The Cumberland Throw

Bumpers Up – May 12, 2023: The Optimistic Issue

There’s a corny, old line that some supporters might reference about the Eels this week – it’s not the end of the world but you can see it from here.

Or rather, it’s not the end of the season but you can see it from PARRAdise.

How many of you are feeling that way? Judging from the replies to our posts this week, it certainly seems like the prevailing mood.

Call me the eternal optimist, but I’m not yet subscribing to any gloomy predictions.

There might not be any evidence of premiership winning defence for me to hang my hat on, but the Eels aren’t too dissimilar in performance to all but the top three clubs.

Of course, winning the tight games and getting some premiership points will help, and it’s becoming increasingly imperative to find more victories.

What positives are happening in Eels territory? You’ve come to the right place to discuss it.

Bumpers Up!


Hopgood Extends

Congratulations to both J’Maine Hopgood and the Eels on J’Maine’s recently announced contract extension.

Now signed till the end of 2025, the deal avoids a repeat of what transpired when Isaiah Papali’i was only contracted for two years, a scenario which allowed the Tigers to get under the Eels guard.


As things stand, an extension of 12 months gives both parties breathing room – or at least a season of footy without any speculation.

That’s a win/win in my books.

Andrew Davey’s Return

The mid season return of Andy Davey to the Eels caught a number of supporters by surprise, though there were rumours of him being close to signing at the end of last season.

However, the greatest debate occurred when he was named in the NRL starting side after just one week in NSW Cup. Some fans felt that it was disrespectful to incumbent players or others who had been busting their guts for selection back in NSW Cup.

Andrew Davey

Whilst I can understand that perspective, the selection of a mid season transfer player in the top grade is not unexpected. When clubs add players to the roster, they aren’t looking to simply fill up the numbers in reserve grade. Even if supporters don’t agree with the signing, there will be intent behind it.

Which brings me to my next point. The Eels still sit on a roster of 28 players. Given that we’ve hit Round 11, they no longer need to get exemptions to select players outside of the Top 30. So if there is no point in elevating anyone, should we expect more external recruits to be added for this season?

Hopefully, with the cost of such recruitment dropping with each passing week, it might be possible to squeeze a quality player or two into the cap. Of course, the Eels aren’t Robinson Crusoe when it comes to mid year suitors, so there will be competition to land any name players who become available.

I reckon it’s time to bite the bullet and chase some talent.

Defending The Indefensible?

Let’s rate the Eels defence.

Average? Poor? Diabolical?

The eye test tells you that it’s not currently premiership standard. But how far off is it?

At the same stage last season the Eels differential sat at +46, scoring 259 points and conceding 213. This season, their for and against is 246/214, giving a differential of 32 points. The win/loss this year is the reverse of last season at 4/6.

If you look at the NRL ladder, it’s no surprise that the top three teams are light years ahead of everyone else when it comes to defence.

Despite only winning one game more than the Eels, Penrith remain the gold standard, only conceding 13 points per game. They are followed by the Rabbitohs with 15 points per game and the Broncos who concede 17 points on average.

Surprisingly, the Eels sit in the next clump of teams.

In order, the teams and their averages are Storm 19.3, Roosters 19.3, Warriors 19.8, Sharks 21.3, Eels 21.4, Manly 23, Dolphins 23.9, Knights 23.9, Titans 24.7, Raiders 24.9.

There are probably 2-3 teams in this group of teams who are rated as finals certainties or title contenders.

How can the Eels improve?

The defensive system changed to a slide defence half way through last season and from that perspective it’s functioning better. They aren’t perfect, but we are no longer seeing the Eels being shredded out wide. If Parra gets done for numbers it’s not too different to how other teams might concede points. I do note that Souths will soon be the litmus test there.

There was an incisive post by the Rugby League Eye Test which identified opposition teams taking the game to the Eels middle, the acclaimed strength of the team, and making them less effective. The missed tackle count of Eels middle players such as Hodgson and Hopgood who currently miss and average 4.8 and 3.2 tackles respectively, and even RCG at 3, perhaps reflects that.


