The Cumberland Throw

Bumpers Up – February 16, 2022: The Footy’s Back!

It’s been a while hasn’t it!

Over six weeks have passed since the last Bumpers Up column, and though there’s been no shortage of news in rugby league land, time has been a precious commodity.

Now that I have your forgiveness, we can get on with the business of what’s happening and what we think.

In addition to discussing the latest in “Parradise”, I’m particularly interested in your opinions about an NRL rule change and a proposed use of technology.

Let’s get stuck in – Bumpers Up!

Trial Time

The footy is back baby!

After purchasing my ticket, I’ve been marking off the days until the Eels take on the Dragons in the second match of Sunday’s double-header at CommBank Stadium.

Kicking off at 6pm, we can expect the clash to feature many of the fringe players with a sprinkling of NRL talent thrown in. The team might even be known by the time you’re reading this column. Next week’s trial against the Panthers at Penrith will be used as the main hit out for the first grade team.

It’s difficult to read too much into a trial match that omits certain round one starters, but I’ll be taking great interest in the form of players who’ve enjoyed encouraging preseasons.

Mitch Rein (image courtesy of Bocko – Eels media)

The likes of Jake Arthur, Ofahiki Ogden and Mitch Rein will definitely get NRL time during the season. The question is, when?

An answer to that might be found over the course of both trials.

Eels supporters will also be keen to watch some of the younger talent in action, particularly those that haven’t made their NRL debut and are mostly names from training reports rather than players with a wealth of exposed form.

Fans haven’t seen much of Brendan Hands, Josh Tuipulotu, Matt Komolafe, Solomone Naiduki, Elie El-Zakhem, Dave Hollis or Jayden Yates, and with the action available via Fox Sports and Kayo, the Blue and Gold Army will get a sense as to why those blokes have been included in the Eels preseason.

But above all else, the footy is back.


Big Bench Battle

There’s little debate about the composition of Parra’s starting 13, with Nathan Brown’s availability for round one being the only question. I’ve written on this topic before and named my team for the Titan’s match, including Ryan Matterson at lock.

But what about moving forward, with everyone potentially available.

There’s tremendous competition for the bench, and some fellas with legitimate claims are going to miss out.

In structuring a bench, I’d be selecting a dummy half or utility at 14, two middles at 15 and 16, and a back rower at 17.

Makahesi hits it up

Accordingly, Rein gets the dummy half spot, Marata and either Brown or Matto get the middle, and Carty gets the 17.

However, there are strong cases that can be made for others. I’ve omitted Kaufusi, Makatoa, Stone, Rodwell and two who’ve impressed me during the preseason in Ogden and Arthur. I’d have no quarrel with the inclusion of any of those players. Perhaps you might be able to find a place for some of them rather than those I’ve selected.

I’ve included Carty as he can also fill a spot at five-eighth or centre, but perhaps that also applies to Marata. A middle could therefore be swapped in for Cartwright.

Likewise, Stone could get the 14 jersey, and provide cover for dummy half, back row, or lock. That said, I don’t believe that the club views Ray as a hooker, and Rein is an essential inclusion until we become more confident about Reed’s shoulder.

Cue the discussion.


NRLW Partnerships

In remarkable news for a team yet to make its debut, the Eels have announced that NRLW corporate partnerships will cover all operating costs and player wages for at least the next two seasons.

Sponsors such as ALAND, the LADbible Group (SPORTbible), Macron, Trivett (Subaru), Motion Asia Pacific and McDonald’s have taken all available space on Parra NRLW jerseys and shorts, with Jim Sarantinos proudly declaring that this makes the team self sustainable from day one.

The Partnership on the kit

At this stage, the Eels are the sole representatives of western Sydney in the NRLW, and that makes them a commercially lucrative proposition. Having a strong squad capable of challenging for the title adds to the attractiveness of the club.

An exciting new era is upon us.

Parramatta Eels Season Launch

Rosehill Gardens hosted the Eels official season launch with an outdoor event last Friday night. A mix of club partners, media, officials and supporters were in attendance to welcome the NRLW and NRL teams to the stage.

Hosted by Hannah Hollis, each player was presented with a jersey by youngsters representing Eels junior rugby league clubs. Whoever selected those juniors did a fine job, as Hannah’s interviews with them drew some of the biggest cheers of the evening.

