The Cumberland Throw

Bumpers Up – September 6, 2022: NRL Drops The Ball

At a time when all of the focus should be on the tremendous finals footy which lies ahead, the NRL has made one of the most bizarre decisions in recent memory.

The deferred suspension of Taylan May has all but the most ardent Panthers supporters scratching their head in disbelief.

We’ve all seen the vision. It could have turned out far worse.

The head scratching penalty handed down by the Integrity Unit headlines this week’s column because May’s action is offensive to the community, and the deferred suspension is slap in the face to players who receive far harsher penalties for genuine accidents that happen during the game.

The NRL has dropped the ball and an awful precedent has been set. I hope will be a one-off if not quickly rescinded.

I could have dedicated an entire column to this decision but there are other talking points across the NRL and in PARRAdise. There’s a mix of the good and the not so good, so probably nothing unusual in the footy universe.

Bumpers Up!

 

“Cowardly” Act Not Held To Account

Despite being found guilty of assault, Panthers winger Taylan May is free to play finals football after the NRL deferred his two game suspension to 2023.

Though May was only fined, and a conviction not recorded, the judge labelled the act “reprehensible” and “cowardly”.

May

This was not a tackle gone wrong on the footy field, something that is part of the game and done without intent. This was an attack on a member of the public, from behind, and fortunately the unsuspecting victim only sustained a sprained neck.

May has escaped serious consequence from the court system, but the NRL surely has a responsibility to hold its players to account. His actions brought the game into disrepute.

Deferring the two match penalty for an assault on a member of the community sends a very poor message. Evidently, the right of a player to participate in finals footy is more important than holding that same player to community standards.

This decision is a black mark against the NRL.

 

The Crowd Brings It

Not too long ago I was critical of certain elements in the Eels crowd. The booing of Jake Arthur and not long after, the drunken abuse of Reed Mahoney, created ugly scenes at CommBank Stadium.

The people responsible were in the extreme minority, but it was a bad look. You just don’t boo or abuse your own players.

The Blue and Gold Army in action

In contrast to that, last Thursday the Blue and Gold Army turned up in force, and in full voiced support of their team. The Storm and Ashley Klein were repeatedly reminded that they were on Eels turf, and the reception for a particular Melbourne player reflected his current “popularity” in the rugby league world.

Over 23k Parra fans filled the CommBank Stadium stands in anticipation of an inspired performance from the team, and the players didn’t disappoint. The result was close to the best atmosphere of the season.

What a night to be an Eels fan!

 

Top 4 Baby!

Around a month ago you could have almost written your own ticket about the Eels achieving their goal of finishing in the Top 4. To be fair, the poor performances in particular games were not representative of a top 4 team. 

Yet, Parra finished the season with a 67% win rate, and with a record that says that they didn’t post any consecutive losses.

The winning feeling

Let’s also remind critics that the Eels have been placed in the top 8 for every round, every year, since the opening of the 2019 season. That’s an incredibly consistent outcome for a team that’s labelled as inconsistent.

Two more goals remain.

Parra must next break through the finals week 2 barrier that has proven to be so difficult, albeit for reasons both within and outside of their control. 

The final goal, and it’s an attainable one, is obviously winning the title. It’s what every team aspires to, and the Eels need to believe that they have it within their capacity to be the 2022 premiers.

Right now, I’m rating the season as a B. In finishing the regular rounds in the top four, the Eels either equaled or bettered the predictions of many experts. To hold that rating, they need to reach the third week of the finals series.

I believe that they will wrap that up this week.

 

Can It Be Done?

It’s an incredible fact, but in order to win the title, the Eels might need to defeat the Panthers five times in one season.

That job is already 60% accomplished, with three victories under the Blue and Gold belt – the trial and both regular season clashes.

Junior

However, over the past three seasons virtually every other team has struggled to win just one match against Penrith. Reflecting on that gives a strong indication on the enormity of what’s been achieved by the Eels thus far this season…and what lies ahead.

Parra adopt a very physical approach to their encounters with big guns such as Melbourne, Penrith and the Roosters. Junior and RCG are our barometer. When they are on and win the middle, the Eels have a strong record against these clubs.

But Penrith possess an impressive pack, and the Eels middles will again need to be outstanding.

My nerves are already kicking in just thinking about the importance of getting the job done this week.


Small Stadiums Not Good Enough For Finals Footy

Under the current system, the Panthers, Sharks, Storm and Roosters have earned home matches in week one of the finals series. It’s just reward for placing better than their opponent.

So let’s talk about the current system.

The Sharks home ground has a capacity of 11K and is a construction zone. They wouldn’t have drawn a much larger crowd  than that to a final against the Cowboys, but had they faced another Sydney club, the pressure would have been on the NRL to change the venue.