Without question, the Eels make the task hard on themselves. They only concede 3.9 line breaks per game, which is the 6th best in the NRL, but along the way they have an average missed tackle count of 33.1 which ranks at 12th, with 14.5 ineffective which ranks at 13th. Perhaps we need to praise the work of the Eels scramble to limit the line breaks.

Parra’s attack has also come in for criticism, though that might be somewhat unfounded. They are currently the fourth best attacking outfit, even sitting just above the Rabbitohs. That’s despite the team leaving tries out on the field in a number of games.

In fact, the strength of the Eels attack has resulted in Parra boasting the fifth best differential in the premiership, despite only having a 40% win rate.

My take is fairly straight forward. The Eels defence will improve when they can eliminate the periods in matches when their line becomes passive. Some individuals also need to work on their technique – the old hit and stick just isn’t working for them.

Whether they can do so is up for debate.

Nothing To See Here

This doesn’t really fit into an optimistically themed column, although it could be said that the NRL officials are continually crossing their fingers in giving a pass mark to the defensive stylings of Jayden Campbell and a couple of others. 

For some unknown reason, sliding into a player who’s diving over the line for a try is deemed as completely acceptable. It is a technique fraught with danger, and whether it fully connects or not, it has no place in the game.

When Campbell used this method on Sivo last weekend, the result wasn’t catastrophic. However, Sean Russell was put into hospital last year with busted ribs and a punctured lung, and still there was no case to answer.

Leading with the knees

Laurie Daley sprung to the defence of the Titan’s fullback last year, claiming that there was no intent to harm and that “do-gooders” were at risk of ruining the game. Hang on, is lack of intent to harm an acceptable defence? If so, 99% of suspensions are without basis.

There are no defeat sour grapes in my takes here, and when I wrote on this last season there had been multiple instances, not just the tackle on Russell. I am simply dumbfounded that any tackle that involves using the knees to make contact can be deemed as acceptable.


NSW Cup Eels Return To The Winners List

After a couple of disastrous performances against the Bulldogs and the Warriors, the Eels NSW Cup side have now recorded back to back wins over the Knights and the Magpies.

Daejarn Asi

The 44 to 10 trouncing of the cellar dwelling Newcastle team may have been expected, but it was just what the doctor ordered to cure any confidence ills. The follow up victory over an in form Wests sees them climb to 7th place, though they are still sitting below both the Magpies and this week’s opponents, the Raiders.

Parra’s forwards have performed much better over the last two rounds and the inclusion of Meni Luke at dummy half and the selection of Daejarn Asi at fullback, have also proved instrumental.

Things will be a bit tougher this week with Jake Arthur’s elevation to the NRL. Arthur has been in terrific touch this year and unquestionably the most consistent performer in the team.

The Raiders also have their share of talent in NSW Cup.

A win here would be a cracking good result for our Eels.


NRLW Roster News

After a slow start to their announcements, the Eels have now confirmed the contracts of new recruits Elsie Albert, Rachael Pearson, Nakia Davis-Welsh, Mahalia Murphy, Jade Fonua, Amelia Mafi, Shannon Muru, Pihuka Berryman-Duff, Tyla Amiatu, Capri Paekau and Rosemarie Beckett. Although listed as a recruit, Rose Beckett is a graduate of Parra’s 2022 Tarsha Gale Cup team.

The players listed above join returning Eels, Kennedy Cherrington, Abbi Church, Zali Fay, Cassey Tohi- Hiku and Rueben Cherrington.

Kennedy Cherrington

More signings will be announced very soon.

Eels supporters have naturally been concerned with the loss of many of the 2022 grand final side. This was always going to be the consequence of competition expansion and all players becoming free agents. The growth in the women’s game also means that player agents are major factors in negotiating contracts, even down into pathways football.

The positive from 2023 is that clubs can now sign their talent to multi-year deals, which creates the potential for fan favourites such as the Cherrington sisters to become one club players.

