Not too long ago I believed that the Eels had massacred their opportunity to control their own destiny for finals football.
Big losses to the Broncos and Souths even had Parra looking over their shoulder as they were not yet guaranteed of qualifying for the top eight.
Now, Thursday looms as the most important regular season match in recent history, with the Blue and Gold playing the Storm for a spot in the top four.
It comes on the back of other results falling Parra’s way, as well as big victories over the Bulldogs and the Broncos. If you’re not at CommBank Stadium this Thursday, then you obviously have a good reason for your absence.
There’s plenty to talk about in PARRAdise. Bumpers Up!
What a difference attitude can make to a football team.
Just three weeks ago, the Eels were pummelled by the Rabbitohs. Maybe it was a continuation of Parra’s abominable record against the Bunnies, but they were passive and never in the contest.
After a team “honesty session”, the Eels have been a different beast. They’ve started games with intensity and purpose. Our much vaunted pack have won the middle, putting their opponents on the back foot and creating space for the edges.
If we down play the wins and merely point at the form of the opponent, that would be forgetting that both the Dogs and the Broncos embarrassed the Eels in each of their previous clashes. And for the Broncos, that win at CommBank Stadium was just over a month ago.
Clearly, Parra’s major issue continues to be their headspace. Though I’m not ignoring the defensive problems which continue to flare, it’s obvious that the team gives up the most points when they “don’t turn up.” In each of those matches, the Eels were insipid in both attack and defence.
Can we trust the team to stay focussed for the limited minutes left in the season? If they can, and that starts with a win over the Storm this Thursday, then maybe we can keep the hope alive.
There has been no shortage of criticism regarding BA’s use of the bench this year. Supporters have fired shots at his selections and the time he assigns certain players.
It’s been a topic discussed on TCT many times, and plenty of punters disagree with the Eels bench. But there’s the point. Whether people agree or not doesn’t mean that the coach is wrong to use the bench in a way that he believes suits his team.
Forty20 has broken down how he sees the rotating fourth bench player role, which often serves as providing coverage for backline or spine players. The consequence of the minimal minutes for the fourth bench player is the rotation between NSW Cup and the NRL as BA attempts to provide the player with more game time.
The extended minutes allocated to the starting middles reflects the platform that they provide for the team. Furthermore, the club has invested big coin on them, and you’d hardly pay someone upwards of $650K, then use them for only 40 minutes.
Over the last couple of weeks, Arthur has made a couple of minor adjustments. Junior’s minutes have decreased, whilst Ryan Matterson has started from the bench.
Has BA got it right? The results will probably be a starting point for that assessment.
Just prior to the Eels clash with the Dogs, I was stunned to learn that the match was officially a sell out.
The Saturday, 3pm time-slot is not conducive to big attendances, and I thought that an excellent response would see 15K roll up.
However, it seems that the warmth of the afternoon sun, along with a traditional opponent, had the fans clamouring for tickets.
Ignore the empty seats in sell outs. It’s typical for around 3000 ticket holders to not turn up most weeks.
Which brings us to this Thursday night.
This is probably the worst night for attracting crowds, but given the magnitude of the clash, it wouldn’t surprise me if there is another sell-out.
There won’t be any travelling Storm supporters to speak of, but if ever the Blue and Gold Army needs to turn up for a match, this must be the one.
The media are all over it. Fans are up in arms. Just how does Nelson Asofa-Solomona continue to evade suspension in 2022.
Seriously, can I get this bloke to fill in my Lotto ticket for me? His rap sheet is a litany of rugby league indiscretions, and how the repeated use of his forearm to the head of opponents has escaped genuine punishment is a blight on the MRC.
The reality is that NAS is not the only player to avoid logical justice. He’s simply the most frequent flyer. The crazy ride of non charges started in round 1 and it’s continued since.
What upsets most people is that the recent incidents featuring the Storm forward involve completely unnecessary contact with the head of an opponent. They don’t appear to be standard tackles gone wrong.
And as far as I’m concerned, that is where the line should have been drawn.
NRLW Bounce Back
Though they didn’t get the result they fought so hard for, the Eels NRLW team should feel both proud and encouraged by their performance against the Dragons. It was a stunning improvement on their first up loss to the Roosters, and with a bit of good fortune they could have jagged the win.
The forwards were aggressive in their hit ups and the team’s defensive line speed was much better than the passive line they presented just one week earlier.
Prior to round 1, we were talking up the football prowess of Gayle Broughton. It’s fair to say, that in round 2 everybody knew what we were talking about.
In case you missed it the first time, the Kiwi Sevens star engaged the defence and put Tiana Penitani through the line not just once, but twice.
That wouldn’t have been possible had the other players not perfectly executed their role in the set piece which was designed to provide the fullback with both time and space to perform her magic.
Unfortunately the Eels couldn’t find a way to utilise Broughton as effectively in the second half. But if they can use their round two form as a launch pad, their chances of getting the win this week will be greatly enhanced.
Finals Footy For NSW Cup Team
The Eels KOE NSW Cup team have rightly qualified for finals footy after their last round victory over the Knights. Only the top 5 teams participate in the playoffs, with the first round of the finals taking place at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday.
It won’t be easy. They’ll be taking on the Bulldogs, a team that has had their measure in both clashes this year, though only three points separated them in their last meeting.
The big question mark will surround regular half, Jake Arthur. He was only used for ten minutes in the NRL clash with the Broncos and so he doubled up to steer the Cup team to the last round victory over the Knights. If he again plays minimal minutes against the Storm, will he back up on Saturday?
Kick off for the Bulldogs clash is 5:15pm.
Flegg Finish On A High
It’s been a year of fluctuating fortunes for the Eels Jersey Flegg Cup team. They’ve produced some quality performances then thrown in some inexplicable lows. After an impressive final round victory, there would have been many wondering what could have been.
This mixed form was the reason behind their failure to qualify for finals footy, though they weren’t helped by an ever changing line up, especially during the first half of the season when injuries took their toll. Nonetheless, there was a definite improvement on what had been produced during the previous Covid interrupted season.
There were a swag of new faces in the 2022 squad, which was a combination of new recruits and elevated pathways players. Given the youth of the team, including a number who were still SG Ball eligible, I’d expect to see quite a few going around next year.
If their last match defeat of the second placed Knights can be a genuine springboard into 2023, then they can look forward to greater success next season.
The Tip Sheet Goes Live Again
Join us in Jacks Bar and Grill on Thursday night after the clash with the Storm for our live presentation of The Tip Sheet Instant Reaction.
Parra Leagues is the Home of the Eels, and it will definitely be the place to celebrate the big match. Head to Jacks for a drink, a pizza and plenty of footy talk with our special guest Neville Glover.
It has been a massive season for us back at the club, and we extend our thanks to Parra Leagues for giving us the opportunity to host the post match event alongside Eels legends.
We also wish to thank the Eels supporters and the followers of our podcast for getting to Jacks after the game. There have been some losses along the way, but we’ve been buoyed by the turn out and by the people who’ve gone out of their way to say hello.
I’d also like to encourage readers to have a listen to our special edition players reunion podcast from Jacks. We recorded a collection of short chats with former Parra players and it’s a terrific insight about what motivated these blokes to play for the club and what their time in the Blue and Gold was like.
This Thursday may not be our last appearance of the season. Stand by for details of the match day schedule for any home finals matches.