“I’m glad I did that!” Have you ever thought that to yourself?
Straight after full time on Friday night I messaged Sixties about how happy I was to have made the long trip to Allianz Stadium.
And why wouldn’t I have been overjoyed by what I had witnessed?
Our Eels did exactly what I hoped they would they would do: staying unified and having a red hot crack. Those are two aspects in a game that are 100% within the control of individual players and the team as a whole.
Like many thousands of other supporters I was extremely proud of not just the result, but also the resolve within the group. Truthfully, I was more hopeful that certain of victory.
So with the dust having settled, I want to focus on the controlled effort on display from the Eels.
The big contributor in controlled effort was Junior Paulo who served up an amazing 73 minutes of game time. Big metres, amazing post contact stats, and a huge “follow me into battle” mentality.
There was also the effort by Dylan Brown to chase what appeared to be a heavy kick, and turning it into a match securing play. If he didn’t get there in time, it wouldn’t have surprised a single person. But he did and it spoke volumes about the team’s mindset.
And let’s not forget the cumulative effects of other moments. There was Josh Hodgson’s kick pressure which forced to errant kicks, including a momentum changing effort that allowed the Eels to begin their second half charge. Throw in Will Penisini and Bailey Simonsson covering the Bunnies’ famous sweep plays on either side of the ruck or Wiremu Greig setting the tone by taking two hit ups in the opening set. There were efforts like this all over the park.
Last week, BA rightfully called out inconsistencies in the match officiating. However, he obviously steered away from that in the match preparation. The unified team effort was evidence that the message to the players was all about taking care of the areas that they could control. Every player deserves praise for sticking to that plan.
Without question, Mitch and Dylan stepped up and deserved the focus and credit that came their way post match. But that type of performance and result is never achieved on the back of just a couple of players. It proved that this is a determined team who won’t roll over and who genuinely wants success.
And so to this week. I cannot wait to go back to CommBank Stadium. It has been an age since my family has been able to watch the Eels at home, with away games and early match starts this season impacting our opportunity to attend as many matches as we normally do each year.
But, there will also be a first for my family this weekend.
We will be cheering for a player running around in a Manly jersey. You see, from when he was an Eels ball boy, through to his time in Parra’s elite pathways and finally the senior grades, Jake Arthur has always shown how much he cares about our club.
With Mitch and Dylan locking in long term deals at Parra, Jake has taken the only option to maximise his immediate chances of playing first grade. He leaves as a talented young player on the cusp of a long career.
So, best wishes Jake. You have already given great service to the Blue and Gold family and I’m sure you’ll return one day. My family will always support you. Do well young man, show your talent and shine.