The Cumberland Throw

Bumpers Up – April 22, 2022: Watershed Moments For The Eels

A warning.

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.

Bumpers Up!


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.

Not Acceptable

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.

The Tigers rejoice

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.


Wounded Woes

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!

Eels forever!


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30 thoughts on “Bumpers Up – April 22, 2022: Watershed Moments For The Eels

  1. Offside

    I think we’re heading to a point in the season where we need to improve week to week at the moment we are the same week in week out piggy back penalties,the same sweep plays every week, middle and edge defence is terrible.
    The injuries don’t help the squad selection is a mystery.

    Mitch Rein has done nothing for years we sign him fair enough everyone needs a back up but don’t pick him if can cover 1 position and carry a back on the bench essentially we had a 15 man squad on Monday.
    The selection of JA continues to confuse again he is limited to being a out and out half he will never be a 1st choice half in the NRL why pick him if he has no utility value? (Not bagging the kid just confused)

    Our recruitment is a mystery yes juniors are coming along but the players we sign don’t make since
    Ogden a player who hasn’t cut it in 1st grade over a extended period,
    Rein who is average at best.
    Herbie would be a great signing he offers so much and would do great outside of Dylan and Mitch.

    Season isn’t over cause of last week one positive is the last few years my tigers mate informed me is the tigers have beaten the eventual premiership at least once every season for 4 years I haven’t fact checked it but let’s hold on to that so that’s the silver lining out of Monday.

  2. A.B.

    As always thanks for the coverage and info you provide Sixties.
    I think myself and every other Eels supporter would like to delete last weeks game from history and memory if we could because of how bad it was. Not so much the dropped ball and pushed passes (as bad as they were) but the inability to defend our line against simple attacking moves the opposition throw at us. Really it’s just pass it out the back, bring the fullback into it and try. How is it so easy?
    When you watch the top teams defend and the ball is going wide everyone on that side of the field is racing across to help. Starting with the middle and edge forwards pushing everyone out to cover and not allowing an overlap.
    Not so with us as there seems to be an overlap nearly every play and the center/wing combo have 3 men against them making it nearly impossible to stop.
    A lot of people have made comment about our use of the bench or inability to use it.
    The question I ask is do you think our forwards are gassed because of the long minute they play making them unable to push out with any speed and cover the opposition back line moves or do we just suck at defense?

    1. BDon

      I have watched the defensive lapses for many moons now(talking the wide shifts that Souths and Manly seem to put on us like training runs, maybe add the Sharks this year, but Titans and Tigers joined the queue). A few things I’ve noted. 1) We do look lazy from the inside 2) when we have low errors/high completions the problem is less noticeable 3)when Marata and Penisini are on the park we are better 4) Moses and DBrown have some great scramble days and save us often 5)Our numbering up is inconsistent 6) A lead runner often attracts 2 of our defenders(Moses is constantly being run over straight on or outside shoulder but just can’t get the whistle blowing).
      Suddenly our forwards are being breached more often, so yes, get the red flag out!

      1. sixties

        BDon, it’s the issues of breaches across the park, not just out wide that are concerning me. And as you rightly point out, we’ve been lucky that our scramble has saved us multiple times.

    2. Prometheus

      The coach has to give some new forwards a go. A few of the incumbents are not cutting it. New blood , new enthusiasm. Last week was enough if we are serious.

        1. Prometheus

          In my opinion Oregon, Matto and Lane are not threatening any opposition, why not give Rodwell, El zakhem , Moretti a taste. Certainly they might up the attitude and get amongst it.

          1. Prometheus

            It’s not necessary to make three changes at once but you bring them to the club let’s see what they can do. Lane out immediately Rodwell in.

    3. sixties

      AB, when we’ve had defensive issues this year it seems to me as if it’s right across the park. When a break is made, there’s often a string of broken tackles. I don’t like our defensive attitude at the moment. The bench is missing the impact middle, which is why I suspect that Reg and Junior have played longer minutes. But I ask this – have there been any problems around Reg and Junior? I don’t think so.

  3. pete

    Great read Sixties.
    Good luck to the Tasha Gale team!!
    The loss to Tigers was bad but it was only by 1 point in the last second so I won’t dwell on it..
    Our defence has been suspicious for a couple of years. The boys probably missed physics class but E=MC2. If you’re wanting to win the collision as has been our focus there’s that split second where the opposition braces and can bounce off the collision. This is when we as you said don’t “hit and stick” we bounce just enough to loosen control of the tackle. It’s at that moment our defenders become ineffective (and/or we just are not there as edge defence is failing to count). If you look at how Leilua could drag Opacic for several metres and the flailing attempt by Mahoney and nobody else just sums up our lack of killer instinct. It’s only our scramble defence that keeps us at the top of the ladder.
    Maybe our forwards go to physics class and our backs do some basic mathematics LoL.
    Go Eels!!

  4. Big Derek

    The game against the Tigers has to be disposed off to the waste bin, no sensible reaction can be taken from one of the most pathetic displays in the past 3 years. Blame should be apportioned from the staff to the players, it was horrendous.

    This week has already laid itself open to criticism with the selection of a player who can only play 6 or 7 on the bench, when most expects utility or replacement forward to relieve the middles.

