 tackle break, 21 tackles), and was nice to see him target some smaller Cowboys in the defensive line. Oregon Kaufusi – taking care of business.


Makahesi Makatoa

17 – Interchange

Although admittedly only in his second NRL game, uncovering Makahesi Makatoa doesn’t feels all that dissimilar to Isaiah Papali’is rise for the Eels in 2021. Another tough performance from the world’s oldest debutant with 13 runs for 94m, 1 tackle break and 2 tackles. Along with Will, it was also his first ever career win! Nice treat for Big Mak.

So here we are, standing on the edge of a precipice; whatever else happens in 2021, it’s only against good teams from here.

Whatever happens, I’ll see you then, sports fans.


Go you Eels,



Photos courtesy of the Parramatta Eels. Stats courtesy of Champion Data.

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37 thoughts on “Post Game Grades – Round 23 vs Cowboys

  1. Wilhelmina

    I’ve avoided commenting the past few weeks post-game, as I couldn’t take the repetitive rants, and I certainly didn’t have anything nice to say. It’s good to be back! Hell, it was good to watch to the end of a game, not turn it off after 20 minutes. Even if it was against a sub-par opposition who failed to take advantage of our many many mistakes – you can only beat the team in front of you. I am pissed at out failure to wrap the ball up in tackles or deal with the short kick-offs, but let’s stick to commenting on individuals.

    I agree with your assessment of Moses as MoM, it was his kicking game that won the game. Also thought Dyl looked much more involved, and glad the stats showed it. Gutho pulled out yet another try-saver (anyone who doesn’t rate him as a fullback doesn’t understand the importance of his defence), but tended to push it that one step too far in attack. If he can learn to judge better when to go for it versus just take the tackle, he could move to that next level.

    Penisini does look every inch a first grader, doesn’t he? Dunster was also much more effective in the second half, getting in quite a few post-contact metres, instead of the usual push-back on our line. I think having Will inside him helped with that, as well as the opportunity to get the ball in mid-field against a defence that wasn’t set. He’s never going to be the right choice to ruck it out (well, not unless his frame fills out drastically in the next two years), but the kid has potential.

    Niukore was his usual effective self. I have to admit I barely noticed Kaufusi. NBrown has indeed been disappointing for a while – I think he’s actually going too hard, and he’s missing tackles and dropping balls as a result. It’s something he’s always had a tendency to do, but he in particular looks like he gets past that point of optimal arousal (no, not THAT kind) and his performance suffers. The whole team has looked like that the past few weeks (ie it’s actually being over- not under-enthused), but Browny stood out as still being in that state.

    Shaun Lane sadly just makes terrible decisions. He’s got the size and the talent, but I don’t think he’s got the smarts or the commitment (as evidenced by his “defence”). Lane’s try was really the result of a good run by Makatoa earlier in the set, followed by a good decoy run that play – we’ve been wasting Papa for quite some time by consistently hitting him when he makes those runs, instead of using him as the decoy and taking advantage of the space that can create. We’re going to need more of that to be even vaguely competitive over the next 3-4 weeks, but I’ve at least got more hope than I did last week.

    1. Brian

      I forgot to mention Penisini in my post. The next game he is not selected for can only be for injury of Origin selection. Second game in looks like he’s played 100.

      And I also forgot to mention Lanes defence. The amount of times I’ve seen him watch attacking players run past him is infuriating!

      1. Mr controversy aka rev

        Brian really ease up on lane i wont be bagging him why because his playing in the toughest competition in the world. Don’t see you out there I’m not out there. Give him.a break

    2. Poppa

      Good post Wilhelmina, some very good observations, not the least being Cyborg’s premature ejaculation problems.
      What’s your view about Freddy Fittler’s rumoured coming to Parra to coach? Who would you have as his assistants?

      1. Dday

        It is an interesting development, Fittler knows how to shape a squad, has tremendous insight over nsw junior football, can vary tactics to suit the opposition and is a western suburbs boy.
        I thought there was an intriguing interaction between Stirling & fittler during the commentary last night alluding to it only being a matter of time before fittler had to get used to NRL coach killer moments.
        Time will tell.
        Last night was a small step forward for this year’s campaign, we really don’t need 2022 coaching issues to distract from the mammoth task ahead ATM.

  2. Shaz Laves

    Nah. I was at the ground. Lane was good. Not great but he played strong done good.
    I’m not usually a fan of him but I give credit where it’s due.

  3. Jonno

    Solid win, good write up mate, cheers. Nathan brown was cooked just after oranges, Cartwright should have been on earlier. Cyborg has been terrible for a while, might be better coming off the bench. Happy with the win tho

  4. Kevin Chambers

    I know the Cowboys left side attack is about as potent as a blue m&m for erectile dysfunction , it was clear our right side defence was stronger since Marata left the centres due to his suspension. I know Mitch loves Matto so much he doesn’t need the blue m&m just his picture , Matto defends too close to the posts and doesn’t push out hard enough. Even though the Cowboys were denied a try by the Kings hand it was a missed tackle by Haze not a system failure that opened up our right edge. Matto has been our most consistent player but he rarely pushes out to the sideline 20m. That’s our biggest defensive issue in recent times.