For now, we all look forward to seeing the roster finalised.


Gotta Wear Shades

Congratulations to the Eels SG Ball team on their premiership success. Titles aren’t won overnight, and we should acknowledge the hard work of the players, coach Steve O’Dea and his staff, and all of the pathways staff that have assisted in the journey of these players.

I have written on the 2023 Eels Junior Rep season already, so I won’t go over the same ground here, but there is a bit of a production line taking shape. Ultimately the measure of the quality of that production line will be determined by how many pathways players progress to the NRL.

How bright is the future? The first signs are encouraging.

The winning SG Ball shed

This week, Richard Penisini, Ethan Sanders, Saxon Pryke, and Sam Tuivaiti have all been named in the Flegg team to take on the Raiders. Lance Fualema is the concussion sub.

It might have been more had Blaize Talagi not picked up an injury in the City vs Country fixture, or had Matt Arthur not been suspended for two weeks following the Ball grand final.

There has been no hesitation in promoting these players. How far they advance this season will be interesting to observe, though I am confident all due care will be taken.

My congratulations also to Nicholas Lenaz who earned his call up from Flegg to NSW Cup. Anybody who has watched Nic play knows that he absolutely rips in on both sides of the game. We wish him well for this weekend.


The Home Of The Eels

Parra Leagues is the place to be for any Eels fans not travelling to a freezing GIO Stadium this Saturday night.

Forty and I will be hosting festivities in Jack’s Bar and Grill, kicking off with our match preview at 7pm, then switching over to the live broadcast at 7:35pm.

Post game after the Knights clash with Michael Buettner

The Instant Reaction podcast will wrap things up straight after full time as we celebrate an Eels victory.

A feed, some drinks, an Eels win and plenty of footy talk. Sounds like the way to keep warm on a cool May night.

See you there!

Eels forever!



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23 thoughts on “Bumpers Up – May 12, 2023: The Optimistic Issue

  1. John Eel

    As disappointed as I am with the way the season has panned out so far. I am not about to throw my team under the bus just yet. Until it is a mathematical impossibility I believe that we are always a chance to make the eight. Even the four. There is a lot of work to be done by the players and coaches but we are not on skid row just yet. 

    Some fans were even willing to right off our chance of making the eight after round 1. Even in the darkest times as an Eels supporter, I don’t believe I have ever been at that point.

    Happy to see J’Maine extend. He is a young and talented footballer. BA will need a year or two to work his talent on this prodigious talent and get the best out of him. DT is talking up the possibility of Jake Arthur moving on to find an NRL opportunity for himself. While I am disappointed that we may lose him I have thought for a while that his best opportunity for an NRL spot at the Eels would require a positional change. If he does move on I wish him all the best.

    1. sixties Post author

      John, it’s not necessarily a surprise that there is talk of JA moving on. I too believe that his best option at Parra is a positional change. If he does this full season in reggies, I doubt that any longer in that grade will assist his development.

  2. Eels93

    Nice write up as always.

    In your opinion do you think in the future there is room in our top 30 for both Yates and Lenaz? They both sound a similar style and remind me of one of my favourite ex eels, Ray Stone. Punch above their weight and only know one way.

    Also, do you think wing is a spot Richard Penisini could be viewed as? Or is he like his brother, mainly a centre.

    1. sixties Post author

      I reckon you’re on the mark in comparing Jayden and Nic. Nic might play a bit more physical, whilst Jayden can play halves. We are fans of both. Parra haven’t elevated Jayden to the top 30 and I don’t think they will. Richard is a bit taller than will and yes I think he could have a future as a winger.

  3. Shaun

    I’ve decided the enjoy the ride and remain eternally hopeful. Being a negative nabob doesn’t achieve anything. And apart from attending games I can’t influence what the team does so why worry?

    Great to see Hopgood extend. I suspect there are other good developments to happen in recruiting. You just don’t hear anything until it is done.