    Finally, recruitment is high on the agenda, losing 4/5 players from the NRL squad is just about upon us, and although the club has been good with no leaks, if there is no recruitment at even the level of the suggested Herbie Farnsworth, then pressure falls back on those whose responsibility it is to keep the team competitive.

    Echoing a comment from elsewhere, what a terrible and lacklustre even the 75th anniversary at CommBank was, the so called legends faced only the corporate side of the stadium , ignoring the fans who were everywhere else. Watch how the Roosters do these occasions, we look second rate and a little disinterested in making a statement to the fans.

    The reaction to a loss this week will be savage, and the bench selection hopefully won’t be the focus.

    1. sixties

      As I wasn’t at the game, I can’t comment on the spectacle. But your sentiment echoes the opinions I have heard from others Derek. And that’s disappointing.

  5. John Eel

    The right edge problems we suffered in the past have been well documented. However our issues this season so far are way different.

    Last year our scramble defence was good and as a result we did it much better and we rated a lot higher among other teams in defence stats.

    As I see it this season the problem is in the effort that the players are putting in. Our inability to lock up the ball in defence is killing us and it’s due to a lack of effort.

    The other major concern that I have is the errors that are occurring. There are many examples to nominate but the first was WP dropping the pass on the right edge, a few minutes later Ice threw a pass to the feet of Opacic, Knock on.

    I think Penisini can be forgiven playing out of position and being flat. Not so much Ice. He should have hung onto the pass and given the halves a chance to get a kick in behind the line for a restart.

    This was a lack of patience because they had failed to score in the first 8 minutes despite a lot of possession.

    I think that they can get out of this but it is going to take a huge turnaround in effort.

    1. Colin Hussey

      John, the way things are with the eels ATM, is akin to ordering fish & chips for dinner, hot battered quality fish and hot chips as the side dish. However, when the order is brought out, it is generally only being nibbled at, rather than quality fish, its akin to river mullet and the chips are overcooked and dry. Maybe because its being rehashed too many times and the whole meal is dried out.

      There were some terrible plays that the eels carried out, but maybe the first runs set the tone for the opposition to see the players primarilly had their heads in the sky looking too far overly confident as to having a win against dragged out tigers, that pounced in a big way, the feast was there for the tigers and didn’t they take it out for a royal roast dinner?

      Stupid kicks, with our hooker kicking too long and high, twice IIRC and the ball went over the sideline and opponents got the feast, on the 3rd play from within the eels half. We then have our captain short kicking to hand the ball to the opposition for them to score again from within our 1/4 It was typical of a team that was too far over confident as to the win, as they only needed to run onto the field, that was obvious also in the way they looked very much over confident in that introduction, show pony stuff with eels greats watching on. What went through their minds.

      Sideways skipping as some ran onto the field, in a look at me attitude.

      I notice on the eels players page several new faces, both backs and forwards, hopefully they will bring some speed and footwork to the backs, as its an area that we were shown up in, and its been there for more than one game this year so far.

    2. A.B.

      John I totally agree as effort, patience and respect were not there on the weekend.
      A coach told me years ago that EVERYONE makes mistakes but it’s what you do after the mistake that makes the difference. We made a mistake and they scored next a couple of times. Tells you the mindset they had.

    3. sixties

      That lack of patience was difficult to understand. I believed that we had moved away from such impatience over the last couple of seasons but it seems like there is still a way to go. Maybe it was a case of the crowd and event getting the better of them. If so, it’s still no excuse. The errors were spread right across the team so it’s impossible to single out major culprits. We have to lift right across the park.

  6. Brett Allen

    They played like they thought the Tigers would just roll over. I was there in the front row of the Southern Stand, my seat is right behind the sticks, and when Gutho went for that short restart just before half time he was arguing with the rest of the team about doing it. They were telling him to go long and he refused, I actually heard him yell “It’s going F…. short”. The team was gassed and with two to go he went short, I could’ve jumped the fence and killed him.
    The whole game we point blank refused to go through them, we kept on trying to go around them. If I’m BA I’m banning Gutho from moving anywhere from the middle third. I would be banning him from any kind of sweeping role, he is just too hit and miss. His job should be to just push up in the middle third in support, that’s his strength.

    1. Murray Cod

      Thanks for the onsite report Brett, it certainly surprised me to hear the brazen opposition of authority and our club captain’s decision making in the heat of battle. These are the times when chain of command are necessary to “steady the ship”. I hope this is not indicative of a division within the leadership group?

  7. Milo

    Great read sixties and well said.
    Defence wins big matches, and so does attitude. From what i have seen our attitude at times is not what it should be and i am going out on a limb here and saying our onfield leadership needs to take control. Stay calm and be patient.
    I also think the bench needs to be consistent with who we pick. Think we have cut ourselves short here….
    Yes they need to recruit well for 2023, and replace guys with decent players – considering who we have lost we have not lost a huge player but some with some decent NRL experience.
    Quite rightly mentioned we have not recruited a centre with such speed as MJ, and hope we can shake it up.
    Knights will always be tough and TBH i cannot see us winning by much at all, let alone if we do win. Our defence has more leaks at times than both major political parties…

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