  5. Mick

    The win feels good, and I thought I saw enough to convince me they could aim up for next week. Unfortunately I also saw enough that makes me think they will get flogged too. Haha. But as with most, taking the positives out of this one.

    On Lane, his errors are frustrating, but I think he’s got more sting in his attack and defence than most when he’s switched on. Other than the 10 min series of implosions, I thought he was solid.

    I liked seeing Moses and Dylan connecting more in attack. It looked more fluid and gave the team more space to run. They also looked like they enjoyed playing that style more.

    Marata needs to stay on an edge, whether second row or centre, we look more composed when he’s there. Maybe it’s him, Matto and Papalii in the back row?

    Nathan Brown in my view has been out of sorts all year. He’s probably had a decent game at some point, but I can’t remember it. His high impact an energy style suits a bench role I think. He’s most effective when he runs a million miles an hour in the gap behind the markers, and needs someone quick to follow him.

    Junior, good to see him not forcing the play and just running the ball again.

    Lastly, it was good to see a relatively even distribution of effort across the park – carrying the ball out of trouble, making metres in the middle, covering in defence etc.

    Looking forward to next week (sort of). It would be great if we could both stop Melbourne from breaking the record for straight wins, AND have their measure twice in the season.

    Thanks for putting in the effort Mitch!

  6. BDon

    Tks Mitch. Maybe Marata B+, his energy stands out to me, he actually looks like he’d be happy with a last man standing format, you know, hurt or be hurt, we need more of that instinct, Papa has it but it’s not always there with some of the others, this is both a physical and mental attitude. Yes, he deserved a demerit for that bad offload, but give me the 110% energy any day. Niukore, Penisini and Dunster, no coincidence that our D looked better, interestingly our normally tight middle yielded 2 of the 3 Cowboys tries, only one out wide and I think Waqa blinked on that one, which was well executed. Also Will Smith has the instinct and maybe a mandatory C+ is unders. Penisini, tick, a born footballer.

  7. One Putt Pete

    Good to see Mitch has or is starting to return to form and the great effort of our new team members. There was just a hint of cohesion from all team members, on occasions, but we will need a lot of improvement to look good during the next two weeks.
    Sorry to hear about the spilled Coke.

  8. Soren Lorenson

    I think you were slightly generous to Gutho Mitch. He did some uncharacteristically dumb stuff last night.

    1. !0 Year Member

      Totally agree. He had a 5 minute period there… When we were up 26-6 and played like we were behind. Why he keeps doing that dumbfounds me. I will still take the win and the flag doesn’t get burned.

  9. Wile

    Great signs. Both halves were getting the ball and running the show. Don’t remember this happening before and this is critical if our attack is not going to be predictable.

    Would like to see Cartwright start left edge at least for a few games. He needs the game time and starting would get him in the right frame of mind.

  10. Dave

    Listening to our supporters about how terrible we were and just as bad as last week is painful, I know there was some poor options and play but if you can’t see improvement you must be watching a different game. Yes I called for coach to hook lane in 1st half but glad he left him on for 2nd half he redeemed himself. Gutho needs to stop the fancy offloads and flick passes in tight situations most times they don’t work. Cyborg has been pretty ineffective but wouldn’t count him out yet, lussick needs to stop throwing forward passes, other teams get away with it we won’t. All in all I was reasonably pleased with our improvements but still got a bit to go

    1. sixties

      Dave I felt similar to you about Lane. I was streaming to hook him after a couple of errors. It’s the difference between us punters and being a coach – not making overly reactive decisions.

  11. Longfin Eel

    It was great to see Mitch be more vocal than usual and to organise the team a little more. We need to see more of that, and in fact I really feel that Mitch should be captain next year to really push this along. I also thought Gutho was more composed than he has been, which resulted in a better game from him.

    We do need to stop handing over the ball though, and the top teams will certainly make us pay if we make so many errors in coming weeks.

    All in all there were some positives to work on, but still way off our best.

  12. Brian

    I don’t think we can underestimate Mitch Moses contribution tonight. He was really good, somewhat disguised by our sloppy play. Easy man of the match decision.

    Nathan Brown has continued to come up with good running stats but it’s been 12 months+ since he has had a truly dominant game for which he is known. There is very few awe inspiring hit ups, offloading has become foreign, choosing a lot of the time to play as an additional 5/8 a lot of the time. And while it’s great he hasn’t been suspended this year, I think it’s more to do with the lack of true aggression than a change in style.