    1. sixties Post author

      We have seen how many contracts had been sorted without being announced in the NRLW so it’s possible. I am more suspicious that we may have some deals sorted for next year in the NRL that we haven’t announced as yet.

    2. Anonymous

      I think we can be assured R & R are down at the reject shop right now buying up based on price with no thought of quality , once again it will be up to coaching staff to turn lead into gold ! Thats the price of a no footy nous board !!!!

  4. BDon

    Tks sixties. The Campbell knees thing is a joke. Even if we knew the Titans were given a warning, you’d know that they would have to do something about it, but no, it seems we will see it again.
    There are a few contributing factors to our defence, but we shouldn’t overlook our error rate, sloppy technique when we’re gassed,

    1. sixties Post author

      I agree about errors, though our error rate wasn’t too bad last week. That said, the errors made were significant

  5. greg okladnikov

    Interesting to see the progression of Meni Luke – I am pretty sure he was playing Sydney Shield exactly 12 months ago for St Marys?

    1. sixties Post author

      He would have been Greg. And running around for Wenty in Ron Massey Cup this year after playing in the lower grade trial for Penrith in February.

  6. Brett Allen

    When was the last time we recruited a player for his defensive prowess first and foremost ? Someone with a really nasty streak ? Nathan Brown ? Every recruit or recruitment target has been based on the attacking skill, not their defensive toughness.

    1. Milo

      Fair point Brett; I was hopeful of an alpha male type player to be on bench/ rotate with RCG/ Paulo. It seems we are trying Greig to see how he goes and tbh he’s been good. But a tough mongrel type is something I was also hoping for.

      1. Prometheus

        We had one in Ray Stone , he buried players like big Nelson backwards and sideways in one tackle. Apparently he wasn’t what the coach required.

        1. Brett Allen

          Not really, I’m talking a fearsome warrior, someone like a JWH or Tariq Sims, someone who’s just this side of criminally insane. Stone was tough, but he didn’t fit what we needed at 13.

  7. Offside

    A loss tonight pretty much ends all hope for me.
    We all know what’s going to happen next week history says at least 40 points and a Alex Johnson hatrick. We need to win this week.
    As For Davey the signing of a 30 year old second rower who hasn’t done much in 2 years does not fill people with much confidence nor did his performance.
    I’ve been saying it for a while the eels middle is a myth wr get dominated more often than not and our outside backs don’t get much yardage.
    This team has issues that needed fixing a long time ago they were not fixed now we are in this position.

    1. Gibbo

      Wake up , just played 2022 gf and lost since then oregan , papali , reed , marata ,stone , etc had it fixed now back to drawing board thanks to botched salary cap management again, silly statements !!!!!

      1. Offside

        Yes and our our recruitment is part of those problems that have led us here plus the lack of genuine junior talent progressing.
        Our defensive issues are on going for weeks now.

        I don’t see what’s silly about my statements? A loss tonight will be panic stations and our recent history vs bunnies means that potentially our season is on life support as of next week.

        1. Gibbo

          The issues were not there a long time ago they’ve appeared since we lost 5 very good forwards hence strange statement or you haven’t clarified it properly , we are in this position now thanks to r&r and poor salary cap management not coaching staff problems , personally i think were overachieving considering our departures v arrivals and were still playing with 28 in roster !! Thats down to who? You tell me !

          1. Offside

            Really everyone has said for how long about our defensive liabilities?
            Our middles get dominated our backs don’t ruck it out this has happened week in week out.

            We lost some talent Mahoney being the only one worth fighting for but he was always going to go to the highest bidder.

            The miss management of the cap/retention and the lack of genuine talent coming along is a worry.

            We need to overcome a team that is our bogey team next week to get things back on track I’ve lost all faith in this team this season.
            The main issue is other teams are improving and evolving and we are still doing the same thing.

          2. !0 Year Member

            At least I know South’s are a shoe in next week and will hopefully lift me up in the tipping comp. Is that optimistic?

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