My mindset has not yet recovered from last week. That performance from the Eels against the Tigers was beyond disappointing and it’s left me with doubts that I’d rather not have.
Of course, in reacting this way, I’m allowing myself a response that would not be acceptable from the team.
We need the players to immediately refocus on the job ahead. If they continue to dwell on what went wrong, I doubt they’d turn it around. They must get back to work and prepare for the Knights.
Strange as it may seem, I believe that the Eels are currently facing a couple of watershed moments. One is on the field, the other is off the field.
The players need to make a statement about their credentials for this season. If they can get back on track after such a poor performance then they can restart both their momentum and our belief.
Likewise, the club’s ability to land a targeted recruit will come into the spotlight as reports surface about Parra commencing negotiations with Herbie Farnworth.
Away from the NRL, history could also be made when the Eels Tarsha Gale Cup team line up in their grand final qualifier against the Knights on Saturday.
There’s a bit to take on and only one way to do it.
What is Herbie Worth?
Parramatta’s reported pursuit of Broncos outside back Herbie Farnworth could arguably be a defining moment in the club’s recent recruitment history.
After previously failing to secure Kotoni Staggs, the campaign to lure the Brit out of Queensland is critical to the Eels backline stocks and also to its reputation in the NRL marketplace.
At 190cm and 106kg, Farnworth is the prototype NRL outside back. Though primarily used as a centre, he possesses the dimensions, pace and experience to also cover wing or fullback.
The Eels have a number of talented backs coming through their pathways. However, all successful clubs find the perfect blend of recruitment and development. Farnworth is a player who will add quality to Parra’s roster.
At only 22 years of age, Farnworth already has nearly 50 NRL games on his resume. He’s recognised as one of the most promising backs in the Premiership, despite playing with a cellar-dwelling club. There’s no dispute that his best years are ahead of him.
If the Eels are serious in their pursuit of Farnworth, then I expect them to be measured but also highly competitive in their offer.
The strike power of Michael Jennings has not been replaced over the past two seasons, and when the market isn’t flush with such players, it might take a bigger cheque to secure the target.
A round six loss isn’t something to lose faith over. The hackneyed phrase about not winning titles in March (or April) exists for a reason.
Early season is about playing solid footy that sets standards in attitudes and application for the season, whilst picking up the all important two premiership points.
But let’s be blunt about the loss to the Tigers.
It was damned awful.
Over 28 thousand Eels fans turned up to celebrate the club’s 75th anniversary, but just as importantly, they were there in big numbers to cheer on a team with title aspirations.
Losses happen in football. The term “upset result” exists because the unexpected can occur in sport.
However, the Tigers did nothing extraordinary to win that match. With respect, any other top 8 team would have easily disposed of them.
If the Eels were overawed by the occasion, there will be much bigger events in the post season fixtures.
I summed it up this way.
There were so many players below their best, that the sum of the parts fell well short of a whole. It really was a case of the team owing the supporters so much more than they delivered.
This week marks the opportunity for the Eels to prove that Easter Monday was an aberration. It won’t be easy given the trip away from home and the injury toll.
However, times like these can be the measure of a team’s character.
A statement needs to be made this Sunday.
Hit And Stick
Last season, concerns were frequently expressed about Parramatta’s defence, with the right side consistently incapable of shutting down the simplest of shifts.
It was debatable as to whether that was the result of the defensive stylings of Blake Ferguson or a flaw in the system employed. Regardless, it seemed to be mostly rectified with some late season positional changes and the improved defence should have resulted in victory over the Panthers in last year’s finals clash.
This season, I’m ringing the alarm bells for a different reason.
The Eels are currently averaging around 34 missed tackles per game. Throw in another 17 or so ineffective tackles per match and there’s a leak that won’t be stopped by the proverbial finger in the dike.
I’ve always enjoyed adopting a glass half full approach to supporting the Eels, but I’ll never ignore reality. And the Eels inability to hit and stick is waving more red flags than a Chinese military parade.
This isn’t a system failure. Blokes are falling off tackles because the initial contact isn’t what it should be. More worryingly, line breaks against the Eels often feature a succession of players left in the ball runner’s wake.
It’s a trend which needs reversing sooner than later.
An Eels Grand Finalist?
Parra’s Tarsha Gale Cup team is just one step away from the grand final.
The girls will be taking on the Knights at Kogarah Oval (Netstrata Jubilee) this Saturday, with kick off scheduled for 5pm.
Make no mistake, this will be a ripper of a clash. The Eels finished second on the ladder, with Newcastle just one point behind in third place.
Intriguingly, the Knights finished with a superior points differential, whilst the regular round clash between the clubs was washed out.
Parra lost only one match during the year, which was the opening round clash with minor premiers, the Roosters.
The team plays a classic brand of rugby league, laying a platform with a powerhouse pack, and the clever spine setting up fast, strong running outside backs.
There are a number of potential NRLW players in the team. Watch out for the goal kicking of sharp-shooter Alysha Bell. At the risk of jinxing her, she has kicked some of the best goals I’ve witnessed in junior representative football, male or female.
Coach Ryan Walker, his staff and the team have had an outstanding season, but there’s a match that needs to be won this weekend.
The Cumberland Throw will provide our usual coverage via a live blog. If you’re watching the match at the ground or via the NSWRL live stream, please feel free to add your takes on our blog.
Is anyone else over the injury toll?
Barely a week goes by without a player being added to the casualty ward, and this week is no different with Marata Niukore again listed without a definite return date.
Throw in the injury cloud hanging over RCG and Opacic and the Eels could have close to a third of their roster absent this weekend. That’s not including Ofahiki Ogden, the previously in-form prop who sits outside the top 30 squad.
Marata’s injury is costly. The damaging utility provided some of the better carries against the Tigers when filling in at centre.
But it’s his role off the bench which the Eels are missing the most. Marata maintains the rage that the interchange requires when Reg and Junior get a rest.
A fit Ogden could provide something similar when he returns and becomes eligible for selection.
Hopefully both Marata and Ogden only face short stints on the sideline.
Lower Grade Praise
I wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate the Eels NSW Cup and Jersey Flegg teams for their wins last weekend.
When NRL injuries take their toll, the trickle down effect creates an even greater challenge to the lower grades. Staff are constantly faced with player unavailability, be it through the casualty ward or by form based elevation decisions.
Losing a player to a higher grade is something that creates pride but there are disruptions to deal with. Both the NSW Cup and Flegg teams have faced more than their fair share of last minute changes.
Last weekend’s massive win in the NSW Cup, and a gritty fight back victory in the Flegg, were results worthy of praise.
A Big Night For The Tip Sheet
A certain worldwide virus prevented both my attendance at CommBank Stadium on Monday, and the live presentation of our podcast in Parra Leagues after the game.
It was a full house of Eels supporters in Jacks Bar and Grill, so thankfully Clint Gee was available to join Forty in breaking down the unexpected loss.
Without question, the big attraction was special guest, Eels legend Brett Kenny. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to listen to Brett’s takes on the match, as well as his reflections on the Eels history and celebrations, you can find the recording here. The audience hung on his every word.
The Tip Sheet will be back at Parra Leagues in Round 11, when the Eels take on Manly at CommBank Stadium on Friday, May 20.
See you there!