    Shaun Lane……..😳

    1. Colin Hussey

      I put this up for those who don’t have any real belief in Dunster, the one line that only mentions his kick for Gutho to score.
      Haze Dunster 181 metres. Next best was Cows Valentine Holmes with 167 mtrs, then our favourite centre Waga Blake with 163mtrs, & Gutho with 151mtrs

      1. Poppa

        You may be interested in knowing Col that I gave him a wrap on the other site, he looks a lot stronger in the past few months and I would even look at him as a potential fullback if he continues to get stronger and more comfortable at the level.
        With talk of Guth going to 5/8 every one has forgotten you have to then get someone to play full back, I don’t mind seeing Dyllan Brown in the centres with Penisini and Dunster at fullback……the orf seezun will tell us if that is possible. But two reliable wingers outside of that backline makes us look a very different side.
        I would also suggest none of that is possible with the present coaching set up. I am looking forward to the new coach having some imagination in those issues.

        1. Colin Hussey

          Pops. I think with Dunster its very much a confidencee thing to start with. Watching the game he actually was doing a degree of the same returns that Fergs did, he is still learning and for me that gives him confidence. One of the other stats had him missing 2 tackles, compare with Sivo and Fergs he’s in front of them based on the Cows game.

          Some extra gym work, and more game time we will see him progress more. People say that BA is not a player manager, well, I think he, or someone else has worked well with him. Still early days full of learning to do.

        2. John Eel

          Poppa while I am not suggesting for one minute that Gutho should be moved to 5/8. If that move were to be made, would you not move Dylan to FB.

  13. Glenn

    Sorry was disgusted with the team when Cows scored their third try and turned off them. Cannon fodder for teams in the finals based on that performance. We need a new name, the Parra Pillows, because we’re soft as.

    1. Cunningstuntman

      According to various website stats, The Eels, with an nearly even share of possession, missed almost 30 tackles, made 15 errors, allowed 5 line breaks & 11 offloads. All to side of barely Q-cup standard on a nine game losing streak.
      Sure a few of the players put in reasonable efforts, Paulo, Penisini, Nuikore & Papa + some good things from D.Brown & Will Smith. Unfortunately, if the side puts up the same display in the next two games it will be two thrashings.

      1. !0 Year Member

        Totally agree. This is where some of us supporters whom have expectations of premierships get frustrated. We play footy which cannot cut the mustard at the end of the year…… We can put up with it…. But after the last 4 years to be stuck where we are….. How do we improve? I guess the rabbits fans have been bridemaids the last few years. Teams that don’t make the eight have not even been invited…. We are just the ugly duckling… Invited along but no real respect shown. Credit to BA…. He is managing our expectations that we are finishing 6th…. Better than 9 th I guess. …. Blah blah blah

      2. John Eel

        You think that Mitch had a reasonable game.

        It is your prerogative to critique the team but that criticism needs to be honest

        1. Cunningstuntman

          Moses kicking game was his usual standard. Moses is probably not 100% fitness wise & in that light his performance was O.K. His defence was not as strong as it has been, again, maybe injury-related.

          The opposition was probably the weakest faced this season & handed us a few easy points. 3 tries conceded (almost 4) to a team second last on the ladder was disappointing.

  14. Dday

    Agree with those grades Mitch; few As, some Bs and a few underperforming C’s. Interesting to see such a big contribution from the lessor profile players; penisini, Dunster, kaufusi, big mac and Marata were very good. I thought Marata gave that RHS edge some stability – his combination with penisini was solid in defence and attack.
    Moses & Dylan played with a lot of intent, much improved.
    Cyborg looks exhausted, shorter stints or coming off the bench would suit him – same for Lane. Losing sivo is disappointing but he’s similarly looked exhausted so with fergo’s return we should be ahead.
    A small but important step forward.

  15. Anonymous

    On current form I don’t See Sivo as a big loss.If opacic still out leave penisi at centre and Marata on the edge with Fergo and Haze on the wings.I would bench Nath and start Carty till Matto is back to freshen him up a bit and give Carty more minutes.

  16. Offside

    It was a win we were supposed to win some positive some negatives.
    Penisini has to be 1st choice.

    Nathan Brown I’m sorry but the love is gone he needs to be “rested” or Benched he is a liability out there

  17. Mr controversy aka rev

    I think everyone is so harsh on shaun lane. Really give him a break.

    Wana talk about a player out off form is Nathan brown yet no one hammers him.

    Oh wait it’s because brown run from the back fence n has still failed to break the defense line.

    Ill keep saying it Cartwright needs to be in the 13 jumper his got more ball skills then brown. Look nothing personal towards brown but i think he needs a rest or shifted to the middle.

    How great was pensini great player his our future centre. Played great along with Waqa Blake.both centre’s were great.

    1. Anonymous

      Brown needs to get those crazy eyes back and just run hard and straight. Most of this year he is looking to pass before the line and it’s all very disjointed and easy for the opposition to read.

      Lane was very frustrating in the first half, but played well in the second. He can be a weapon for us out wide, he just needs to fix the lapses in concentration in attack and defence.

    2. Wilhelmina

      I think you’ll find there’s as many criticisms of Brown on here as of Lane. Maybe you’re seeing what you expect to see…

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