Some losses sting more than others.
Is it the weight of expectation this year or the nearly four decades of dashed hopes that causes such emotional responses to one-off defeats for our Eels?
Regardless, after the negativity of the previous week, it was a welcome return to normal positive programming in PARRAdise for this correspondent.
The sun was out a bit more than usual, only a bit, but the world seemed much brighter.
Parra are in much warmer, and hopefully drier conditions, than we are currently experiencing in Sydney. The trip north takes away a local home game, but if they can deliver a win I won’t complain.
A trip to Darwin remains on my wishlist schedule, even if the destination contains fauna that can consume the tourist.
I’ll just have to remember to keep my bumpers up!
The Bounce Back
What a difference there can be in the space of a few short days.
My usual optimistic self was literally in free-fall after the Eels loss to the Tigers. To be honest, it was everything I didn’t want to see and it had me doubting what the team was made of.
In contrast, even allowing for the Knights’ ineptitude, the manner of Parra’s victory over Newcastle was the polar opposite. The team stuck to the game plan, played to their strengths, and overpowered their opponents with what I dubbed as Parra101 footy.
There have been past criticisms about the Eels adhering to a physical brutality philosophy. It’s been suggested that it takes a mid to late season toll on the team, resulting in slumps at the wrong time of the year.
I’ve never agreed with such takes. As far as I’m concerned, the Eels hold an advantage over most teams through the middle corridor. Parra plays at its best when travelling north-south.
Hitting big shifts without establishing physical dominance has never worked for our team.
Parra’s annual venture to the tropical north has arrived, with the team travelling to Darwin on Thursday.
The partnership with the Northern Territory means that this isn’t a fly-in, fly-out arrangement. Parra engage with the local community during these trips, and we’ve already seen media offerings of their visit to the Litchfield Bears junior club.
Incidentally, how good to see the recently retired Keegan Hipgrave involved with the community engagement!
On the footy front, the Eels have only lost one match in the Northern Territory, and just happens to be against the Cowboys.
No other opponent would be as familiar with the warm, humid conditions as the Cowboys, so it stands to reason that they will always be in with a shot. They’d probably attract more local support than any other NRL club.
Given the Cows recent good form, the Eels will need to be at their best to get the win.
No, it’s got nothing to do with Junior.
The latest Eels rumour concerns a mid season addition of Rabbitohs outside back, Jaxson Paulo. It’s been suggested that Parra are looking to offer a deal to the 22 year old who currently seems to be out of favour at the Bunnies.
I could be wrong, but I assume that the rumours are hinting at the offer of a Top 30 contract. That’s not entirely surprising given the injury toll at the Eels, and also the need to finalise places in the roster.
If this speculation is on the mark, the young bloke will have plenty to prove as he’s being kept out of first grade by Josh Mansour. With respect to “The Sauce”, he is not playing anything like his best in an inconsistent South Sydney team.
We are also reaching the point where a number of players on the Eels injured list are close to returning to the field. Furthermore, Paulo is lining up at centre for the Bunnies in NSW Cup. Without knowing any specifics about such a selection decision, this could be a nod to his versatility, an issue with Souths depth at centre, or an indication that the Rabbitohs no longer view him as a winger.
Would he be a short term solution or a long term investment for the Eels?
Moses vs Gutho Rumours
I’ve always had a giggle when the media, or even fans, have tried to make something out of the on-field interactions between the Eels half and fullback.
It is literally a banter-athon between these two at every Eels training session.
They were at it again this week as they tried to one-up each other during the kicking and catching practice in the extras. Moses had Gutho in fits of laughter with his verbals, then doubled down by swapping the catching role to show Gutho how it was done.
I could literally write an entire post about the shots being fired, but it’s simply two good mates who obviously enjoy each other’s company. It doesn’t hurt the workplace either, as both blokes are also role models with their work ethic, proving that there’s a place for fun amongst the serious grind of training.
I rated Ryan Matterson as the best on field against the Knights.