The NRL team on stage

The vibe generated by the NRLW team on social media platforms continued with their high energy appearance. Their responses to Hannah Hollis’ questions were quite entertaining and the squad appeared to be enjoying the interaction as much as the audience.

The NRLW team

Unfortunately, Covid protocols meant that the squads’ involvement in the evening was restricted to these brief stage appearances.

Hopefully the players aren’t expected to be so confined in their lives for another full season.


Juniors Representing

The NSWRL Junior Representative competitions enter their third rounds this weekend, and the Eels will be taking on Wests and the Wests Tigers in away matches at Camden.

Much of the recent media attention has been focussed on some unsavoury incidents at matches involving other clubs, but I can assure people that there have been no dramas at the Eels first two venues.

In fact, the attendance at both Mascot Oval and Cabramatta’s New Era  Stadium have been outstanding, especially given the inclement weather.

Tarsha Gale in action

Match descriptions are available to read via Forty’s live blogs here and here.

At this stage, the SG Ball are winless and struggling for team cohesion. The Matts and Gale teams both bounced back last weekend with their first wins of the season.

Parra’s Gale team had to hold out a surging Dogs outfit building their momentum from enterprising second phase play. It was edge of the seat footy, right up till the final whistle.

In contrast, the Eels Matts side clawed their way back from a 12 point deficit to register a 20 to 12 win. The try which finally put them in front was an exhilarating 70 metre effort which set the crowd alight.

With only nine rounds (eight matches and a bye), the season ends very quickly.

If you get the opportunity, I encourage you to get to the grounds to see the stars of tomorrow – from all teams.

Rule Changes

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have been opposed to the six again rule from the moment it was first announced. It was a flawed rule, untested before its introduction and ideal for exploitation by coaches.

The announcement has been made that penalties will be awarded instead of set restarts for ruck or 10 metre infringements against teams in possession within their own 40 metres.

I’d rather the set restart rule be completely removed, but this is a step in the right direction and probably a reasonable compromise for those taking polar opposite stances in the debate.

The other significant rule changes relate to stoppages and replacements.

Moving forward, outside of head injuries, only match officials can stop play for an injury. This reduces the likelihood of trainers stopping the match in a manner similar to what took place in the Eels/Panthers final.

Furthermore, free interchange of injured players will only be granted for instances of foul play where the offender is sin-binned or sent off.

In that aforementioned final, the Panthers made something like 16 interchanges, an extraordinary number.

Though there’s something to be said for the punishment occurring immediately for acts of foul play, there were instances of players being placed on report and being cleared later. Yet their opponent received a free interchange that often provided a significant adavantage.

It was a ridiculous scenario and probably not what the NRL envisaged when they allowed a free replacement when offending players were placed on report.

Forward Pass Follies

I hate forward passes. I hate match stoppages even more.

Forward passes are ridiculously common in rugby league. We all understand the physics of a player in motion passing the ball back out of the hands with the ball still travelling forward. A great number of the most exciting long range breaks, with players looming in support, will involve a “legal” forward pass. 

So fast is the play, it’s sometimes difficult for the ball to even go backwards out of the hands, but when the ref misses it, we mostly accept it as part of the game as there was no intent to deliberately pass the ball forward.

Flat dummy half passes are a different case entirely. The good ones are line ball. The bad ones are penalties under the old offside pass rule.

For mine, the only forward pass blight on the game occurs there, around the ruck, as it’s a deliberate attempt to gain an advantage and it frequently goes wrong without consequence.

How to fix it?

Not by technology, especially one that will frequently stop the match.

That’s right, if you hate stoppages, this technology will drive you crazy as it will highlight the number of forward passes in our game, not just around the ruck, and the result will be matches determined by electronic signals.

Proponents of this technology will say that short term pain will ultimately make the coaches and players change their ways and the game will be better and fairer for it.

I’m hopeful that trialling will highlight how often a game would be stopped and the NRL decide not to proceed with the technology.

I simply say, make better use of sideline officials for watching the ruck, and if they can reduce  the frequency of deliberate forward passes that will be a far better outcome than a stop/start game controlled by microchips.


All Stars All Good

Last Saturday was the first time that I’ve attended an All Stars event, and if it’s held at CommBank Stadium in the future, it won’t be my last.

