“Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later, the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.” – Vince Lombardi
Could there be a better start to the NRL season than the Eels being 0/2, or zero from 6 if you include all three senior teams?
Of course I’m being facetious, though my question is most applicable to many who work in the rugby league media. A number would be absolutely salivating at the prospect of a failed season.
To be perfectly frank, the opinions of those who love death riding the Eels matter not one scrap to me. What’s important, and always will be, is the mindset of the players.
Should they doubt themselves, then there’s little point in having any interest in our prospects for this season. Success is not found by wallowing in negativity’s mud.
Right now, the doubts and fears of us, the supporters, do little to help the cause. Wherever I look, the sky is falling and I too am at risk of becoming lost in its dark clouds. The player group isn’t immune to it either as they can’t be sheltered from the poison pens.They have to front media calls where doubt filled questions will be thrown at them. Any interviews will always look to find a chink in their mindset.
The point is, things aren’t as dark as they may seem and there are reasons for having a positive mindset that must be embraced.
I’m not for a moment suggesting that any shortcomings be ignored, after all when Parra’s three senior grades have zero wins from the first two rounds, something isn’t working. And I’m not immune to the negativity malaise as I’ve sat through and reported on all six matches. The joy factor is low.
Results need to turn around but it won’t happen without some element of self belief.
Sure it would be easy for the coach or the playing group to adopt an “us against the world” siege mentality and fire up. But I’ll be damned if after two games I’m going to put the boot into my team. There are enough social media platforms, and even enough posts on TCT, for people to espouse their takes on why the Eels have lost their opening two matches and will therefore finish like 2018.
The overreactions from the last two weeks have been mind blowing. Criticism has been deserved, but when you go through the totality of responses you’d find it difficult to believe that it’s referring to a team that has just lost a couple of games against other final contenders that could so easily have gone the other way.
We’ve all witnessed some basics that aren’t executed, poor options taken and key players not being in sync across two rounds. So, there’s nothing to be gained from pointing the finger for substandard team performances at one or two players. Those thoughts run through my mind too but it doesn’t help any player looking to lift their game to feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders.
Here’s a fact, not an excuse. There are 27 players currently on the roster, with at least three automatic selections unavailable due to injury or suspension. Even with everyone available, the squad needed to pick up a middle forward and an outside back to be complete.
But despite the holes that currently exist in an incomplete roster, there is cause for positivity without resorting to the rose coloured glasses. The issues that need fixing are nothing new to our coach. He’s worked through that year after year. You only have to go back to last season and the outside back crisis that existed from having the likes of Dunster, Sivo and Russell out of action for lengthy periods.
And here’s another reminder about 2022. The Eels scraped through the first two rounds with a high scoring, narrow win over the Titans followed by a self inflicted, last minute loss against the Sharks. Is the 2023 early form very different?
Also, don’t lose sight of other facts about last season. By round 8 we had lost at CommBank Stadium to the Tigers and been embarrassed by the Cowboys in Darwin. That didn’t stop a top four finish and a surge to the decider.
In seeking a massive dose of positivity, we don’t have to invent causes for belief, as the evidence is there.
This club and team have provided many moments to celebrate and enjoy, especially over the last four seasons. There are reasons for that and a couple of less than stellar matches to begin the season should not give us cause for writing off our Eels.
The undeniable truth is that you don’t qualify for finals football as the Eels have without doing something very right. And you don’t play in a grand final if your players are rubbish.
Looking at our opponents this week, there is no shortage of talent. I said as much in the podcast. So, as an exercise, I tried to look at this Eels team from the perspective of an opposing coach composing a tip sheet and highlighting the threats posed. And there were plenty throughout the team.
But in this instance, I don’t want to be the one rattling off the dangers posed for any opponent of the Eels. I want you to list them. If you decide to share that in the replies below, much appreciated.
Maybe that will serve as a reminder for all of us about why we have cause to believe in our team. We need to remember why the Eels can do it, instead of why they can’t.
Be warned, any negative comments will be removed from the replies. I am being completely transparent that the purpose of this post is positivity. You have other posts available here and on other sites on which you can vent.
I look forward to reading your contributions.