Our Parramatta Eels have come out of Magic Round in a precarious position.
Another loss has the team on a 40% win record approaching the midway point of the season. A road trip to Canberra and an away game against the Rabbitohs juggernaut is not an encouraging prospect.
So how costly was last weekend? How important is this coming week?
Magic Round looked good on TV and I feel it has many positives, especially for the spectator. Therefore I hope the NRL and Suncorp Stadium officials can agree on what is an acceptable standard for the stadium surface over all eight matches.
The ground was unacceptable before the first game, before the rain, and as rugby league is a winter sport, you cannot really ‘hope’ that it does not rain to simply keep the stadium surface from disintegrating.
I love the idea of Magic Round but the positivity of the concept cannot override the delivery of a surface that is conducive to producing high quality football across the entire weekend.
Unfortunately our Eels played a brand of footy that was on par with the Suncorp Stadium turf.
Some of our footy got a pass mark but too much of it fell apart.
It was a game that once started I never felt Parra would win. It looked like a game in which they would find a way to get close and then make an unforced error – and this week you can throw in cheap penalties. It was very frustrating to watch.
In listening to BA post match he echoed my words. How on earth did we lose that?
The undoubted answer sits squarely with our players and their decision making. We can all talk about what this team does not have or what they need, but the reality is they had enough skill and talent to win and they did not. It really is that simple.
And so we come to a very important game this week. It could define the Eels season.
We can focus on what is lacking in the roster or the absence of Mitch Moses. But on paper, the team for this week is still very capable.
It’s time for the Eels players to make some serious choices. If they keep gifting games to the opposition this season will slip by – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Look no further than Dylan Brown for proof that form can turn quickly.
While the team performed poorly last week Dylan was very strong. This year he has addressed some problems in his game with honesty, and the improvement has followed. He owned his inconsistent start to the year, and has since increased his involvement, and honed his decision making, with the result being that he looked dangerous with every run last week.
Dylan needed to do this as he is a highly paid member of the spine. But he’s not an island. This team also needs its senior players and leaders to stand up.
The Raiders are much like the Titans, they are a team with pace and they thrive when their opponents make bad decisions.
When they lined up against the Raiders in the finals match last year, Parra had the mentality to give them nothing. No cheap field position, no cheap penalties, no intercepts, nothing.
They played direct, with pace and patience. That is Parra footy.
At some point this team needs to embrace that and be consistent in playing it, otherwise they may look up and see that the 2023 season is over for them before it ever really got going.
The absence of Mitch Moses is no excuse. The Eels can still do all those things that as supporters we know they do when they play the Parra style of footy.
Parra can win, they have the team to win. And in many ways they probably must win.