It should come as no surprise that I was frustrated by what happened on the field last Thursday night. No doubt there will be many supporters and even the players themselves who feel similarly.
At the top of my list is the team’s inability to defend their mistakes. For any team that aspires to win a premiership, scoring 24 – 30 points a game should be enough to get a win. Unfortunately, the Eels seem almost incapable of withstanding any pressure on their line.
Given the multitude of opinions that have already been expressed about the costly mistakes that have been committed by the Eels, I’ve decided to focus on what lies ahead for our team. And that’s a grand final rematch with the Panthers.
I’m on record for my dislike for the behaviour of some Panthers players and a small section of their supporter base, but I am actually full of admiration for their football ability.
Penrith play an almost robotic style of footy in the way they execute some of the basics of rugby league. And that is meant as a compliment. It’s all about re-setting, reloading and repeating..
Their kicking game will always have a noticeable purpose. When they need to keep the pressure on they will almost always look to execute an accurate kick to get a repeat set.
When playing through the middle they will be patient and relentless as they wait to find a lazy marker.
When returning kicks, they will spread the ball early if the chase is not united. If opponents aren’t focussed, the Panthers will find them out.
To this point, the Eels attack in 2023 looks highly predictable. But nothing is robotic. There is no patience, no re-setting, no reloading. At times it appears as if players don’t trust the processes and are going alone to try and create the play to win the game.
While I respect the desire of those Eels players to ‘help’ achieve victory, it is called a team sport for a reason. Even Cleary’s kicking game only works if it is followed by a united kick chase.
This need for a team ethos isn’t just limited to the Eels attack. More importantly, the players need to back each other to do their job in defence.
As far as team selections are concerned, much has been spoken about the need to drop players. I will admit there are a few who I would prefer to be playing NSW Cup. I expect that there is a core component to earning a top grade spot. A player has to know their role and continually put themselves in a position to fulfil it.
It may be surprising but I back the coach’s call about the team’s effort. At 14-0 last Thursday I feared a thrashing, but the team and most notably Clint Gutherson dug in and got themselves back into the game.
However, individuals made costly, unnecessary mistakes. Undoubtably the fact that Parra are winless would be on the players’ minds, and watching from the stands it appears that individuals are making rash decisions as their minds fill with negative thoughts.
If Bailey believed in his teams’ ability to defend a set on their line, he would not have gambled on pushing that ball back into play, especially when Gutherson was not the closest to the ball. We will never know if the Eels would have held out the Sea Eagles, but what a boost it would have been for the team’s self belief if it had played out that way!
Unfortunately, as detailed in a previous column, my family and I won’t be able to attend this game against the Panthers. The challenges of travelling home late on a Thursday night has dictated that we will be cheering from our lounge room
The Eels habit of finding a way to lose rather than a way to win needs to come to an end. They need to force the Panthers to earn the win rather than serving it up on a silver platter.
Eels players need to get out of their own heads and match the Panthers in rugby league’s basics. Hold the ball, kick and chase as a unit, and make the tackles. When the Eels execute the simple things well they are at their best.
For Eels supporters, it’s time to remember that it’s easy to support when the team is winning but it is more important to believe when they are not. The team needs to hear that support and belief.
Let’s get behind them and play our part in a battle that won’t be easy.
Great insights as always Shelley. Whether we like to admit it or not, it is desperation stakes on Thursday night. And this is our toughest game this season. We threw away the game vs Manly. That’s a fact but it’s gone now. This week give us supporters nothing but your best Parra, I’ll be there madly cheering you on.
It is a fair call to say we threw it away Graz
The attack is anything but predictable.
We can score with ease, but we let them in even easier.
Waqa Blake is front and centre of all of our issues.
He’ll drop a regulation pass at one end, miss a regulation tackle in the middle and then miss a regulation read at the other end.
Nobody on that edge trusts him.
He has to go.
If that form continues and a couple of players get match fitness, then that will likely happen