Let’s talk about life in PARRAdise. As somebody famous once said, it wasn’t meant to be easy.
Matches tend to feature the best version of our opponents, and though this produces some cracking footy, it delivers heart palpitations for the Parra faithful.
Controversy rarely seems far away, with match officials having to make critical calls that are either disputed by opposition coaches or despised by Eels fans. Guilty!
And good news about something like Origin representation can be quickly followed by something like rumours of player departures.
This week feels typical.
Bumpers Up Baby!
In our Instant Reaction episode of The Tip Sheet podcast, Forty compared the Eels victory over the Raiders to the away game win against the Panthers.
It’s virtually impossible to argue with him.
The match was a high quality game of football against an in-form opponent. It was a road trip that had yielded little success over nearly twenty years, the crowd was hostile, and the decisions didn’t flow the Eels way.
And similar to the Panthers clash, the Eels had to absorb incredible pressure through much of the second half before finding something in the tank to create a couple of match-winning tries.
Was it the Eels best victory of the season?
Maybe I should change the question.
Was it the Eels best performance of the season?
I reckon it was up there with the wins over the Storm and the Panthers. Those wins were emotionally stirring, mostly for the preconceived ideas about the outcome against those opponents.
There was a greater expectation that the Eels would beat the Raiders, but on match day the Green Machine delivered everything that their fans could possibly ask for. They will defeated most teams if they can reproduce similar efforts.
For that reason, the victory should not be underrated.
That Bunker Call
Has that bunker decision about the Eels Captain’s challenge been swept under the carpet?
The Eels didn’t make a fuss about it post match. Publicly criticising match officials is not how the club rolls.
Nonetheless, I cannot accept the call or the lack of clarification afterwards.
Despite ultimately losing the challenge, it was a call that Gutherson had to take to the bunker.
In attempting an intercept, Rapana had tapped the ball up into the air. It’s similar to a player juggling a pass or a kick reception. They are deemed to be in possession of a ball that is currently live for them and can provide an advantage.
If a player cannot be tackled after tapping up or juggling the ball, then taken to its ludicrous extreme, defenders would be expected to leave them alone whilst they try to secure their grip. Continuing that interpretation, as long as the ball runner doesn’t deliberately tap the ball over a defender’s head, he could run any distance juggling a ball and be deemed untouchable.
Of course, a player cannot do that because the rule does not allow it. This is where the bunker official made an awful error.
The only way that the player cannot be tackled in that circumstance is if another player had first touched the ball, or if the player was trying to complete a knock on.
To explain, if another player had first touched the ball, then the tackled player was never in possession. If the ball had touched the ground, then it was no longer in his possession. In the instance of a potential knock on, the player would be attempting to kill the ball by regathering it and would not have gained the advantage of continued possession.
In this incident, the only way that the bunker could have been correct is if Opacic had touched the ball after Rapana first contacted it. Again, it would be a case of Rapana no longer being in possession. But Opacic didn’t touch the ball.
Should there be any different interpretation of the rule, then it is a precedent which the NRL must clarify it as it has far reaching implications.
Why am I so concerned after a win?
As I see it, there is minimal grey in the call and it demonstrates a potential lack of knowledge by a match official who has the benefit of replays.
Furthermore, the added loss of a captain’s challenge could have been costly to the Eels as there were a number of decisions in the second half that would have definitely resulted in a challenge (see Reed Mahoney being dispossessed).
I am a supporter of the role of the bunker, but the officials involved must do better.
Despite the Eels positive win/loss record, there is a concerning trend of conceding first points in 2022.
Of the Eels twelve games so far this year, the opposition has been first to score in nine of those matches.
Admittedly, one of those early scores was the Knights opting for a penalty goal. Even allowing for the Eels posting the first try and a big win in that clash, the only other matches in which Parra has scored first are the wins over the Titans (twice), and the Dragons.
Consider this track record – Canberra posted the first try after 8 minutes, Manly 13 minutes, Roosters 3 minutes, Penrith 4 minutes, Cowboys 30 minutes, Tigers 10 minutes, Storm 11 minutes and Sharks 11 minutes. Apart from the Cowboys, every other team crossed quite early in those matches.
There are two ways to view this.
The first perspective is that the team continues to make their task harder by regularly giving up early points and having to win from behind – a task that was beyond them in each of their losses. It’s hard to argue with that logic and it’s definitely something that needs to be addressed.
Another way to look at it is that the Eels have demonstrated a capacity to stick to game plans and battle their way from behind to win matches. That’s an equally valid perspective, especially when factoring in the opportunities they created to win against the Sharks, the Tigers and the Roosters.
Personally, I take a glass half full perspective.
Parra should not be giving away starts on such a regular basis. Ultimately, it might cost them a big end of season game.
However, should their opponent get away to an early lead, I’m now more confident that the Eels have the capacity to stay composed against any team.
And that also augers well for finals footy.
Mole’s Matto Rumour
Tony Adams, a veteran rugby league journalist who also writes under the alias of “The Mole”, has today reported that Eels forward Ryan Matterson has all but agreed to a deal with the Dolphins, a rich deal that reportedly involves the club captaincy.
I don’t have any inside mail on this news, but Matto’s form had made him a prime recruitment candidate for many clubs with the Dolphins at the head of that list.
Though not quite as dramatic, the entry of a new franchise is like a mini version of Super League, with targeted players having the opportunity to earn once in a career contracts.
TCT readers know my attitude about the retention of Matto. I will be critical of his departure should it transpire.
That said, should he depart I won’t be critical of him. Just like any of the players in their final year at Parra, my only concern is their performance on the field in the Blue and Gold jersey.
Players have to balance what’s best for their career against what’s best for their financial future. Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Burton provide the prime examples of the footy price associated with mega deals.
Every significant Eels player on the move is heading to a club looking to rise to finals football in 2023.
I doubt that any of those players will feature in end of season games next season.
Congratulations to Parra’s trio of forwards on their selection for NSW in Origin 1.
Junior Paulo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson have each earned their spots with their outstanding form this season.
Winning teams create representative honours for their players, and Fittler has demonstrated with his decisions and justifications that it is a critical factor when he selects Blues teams.
Obviously, BA and his coaching staff also deserve congratulations for the Eels creating a top 8 streak that stretches back to round 1, 2019. With the team regularly in the spotlight, the form of individual players has received due recognition.
And with representative honours coming the way of our players, Eels fans take a greater interest in the Origin clashes.
I know I will be.
Despite the NRL bye, there is still Blue and Gold footy to be found this weekend.
In NSW Cup action, Parra take on Mounties at 7pm on Friday night at Kellyville Park.
Then on Saturday, Kellyville Park will be hosting the Eels clash with the Thunderbolts, with play kicking off at 1:30pm.
Be sure to bring a fold out chair and wear something warm.
See you there!