The crowd were in a celebratory mood throughout the evening and when the stadium filled up, the atmosphere was electric. “Yoko” is of Maori heritage, and she had goosebumps during the women’s haka. Seeing such a physical response from her really emphasised the importance of events that recognise and celebrate culture.

I was seated on the corporate side of the ground, which is a completely different experience to my usual seat on the eastern side of the stadium. The view was near identical, but the sound was nothing like elsewhere in the ground.

I’m used to being in the middle of the noise, and it’s instantaneous.

On the eastern side, the noise of the crowd comes at you, and there’s a delay between the action and the audible crowd reaction. It’s only a millisecond but it’s noticeable as sound travels slower than light. 

The added attraction was the number of Eels players involved, especially in the women’s clash. With no injuries or suspensions for the Parra contingent, and no trials for our NRLW players, the hit out was a good warm up for the season ahead.

My only suggestion for improving the fan experience is for the Stadium camera feed to feature the post match celebrations of the teams.

Both of the Maori sides performed a haka for the crowd at the southern end of the field, and the crowd even performed one in return for the women.

At that point in time, after both matches, the big screens were featuring advertisements, and when the screens returned to the camera feeds, the player/crowd interaction had concluded.

It’s a minor complaint in an event which was terrific to attend.

Congratulations to everyone involved, and especially the Indigenous Women’s Team and the Maori Men’s Team along with coach David Kidwell.


Eels forever!


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15 thoughts on “Bumpers Up – February 16, 2022: The Footy’s Back!

  1. Shaun

    Looking forward to the trials. May the teams get what they want out of the trials, may the players come through uninjured and may the fans not overreact (either way) to the results.

          1. Shaun

            Yes. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the fringe players in action as well as some of the new recruits.

  2. Colin Hussey

    Thanks sixties for a great post, and I am certainly hungry for the season and to see the new players on display. I actually wonder if some of the newbies will take out some of the other players who have been part of the team for the previous seasons.

    I am somewhat a bit mixed with the forward pass aspect, and like you I cannot stand it especially when they are missed especially the ones that are not ruled out on and should be. The way its been heading is almost a mirror of the NBL and what they call a touchdown, no offside there.

    I read where the NRL execs are looking at having electronic device put in the balls, which will (blow an electric whistle) if it goes forward, what if its line ball? While the device make a fizzer with the whistle?

    One thing that annoys me though is the aerial drone that floats around the grounds and usually more to the sides of the ground. Could it not be tested by having the drone fitted with a device that will make a sound identifying the ball not going backwards? Most drones now have camera recording abilities so incorporated together that would be possible to define rather than a device in the balls.

    1. sixties Post author

      Cheers Col. I just don’t want any device in the footy. We can all accept a margin for error, but I’m annoyed with the blatant deliberate forward passes. We don’t need devices to rule on those.

      1. Colin Hussey

        For me the alternative would be to have the touch judges able to adjudicate on the rule, if the ball goes back then its fine, line ball, decertation for match ref and/or touch judge.

        Have said for years now, what role does the judge have, other than behind the goal posts and then running to their spots on the side lines.

  3. Old timer

    Re forward passes ,the referees created their own problem there with the ridiculous rule out of the hands , previously it didn’t matter how the ball went forward ,drifted intentional or caught a cab , forward was just that , in its not broken don’t fix it but its well broken now , use to be one rule covered all now its up to perception and thats not always what its perceived to be !!!

    1. sixties Post author

      That’s why I said that if we bring in technology, people need to prepare for just how many forward passes exist in our game. Let’s just try to cut out the deliberate and blatant forward passes before we bring in devices that will create a swag of stoppages to the game.

  4. BDon

    Tks sixties. The Penrith trial has been an interesting marker over past 2 years. In 2020 it was keenly contested, Penrith playing up tempo, going to the front, we had to lift but reeled them in late for a draw on the back of some great individual plays, Moses was prominent. Last year was a similar style game, but Penrith edged away and controlled the scoreboard with sound football. Both years, the Panthers leveraged what we saw in the trials to be grand finalists. I know, don’t get too caught up in trials, but both teams showed a lot of their character in those 2 games.

    1. sixties Post author

      BDon, the Riff stunned me in last years trial. They played finals footy in a trial! Who does that? There’s nowhere to go if you’re doing that but they proved it’s possible.

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