Parramatta Eels 18
Canberra Raiders 26
They say don’t grade angry, but I’ve waited two days and I feel if I followed that advice you’d be getting your grades on Melbourne Cup day. So the good news is you’re getting angry grades?
It’s official, you can call the 2023 Parramatta Eels losers. Their unique ability to throw away games against any quality of opposition isn’t one of the great sought-after qualities in a rugby league side, but at least they’re special.
Yes, the officiating was ordinary, but with this side there is always something. The refs dudded us, or a sin bin hurt us, the bounce of the ball or a fluke pass or an ill-timed HIA. At some point a loser is a loser regardless of the excuses you can make for each individual loss. Good teams rise above calls and bad luck and win anyway, and the Parramatta Eels are not a good team in 2023.
Once again the X factor belongs entirely to our opponents, as Matt Timoko becomes the latest player to be made to look like Mal Meninga by feeble Parramatta tackling. The statistics do not make for kind reading; a lot of that is the lopsided penalty count, the high error rate and a few key 40/20 kicks, but the Eels still won line breaks 5-2 and yet again, by the eye test, should have won the game. I am so sick of writing that. For the numbers inclined:
Possession: Raiders 55%, Eels 45%
Completions: Raiders 31/37 (83%), Eels 22/32 (68%)
Run metres: Raiders 1,634, Eels 1,541
Line breaks; Eels 5, Raiders 2
Tackle breaks: Raiders 24, Eels 16
Tackles made: Eels 353, Raiders 289
Errors: Eels 12, Raiders 9
Penalties conceded: Eels 10, Raiders 3
Who even cares? I think I’ll stop giving MVP awards in losses, and start calling out the least valuable player instead. Until that idea gets clearance from the TCT brass, let’s just give this one to J’maine Hopgood and call it a day, huh?
1 – Fullback
When the opposition sneak one (admittedly very well set up) grubber behind the line for an easy try, that happens. When they do it again the next set, then you ask where the heck your fullback was. Clint Gutherson has some unique tendencies in fullback defence and when teams key in on them and exploit them, the result is bad for the Eels. He needs to start calling his captain’s challenge to what the NRL thinks the rulebook is, not what he thinks the rules are, as sure he might technically have a case, but that challenge of the high shot was always going to be pissed away. The sideline conversion was nice though.
2 – Left Wing
Some time in the first half it seemed like Maika Sivo remembered he was a big unit and ran with some real venom. His half break when Gutho passed to him on the kick return was vintage, and it seemed to inspire him to his first real tough running in a long time. Long may it continue.
3 – Right Centre
If Will Penisini keeps up those basic handling errors we’re going to start calling him Pennywise, and we’ve already got enough clowns in this side.
4 – Left Centre
Somebody get me the name of a discredited lasik surgeon, because if Bailey Simonsson could only see lime green jerseys across from him every week he’d be the best centre in rugby league.
5 – Right Wing
Haze Dunster looked a bit better and more up to speed this week, but him catching a cold all first half only to go looking for work and being absolutely buried is the last 36 years of supporting the Parramatta Eels summed up in one run.
6 – Five Eighth
He tried, but this wasn’t the “Dyl takes the team on his back” game we desperately needed.
7 – Halfback
He looked a bit dangerous on his early runs, then either he dropped the ball or the man he put into space dropped the ball. The defence keyed on him a bit more after that and he couldn’t build on the confident start. His main job was to kick us out of trouble, and unfortunately he’s not quite Mitchell Moses in that regard.
8 – Front Row
I’m starting to feel it with Wiremu Greig. That “stop him dead in his tracks” tackle a metre from the line was a classic underappreciated trysaver, and his running had some real fire to it. He was the best Eels prop on the field here, which is both a compliment to Greig and a real targeted shot at his front row running mate.
9 – Hooker
I thought he was having an okay game, but once again the Eels scored more tries without him on the field.
10 – Front Row
Big Junez needs a rocket fired up his rear end, and if a big fat D grade from the TCT grades guy doesn’t do it then I don’t know what will. With Reagan Campbell-Gillard out of the side we need our captain and forward leader to take the team on his back and roll through opposing packs, not throwing cute passes to nobody and barely making any impact with his runs. Put your head down and run, son.
11 – Second Row
Well that’s just great, isn’t it. Shaun Lane made 8 runs in 30 minutes, like he knew his game was going to end early, and now a hamstring injury will keep him sidelined for “Indefinite” if the classic Eels injury reporting is accurate.
12 – Second Row
Tackles, not a lot with the ball, we’re getting about what I expected from Andrew Davey’s midseason signing. We don’t need good blokes or feel good stories, we need some killers.
13 – Lock
Decent night for Hopgood, though it’d be nice if his captain, you know, one of the great support players in the game, could be ready for a late offload. You’d think missing one to lose the game against Manly would be enough to stay on top of it.
14 – Interchange
Nice hands for the Simonsson try, but he was one of several that fell off Timoko on that standing start run that turned the game, just another lowlight to add to the Bryce Cartwright defensive deficiencies reel.
17 – Interchange
Look he wasn’t bad, but it was another “tell me one thing Makahesi Makatoa did today” kind of game.
16 – Interchange
Another who I am dinging for a piss weak arm grab on a single run, but that defensive passage summed up years of frustration at this team. The kick for Hopgood’s try was slick, but your first job is to run and tackle and too often this year I’ve watched Ryan Matterson make a flat footed flailing dive as somebody ran by him.
15 – Interchange
His primary skill remains not being Josh Hodgson, and how the Eels attack reacts when he is on the field. Still, we score points with him around, so I’m going to assume he is contributing somewhat to that.
No, we didn’t get a fair shake of it in this game, but there were still some inexcusable lapses in defence and it becomes yet another game we can throw in the “2023 wins pissed away” pile. We still played ten minutes against 12 men and only scored because a back rower bounced a grubber off the post, and we still gave away line breaks to outside backs from a standing start because the effort in tackling and scrambling just isn’t there. Something is wrong with this side.
It isn’t fitness, because we’re finishing strongly in most games, in spite of possession and our own inability to hold the ball. Maybe it is those efforts that require more than fitness, the toughness to make tackle on tackle on tackle, to scramble with tired legs and be in the right spot at the right time just in case. If a team isn’t making those one percent efforts, they aren’t going to win a lot of football games.
You may have made a grand final, but for the 36th consecutive year you did not win a thing Parramatta. You don’t get to be complacent, to just assume it will happen for you. Where is the fire, the desire to right the wrongs and go one better? What does it say about a club culture when the follow up to falling short is “well we’ll get there again” and not “let’s not let that happen again”?
Now we go and play Souths, the current best team in the competition, who we haven’t beaten in four years and have lost each of those six games by 13+, usually 20+. And it is Indigenous round. The Parramatta rollercoaster dictates only two results are possible. A soul crushing 40 point hiding, or an even more soul crushing epic victory that makes us all believe in 2023 once more.
Until then, stay slippery Eels fans.
Stats and images provided by NRL / Eels media