Likewise, the Eels take on the Panthers at the small and outdated BlueBet Stadium. Consequently, tens of thousands of supporters will miss out on getting a ticket. Aside from that, the NRL should be embarrassed to stage finals series matches at grounds where patrons are expected to shell out good coin to sit on hills.

If teams such as Manly, St George or Wests were to qualify for finals footy, the same issues would exist. Their home grounds are not up to standard. Finals matches should not be staged at grounds that the NRL admits are in urgent need of major overhauls.

Well done to the teams who have earned a finals match this season, but the system needs to change.

 

KOE NSW Cup Disappointment

The Eels NSW Cup team delivered a most disappointing performance to bow out in the first week of their finals series.

Parra struggled to break the Bulldogs defence, registering their sole try in the 70th minute via a rare shift to their left. With the presence of strike players such as Mataele, Simonsson and Cini on that side, it was surprising that the Eels sent the great majority of their attack down the opposite side of the field.

Zach Dockar-Clay

Given the first grade experience, and the quality of the emerging talent in the group, I expected them to go much deeper into the finals.

Though the Dogs sit comfortably near the top of my most despised rivals list, I was pleased for their half, Zach Dockar-Clay.

The former Eel moved to Australia at a very young age in pursuit of his rugby league dream. He’s been to a number of clubs, and to England since leaving the Eels, and he finally made his NRL debut this season at the age of 27.

I knew Zach and his family not long after they came across the ditch, so I was very happy for them that their sacrifices and Zach’s resilience and hard work were ultimately rewarded.

 

Eels NRLW Team Robbed

The Parramatta club mightn’t be able to be so blunt, but as a fan, I have no qualms in declaring that the Eels NRLW team were robbed of victory over the Knights.

A couple of crucial referee calls went against them, especially the knock down call ruled on Rikeya Horne late in the game. However, the on field official can be excused for getting the occasional call incorrect in the heat of battle.

Rikeya Horne

Not so the bunker official. The bunker decisions were all either highly questionable or disgraceful. There were no excuses. It straight out stunk!

In his Gin & Logic column, Forty addressed the sequence of decisions made by the official, including the hip drop penalty and the two captain’s challenges.

However, headlining the list was the decision to overrule the referee and award a crucial try to Tayla Predebon. When the official started exploring different angles to look for an appropriate still frame, it was obvious which way he was going to rule. Most fair minded observers only needed one viewing to see that the ball was clearly lost.

The athletes in the NRLW deserve better than what happened. Supporters deserve better.

I’m pleased to see that a different official, Chris Butler, has been named in the role across the NRLW this week.

 

Ken Thornett Medal

Many clubs have already wrapped up their season awards. For the Eels, the Ken Thornett Medal evening will be held at the conclusion of the Eels 2022 playing commitments.

Who wins it?

Shaun Lane

I see it as a four way battle between Shaun Lane, Mitch Moses, Dylan Brown and Reagan Campbell-Gillard. It’s also hard to ignore the claims of co-captains Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo.

Each have had strong sequences of matches at different points throughout the season, therefore multiple weeks where they could earn points.

Forced to narrow it to down to one selection, I’ll call Lane as the winner.

The towering back rower is in irresistible form, and has built into it throughout a season which has easily been his best.

What’s your call for the major gong in PARRAdise?

Eels forever!

Sixties

 

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EELectric Podcast

When the eels win Friday will they get to have a home prelim final at commbank or will the nrl move it to Accor/Allianz?? Surely commbank is suitable and we get the home final we deserve

BDon

Tks sixties. I watched replays of that Knights try in the NRLW. How the bunker could not have one iota of doubt is beyond me. The camera angle they ruled on was extremely doubtful on the ball taking any chalk. And they overturned the on field call…weird.

Chris K

The ‘Integrity Unit’ is a terrible misnomer. Agree … absolutely laughable on this Taylan May situation. To sidebar on it, I am so glad we did not contract Matt Lodge for the remainder of this season and beyond. I think some actions should be viewed as that reprehensible and grave, the NRL should have no part in facilitating a public image rehabiltiation – Lodge’s actions being one of them in my opinion. While May is not necessarily in this class, the NRL’s decision to allow him to play finals when he has a common law guilty verdict of assault, deferring… Read more »

Milo

Well said Chris, and lets not forget the hoo-ha over concussion protocols etc. And yet we see so many players lie down for a check / and some who are concussed and then magically come back next week.
Its quite laughable the irony, the NRL are happy to jump on political bandwagons and then change rules as needed. Lodge is another player we do not need in the game. The NRL need to remember players are always replaceable, like officials and everyone else.