This wasn’t a game out of the blue. He’s been one of the Eels most consistent performers every week in 2022.
It’s no secret that the highly skilled Matto is off-contract this season. It’s also no secret that Parra aren’t interested in shelling out top of the market deals no matter the form of the player concerned.
After a series of concussions over the last few seasons, there were question marks about Matterson’s long term prospects in the NRL. For the time being, those concerns seem to be in the rear view mirror. Matto is the type of bloke who wouldn’t take risks with his health. If he received medical advice to walk away, I reckon he wouldn’t hesitate.
So where does all of this place any negotiation?
Given the departures at season’s end, there is surely a place for a quality forward who can play both middle and edge. I’m hoping that both parties can find common ground with contract value.
Ice, Ice Baby
A quick shout out to one of the departing players, Isaiah Papali’i.
Ice was not at his best against the Tigers, but he wasn’t Robinson Crusoe.
That was all put very rapidly behind him with a five star performance against the Knights. I rated his effort right up there with Matto’s, and in some ways it was arguably one of his best ever in Eels colours.
Quite simply, Parra Papa refused to be denied on any play. His attitude was best exemplified in his two tries as he literally threw every part of his being into the Knights defence.
Personally, I think Ice belongs in the Blue and Gold. It’s a shame that he’s going to leave after this year, but players have to give serious consideration to maximising their earnings in a relatively short career. It’s understandable that he and others have accepted rich offers to leave.
However, that doesn’t stop supporters from hoping that a back flip is possible!
What did you think of the Penrith supporters mocking the Raiders Viking clap?
It wasn’t the first time they’ve done it, and they weren’t the first to do it. Hello Mick Ennis.
There have been mixed reactions, with many enjoying it and others regarding it as crossing a line.
I’m far too biased against Riff supporters to give an opinion. I’ve copped personal abuse at their ground, even had objects thrown at me, simply for being a visiting supporter.
Hence, I’d rather read your takes. Was it a bit of fun or was it arrogance against an easy target being beaten comprehensively at the time?
I was at Kogarah Oval (Netstrata Jubilee) for the Eels Tarsha Gale Cup grand final qualifier, when the Panthers S G Ball team arrived.
As they walked as a squad across the front of the stand, there was something eerily familiar about it.
In the middle of the group, two of the players were carrying an over-sized boom box which was blasting out the “doof-doof” for everybody to hear.
It was literally an announcement of their arrival, almost like a prized boxer. Furthermore, even if they weren’t wearing the Riff colours, most punters would have been able to guess that the team from the foot of the mountains had arrived.
I’ll admit to shaking my head and uttering an expletive at this “show”, but their culture is working. The Panthers NRL team remains undefeated and this SG Ball team qualified for the grand final after hammering the Knights.
Take A Bow
The title dreams for the Eels Tarsha Gale Cup team came to a halt in the final ten minutes of their clash against the Knights last Saturday, but I’m hoping that the girls hold their heads high.
Without question, the Eels were the better team in the grand final qualifier. The Knights got off to a flier with an intercept try in the second set of the match, but from there Parra were physically dominant and set up a 14-6 lead, scoring three tries after the early set back.
Unfortunately, the match was turned on its head in the final ten minutes, and a couple of crucial calls provided a quality Knights side with both possession and momentum.
The Eels Tarsha Gale team and staff should be proud that they maintained their high standards from round one all the way to this finals clash.
Importantly, 12 players from the squad will be age-eligible to run around again in 2023, so the future at the Eels looks bright.
On Thursday, final goodbyes were said to our dear friend, Joe Briffa.
Tears, laughter, a bit of Elvis and plenty of Blue and Gold were the order of the day in his funeral service at Castlebrook and the wake at the Ettamogah.
Joe was a true character, something that was conveyed well on the day.
A personal thanks to Hamish who spoke so well on behalf of Joe’s Parra mates.
Joe will be missed but his passion for the Eels won’t be forgotten.