Welcome to Parradise circa 2022.
Take care where you walk, as you will be required to take two steps forward followed immediately by one extended step backwards.
In this land of the Blue and Gold, we believe in making things difficult for ourselves.
Turning up every week ready to play makes sense, but that’s what you’d be expecting.
We stand for the unpredictable, because football life for our supporters should be like a box of chocolates. You know how it goes.
Passive Parra Punished
Friday’s clash with Souths was Parra’s biggest match of the season thus far.
Though the Eels were without Mitch Moses, and Souths were at short odds in the betting market, there was plenty in Parra’s favour.
A CommBank Stadium crowd of around 23K supporters created a big match atmosphere. The Bunnies had key players out and were fielding a number of rookies. The Eels could confirm their finals place, push for a top 4 spot, and consign the Rabbitohs to the danger zone.
You’d expect the team to come out breathing fire, right?
For some reason, the Eels were ridiculously passive and it was evident from Souths opening set. Parra’s line speed was non existent, and the forwards registered zero on the aggression scale.
And didn’t Souths enjoy the lack of resistance! Time and again they hit the ball up behind the ruck, with Mitchell literally telegraphing their intentions as he loitered around the middle.
It’s time for Parra to aim up in matches like this. The excuse card has already been trotted out multiple times this season. The soft attitude was insulting to the jersey.
At 14 nil, the score flattered the Eels effort. Were it not for some big defensive plays from Gutherson, Souths could have advanced their points towards the half century mark in the first half alone.
Was it any surprise that Kaufusi, Niukore and Cartwright were all introduced early? Arthur needed to stem the tide through the middle and the bench mostly did that. After recent criticism of the lack of impact from our bench, how strange that they were the ones needed to right the ship!
Just on that change, I’ve read comments from people questioning Cartwright being used in the middle. The middle role that Matterson and many other locks play has effectively become an additional spine player. It provides an extra ball player with size and mobility. I thought that Carty did a very good job, missing no tackles, and if he had more support from ball runners he could have posed a greater threat to Souths defence.
I can only hope that the Eels forwards were suitably embarrassed by their own performance. Change to the starting pack seems unlikely, so an extended walk through the room of mirrors seems in order.
Why do the Bunnies enjoy such success against the Eels? They play really basic football, and given its effectiveness, I fear other teams using it as their blueprint when facing Parra.
Obviously Souths have a clinical left side attack that creates problems for most opponents. Johnston doesn’t sit that high in the all time try scorers list by only crossing the stripe against the Eels.
However, a revolving crew of Bunnies forwards have dominated the Eels much vaunted pack in literally every recent clash. They run harder, tackle harder and stick to game plans. That’s rugby league 101 isn’t it?
I didn’t envisage Souths would go about their business completely unchallenged on Friday night. Did I underestimate them or overestimate our blokes?
Once again, some ugly Parra supporters reared their head after the Eels loss on Friday night. This time it was Mahoney who copped an awful spray from “brave” patrons as he left the field in what is becoming an all too familiar pattern of behaviour.
The one thing that Reed Mahoney will do every single week is bust his gut. His effort or commitment should never be the subject of drunken outbursts.
It hasn’t been a happy year for the Eels hooker. Mahoney’s service, particularly in the red zone, has not reached the standard of past seasons, and that’s being kind. He looks like a player with the weight of the world on his shoulders. I’m no fan of players signing with rival clubs so far in advance and maybe this accounts for a drop in form.
Regardless, Reed is wearing the Eels jersey now and hurling abuse at him is not only disrespectful, it’s hardly likely to trigger a return to his best. Anyone planning to do so should definitely stay away from CommBank Stadium because you won’t be helping the cause.
Gutherson and Lane Stand Tall
I want to give another acknowledgement to our captain, and to the most improved player in the Eels line up.
A couple of weeks ago I was highly critical of Clint Gutherson’s form. I even suggested that he might be carrying an injury, such was his low in both attack and defence.
Over the last three weeks, we’ve seen a return of the King.
Even in a badly beaten team, he made Souths battle for every point. Were it not for his defensive plays, I hate to think what the score could have been. When a fullback has to make 11 tackles, that says plenty about what’s happening in front of him.
Then we have Shaun Lane. In a side that couldn’t register one point, he ran for 178 metres, with 92 post contact metres. Throw in 42 tackles and it was a massive effort for an edge forward. His charges provided some of the few moments that put the Rabbitohs defence under pressure.
If the Eels do any damage from this point onwards, Lane will probably have a key involvement.
Eels NRLW Ready To Fire
The Eels kick off their 2022 NRLW premiership campaign with a first round encounter against the Roosters this Saturday. Expect to see a faster, and more exciting brand of footy from the side this season.