Milo

I go back to the other year the clampdown on the ruck….it lasted all of 5 mins.
I wish they had a clampdown on consistency.
What is concerning is the concussion one, as we have seen some ex-players with some severe issues now. Then we have players concussed and then allowed to pay; and the other issue of players being hit in the head area when being tackled and the judiciary hitting offenders with an Aldi lettuce leaf….

Graz

I lose count of the number of times in all games where the markers are not straight. Seems to be policed sometimes when teams are defending their line, but other than that, ‘nothing to see here’

Wilhelmina

Or only policed when the player has moved off the mark, then blows up about the markers. Munster was hilarious last week, he ALWAYS moved sideways then bitched, but the ref wasn’t having a bar of it!

BDon

i hate the hair trigger call where the tackled player fights and surges forward and the tackler is entitled to halt momentum and make a secure tackle but gets pinged. Marata copped one v Storm and many called the short dropout as the turning point for our ‘late lapse’ but I reckon it was this penalty.

N.Senada

I think NRL now makes things up as they go along. The pandemic has really given the NRL this belief that they can just adjust things to suit their needs at the given time. I think NRL became emboldened by their own handling of the Covid situation in the past….But now… it is a horrible look, and a horrible fit for a traditionally working class game that prides itself on egalitarianism and fair play. Good luck if you are Penrith, the Storm, or the Roosters. Ambiguous and baffling rulings that favour you are there for you – whether it be… Read more »

Shaun

You’ve nailed it. The NRL had the right leader to get them through COVID and for those reasons, the NRL now has the wrong leadership. How the game is run is typical of how Sydney works and it is hurting the NRL. Alas the media is useless on this as they are in the thrall of the NRL hierarchy.

BDon

Heard it too sixties…he had no logic for it, only ‘well Parra players would get the same’…that’s the logic of brain farting…moving your lips and not really having a clue.

Anonymous

Somebody tell V’Landys this ain’t horse racing

MickB

For mine Reg has been the most consistent all season, so probably deserves the KT medal. I think your 4 way battle is right, with the other 3 having more flashes of brilliance. But there’s probably only been 1 or 2 games at most where Reg wasn’t leading from the front.

Gutho and Paulo definitely not contenders, or shouldn’t be. They’ve come good back end of the season but we’re pretty ordinary for the first 2/3rds.

Ice and Matto in the fringe conversation too.

Sec50

The team is primed for a Grand Final charge. Only 2 things can beat them. Poor mental preparation and/ or officialdom. The ref put his whistle away last year in the last 10 minutes which cost us a rightful victory. Not to mention the final against the Storm the previous year or was it 2019. BA is criticised for not taking us deep into the finals but on two occasions external factors were beyond his control. Yet he never overtly criticised the officials. More power to Brad, The players need absolute commitment but must avoid optimal overarrousal. There is a… Read more »

Longfin Eel

Looking at the players last Thursday night straight after the game you would not have known they had just won and booked a spot in the top 4. They know what the ultimate goal is and each game is a step towards that, but there is much more to do. That is a great attitude. Acknowledge a great game, but then look to prepare for the next game. I’m sure BA will make sure they players understand this and not get ahead of themselves. They know they can do this, they need to stay focused and execute to plan.

Disillusioned

The NRRRLC , THATS NATIONAL RAFFERTYS RULES RUGBY LEAGUE COMPETITION, seriously this is either favors for the favored on just complete incompetence , personally i don’t care if the kid plays or not , we have to play against someone and hes good without being great but thats not the issue and for those that don’t understand the issue thats the real issue , the integrity commission is lacking in integrity itself BUT PRECEDENT SET !!! This better be applied at all times now on an unbiased basis or the RPA and lawyers are going to have a picnic ,… Read more »

Longfin Eel

So the NRL are saying that they will hold players to account… unless you are from a favoured team and this doesn’t impact the NRL’s hip pocket. There have been some truly astonishing decisions by the NRL this season, but in the end Parra just needs to focus on themselves right now. Agreed on the stadiums. The NRL has hauled the State Government over the coals for delaying the stadium spend, but they continue to use poor grounds. Leichhardt Oval has not been NRL standard for at least 40 years, but continues to be used. You could say the same… Read more »

BDon

Sixties, I’ve had varied thoughts about Taylan May, I notice Phil Gould has not condemned him. Many years back I got ‘narked’ one night by a young bloke for an hour or so at Star Casino after we bought him a drink then he tried to order another on our tab. I asked him nicely to move on and that triggered him. A few of the blokes with me could have dealt with him but I suggested they not go down that path. He was a totally annoying twit, and we eventually had him removed. To be honest, in hindsight… Read more »

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