The Cumberland Throw

Bumpers Up – May 31, 2022: Winning Games, But Losing Starts, Challenges And Players

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!


Capital Effort

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.

Try time in Canberra

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.


Substandard Starts

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.


Origin Honours

Congratulations to Parra’s trio of forwards on their selection for NSW in Origin 1.

The Eels Origin announcement (A ripper from Jane Mortimer)

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.

Kellyville Beckons

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!

Eels forever!



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20 thoughts on “Bumpers Up – May 31, 2022: Winning Games, But Losing Starts, Challenges And Players

  1. Anonymous

    No one left for the board to lose is there except BA , god help us if that happens and we a poach not a coach , this board only buy from reject shop !!

  2. Spark

    Ok well if we lose Matto we do … but that’s a big chunk of our forwards departing so we had better start signing some others up. We just have to keep our spine signed up – that is where you win and lose games, the rest are just chess pieces and don’t forget we have the SOO front rowers signed up too.

    There was speculation that Hopgood was on the way but that has gone silent. I know they play their cards close to their chests but maybe time to start announcing a signing or two.

  3. Big Derek

    Losing players is part of the game , however in the case of the team that has been assembled over the past 3/4 years, the real question is – who will replace them?

    Ther doesn’t appear to be anyone in reserve grade that look likely to step up and assume the roles that Ice/Marata/ Matto bring to the team. The HOF has a couple of serious jobs in his KPIs, balancing the salary cap and recruitment, can we be seen on the same level as clubs like Roosters and Storm, that’s his challenge.

    The run in to the end of season will answer the questions, are we good enough to challenge and can the coach bring more to the table. Also can we get recruits on board under the cap to provide real strength to the team which doesn’t appear far away from challenging for the comp.

    Come October we will,know, perhaps sooner who knows

  4. Shaun

    If Matto is going so be it. Captain of a new club, playing under one of the all time great coaches, it is a great opportunity. It is hard to compete with that.

  5. MickB

    I’d love to keep Matto on his recent form, he’s been superb. Plus that recent Ch9 interview of making the origin squad was heart warming stuff – a humble, proud footy lover.

    But to me, if this squad can’t win a premiership this year, we need a bit of a clean out, and if that means letting Matto so be it. They’ve been together long enough to get it done now. I wouldn’t want to lose Gutho, Moses or D Brown, but I think the rest are a little more expendable …. Not to sound disrespectful, as we have a lot of great players. But at some point you need to shake things up a bit. It will make 2023 a challenging year, but I think BA has demonstrated an ability to find and coach some real underpaid gems such that we don’t need to go pay $1.0m a year for Payne Haas, or someone similar.

    I’d trust the recruitment and retention process to get this one right, whatever the outcome.

    1. Anonymous

      BA similar to storm formula , good spine , decent up front then fill in the dots , its worked for 84 weeks keeping us in top 8 , theres very few coaches that can get it done , pretty astute quotes mickb 👍

      1. Anonymous

        Might add nathan browns time is up more than anyones , hot n cold but has been all his time with us , show him the door now !!!!!

  6. Prometheus

    If you don’t question match officials decisions you can’t expect clarification on them. Time to give some young forwards a taste of top grade. I’d like to see who are eligible get some blooding.

  7. Iron Mike

    Good chance I’ll get a run in the second rower next year the way we are going! Please be kind on me with the grades each week

  8. pete

    Great read Sixties.

    Raiders; always a tough assignment and they always go up a gear against us.

    Rub of the green; I think as BA has seemed to indicate that we won’t complain, no matter what (it’s very hard for us fans). But I guess we just accept we are going to get these types of calls. I just hope it doesn’t cost us again like last year. Ivan, Stuart and Des are adept at manipulating the match referees for future credit in penalty counts or decisions. BA has chosen not to be like that. Take note of the Manly clash return at Brookvale for a dividend payed to Hasler.

    Slow start; I don’t mind a slow start as long as we keep winning. Last year we would have lost more of those games. I hope we are building on this second half display.

    Recruitment; first I was dumbfounded by the loss of Reed. I now see it for what it is. If we had JMK we would still be ok I feel. Hodgson was elite so I’m sure he’ll be again.
    ICE is a bigger loss IMHO than Matto. Don’t get me wrong I like Matto but he’s only really hit his straps looking for a new contract. His best games he’s coming off the bench at 13. He’s not starting yet? If Dolphins offer him starting role and captaincy and big money it’s hard to beat that.

    Dyl bags also hitting his straps coming up to new contract he needs to be signed as priority. We need Moses and Dyl signed long term. We can build a team around these guys.

    Thanks again
    Go Eels!!

  9. BDon

    Good read sixties. The starts – we’ve also had a frustrating number of first score tries disallowed. Roster- I’m just over it, what will be, will be, ive always said that the one we’ll never see the best of in Blue & Gold is Marata, he’s going home to family, good luck to him.

  10. Roger Irreverent

    As a spectator at Canberra, I commend their match day efforts and the Raiders effort to score within an allotted 5 minutes enabling members and ticket holders to get a free McDonalds meal. But I take umbrage with the glass half full comment. Statistically speaking a glass that is replete with 50% of its capacity in liquid is half full AND half empty. One does not have to decide which perspective is correct, as they are both essentially accurate, not mutually exclusive. If one contemplates Parramatta’s season as half full or half empty, again an accurate measure, then one must consider the direction in which coach and players and fans wish to take the Club for the balance of the season towards an emptier or fuller position. How much will hinge on improvements in the Eels match day experience?

    1. sixties

      Irreverent, as both halves of the glass offer equally accurate perspectives, so too is my application of the positive half to the Eels performances an accurate usage.
      I will provide my take on the improvements in Eels match day experience and their importance in late September.

      1. Zero58

        Mr Sixties, your illustration is either positive or negative. You choose the positive aspect of it. There can be be no other way to see it.
        You are correct – the club should challenge that ruling – clearly it was wrong. It actually led to a try because Gutherson dropping that ball his mind was back at the penalty.
        As for Cash he moved away from the ruck and was fair game. No problem with that except it happens a few times with him.
        Can we afford to lose six battle hardened forwards. The club should make every effort to keep Matterson bearing in mind his concussion issues. I don’t believe the Dolphins offered him the captaincy not with the Bromich boys there.
        Our slow starts are a concern but our second half efforts are balancing it out a bit. It all depends on how much start they giving the opposition.
        I am very much concerned about the Origin period because BA has not given the reggies forwards a start even off the bench. I smell trouble if we lose one or two through injury.
        Maybe my glass is half empty. Hope not.

        1. sixties

          Zero, with regard to our 2022 season, I think we can agree that it is following a different path to the last couple of seasons. We played some of our best footy early, got off to a very high table position with only a couple of losses, then had the slump before lifting to play good but ultimately unsuccessful finals footy.
          This year we’ve had greater inconsistency, yet our high points give stronger hope. The draw has also been challenging in terms of travel.
          The bye has come at a good time in my opinion.
          Re-charge, come home on a draw featuring more Sydney games, plenty of them at CommBank Stadium, and though the run of opponents will be tough we should be able to achieve Top 4.
          Lets see if that eventuates.

          1. Zero58

            Mr Sixties, this reasoning does not make your glass half full. It’s to the top! If it is schooner – enjoy.
            I like it!!

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