Watching from the stands on Monday was overwhelmingly tough.
I sat at a stadium I greatly dislike, in seats that cost way too much considering how far you are away from the field, only to very quickly realise my team had not come back from their break.
I am not going to ignore what happened against the Dogs but at the same time I am not going to dwell on it either. It was disgusting, awful and embarrassing and that only sums up how us fans felt sitting in the stands hearing the friendly advice come our way from the Doggies supporters.
There are no words to adequately describe that performance but one comes close. “Entitled!”
To me our team played as if they believed they were entitled to win and that the Dogs would just roll over. No genuine Parra or Doggies fan would ever think that. Anyone who thought the dogs would not have a genuine dig do not understand our great rivalry one little bit.
As a fan I have a choice to make about how I respond.
I can vent, as I and many others have. I can also hold views on who should and must be held accountable and I do. But none of that helps with this week’s game. So for this week my support will remain as strong as ever, but at the same time challenge our players to step up.
Our fan base has every right to have questions and be very disappointed by our last game. They have every right to question if our defensive flaws are ever going to be fixed. All of that is legitimate but come this Saturday I know the Blue and Gold army will stand up, wave our flags and support the boys and the club.
There will always be conflicting views about the team selected, or the game plan used, but once the whistle goes we are all united in our support.
The challenge I put to our players is a simple one. Will they show as much resolve and belief as the 20 000 plus fans in attendance and the hundreds of thousands more who will watch on TV?
Will they have the same faith as their army of supporters? Will they have faith in the players they train alongside each and every day? Will they execute their role, however small or big, to help us navigate back into calm waters?
The NRL competition is a fascinating one. Form lines can be inconsistent and confusing. Consider how some teams struggle against others.
Over recent years our Eels have struggled to even compete with South Sydney yet we hold the wood over Melbourne, a team the Rabbitohs have not beaten in the last 10 games.
The point is, last Monday’s result should not impact how the Eels perform come September.
That should be the case, but only if the coaches and players alike face the truth as to why that loss happened. Any player that needs to be told what they did wrong should not be picked to play in our team again. It was painfully obvious for all to see.
Additionally, if they cannot admit and rectify why they failed to turn up they should not be part of our short or long term plans.
For all its complex moves and associated subtleties, rugby league remains an inherently simple game. The team that runs the hardest, kicks and chases the best and sticks to a game plan the longest will almost always succeed.
For us to succeed this week, our forwards must go forward all game, our outside backs must communicate and trust each other in both attack and defence. But most importantly our players need to embrace and accept how this team plays, and how we succeed.
If you want to throw the ball around and score flashy tries out on the wing go play for the Bunnies. That is not our game style, it is not how we win.
Earlier, I referred to the word ‘entitled.”
Let me now talk about genuine entitlement.
Our players are entitled to expect my support this week, and I’ll be in the stands once again, providing that support.
Likewise, supporters are entitled to expect nothing like the garbage on display against the Dogs. We are entitled to see the middles go forward all game, the edge players to run the lines they are supposed to, and the spine to play unselfish, controlled and patient footy. Essentially, supporters are entitled to watch every member of the team have a genuine go at executing their role.
Monday’s result, and those two points, should not determine our success or failure this season. But if the lessons aren’t learnt and acted on, the reason for that loss will be the main reason our quest for a title will again remain out of reach.