After attending two training sessions last week, I compiled a report (available here) which noted that the speed of the play will go up a notch (or two) on their inaugural season. The opposed session against the Flegg side was fascinating to watch, and the attack posed questions to the Flegg defence.
I refrained from mentioning it in my report, but I’m now prepared to declare that Gayle Broughton will immediately catch the eye of Parra fans. The former All Blacks Sevens player is a major talent, and at fullback she’ll pose a threat with her vision and her pace.
Another new player to keep a watch on is Rima Butler. Hailing from the Wenty Harvey Norman team, she definitely looks ready to make her mark at NRLW level.
Once again, I’d like to thank the Eels NRLW staff and players for the access and for making me feel so welcome at training.
If you didn’t turn up for Parra’s NSW Cup game against Souths, you missed a cracking game from our team.
The match pitched 5th vs 6th on the table, and in their last encounter, the Eels had to come from 14 points down to defeat the Bunnies.
This time, the Eels dominated in a 32 to 10 hammering of the myrtle and cardinal boys.
Jordan Rankin returned in the half back role, and the spine completely outplayed their opponents. That said, there are a couple of other players that had massive games.
After being dropped to NSW Cup, Makahesi Makatoa made a statement by running for an astounding 242 metres! But it gets better. His post contact metres clocked in at 115, with three tackle breaks thrown in for good measure.
I was particularly impressed with the way he held the ball in two hands, looking like he was about to pass. In fact, he passed the ball on seven occasions, offloaded in the tackle once and threw three dummy passes. Gone was the one dimensional play that most would have associated with him.
The other player I want to single out from this match is Sean Russell. The young winger had one of the most physical performances I’ve seen from him. In attack, he hit the ball up hard into traffic and he was rewarded with three tries. In defence, he made 15 crucial tackles, quite a significant number for a winger.
As a final note, I’m pleased with two additions to the Eels ranks this year.
Zac Cini should play NRL again. He has genuine X factor qualities and is making great strides transitioning to the centre position at Parra.
Toni Mataele is an Eels Junior who returned to Parra after a short stint at Newcastle. He has bounced back well from a long term injury sustained during the preseason and has added impact to the Eels attack on the left edge.
By the way, anyone in the stadium should still be talking about the tackle that Wiremu Greig put on a Rabbitohs player late in the game. It was one of the most ferocious one on one tackles that I’ve witnessed in over half a century of watching footy, and it was probably a message to BA who overlooked Woody when elevating Ofahiki Ogden.
I’m hearing that the Souths player suffered a broken leg, but the tackle was completely legal, hitting the ball runner near the ribs. We wish him all the best. Rugby league can be a brutal game!
Finally, I want to congratulate the Flegg team on their recent victories. It’s been a tough season for the fellas. A large number of new recruits and elevated pathways players were thrown together at the start of the season and I can’t recall any week without a swag of changes.
The side has hit their stride just a bit too late in a competition where only the top 5 feature in finals footy. You can read our live blog of their win over Souths here.
Blue And Gold Alliance
This Saturday, the Blue and Gold Alliance will stage their much anticipated annual Parramatta players reunion.
Festivities for over 100 former Eels players and staff commence with a luncheon in Parramatta Leagues club where no doubt many memories will be relived and many tales will be shared.
This fine group will then be honoured at CommBank Stadium when they do a lap of the ground prior to the first grade match.
Many Eels supporters should already be in their seats to cheer the “old boys”. It’s a massive triple header match day, with the NSW Cup kicking off at 11am and the NRLW launching at 1pm.
Hopefully the NRL team can make it a day to remember with a victory over arch rival, the Bulldogs.
Winston Hills Tigers
Another wonderful family-focussed Eels junior club featured in the most recent issue of our Parramatta Stories series.
The Winston Hills Tigers came into existence in the early years of the suburb itself. After celebrating their 50th anniversary a couple of years ago, the club now looks back fondly on their early years of resourcefulness, when car boots functioned as the canteen, and flagpoles were fashioned into goal posts.
Located in the heart of the Eels catchment, they are a club that sits in the heart of their community. If you haven’t already done so, you can read their story here.
The Tip Sheet Live
Despite the terrible performance from our Eels, a full room of supporters turned up for our live appearance in Jacks Bar and Grill in Parra Leagues with special guest, Brett Kenny. We always enjoy meeting our listeners and extend our thanks to everyone who attended and especially those who took the time to say g’day.
If you haven’t caught Brett Kenny’s takes on the game, you can listen here. Bert is always good value and very generous with his time. Many fans took the opportunity to grab a photo and have a chat with him after the podcast concluded.
Please note, we won’t be appearing this week as Parra Leagues will be featuring Sounds West artists in their post game schedule.
We will return after the final home game of the season in Round 25.