The Cumberland Throw

The Preview – Round 12, 2024: Eels vs Rabbitohs

Well that was certainly a week. About the only good I can say about the Brad Arthur sacking is that it saved me from having to write up grades for that abysmal Melbourne performance. I’ll take this opportunity to thank Brad for his time as Eels coach; he took a lot on his shoulders in his early days, more than any coach should, as an incompetent management group left him to be the public face of a salary cap scandal he had no part in. His early years saw him slowly transform a downtrodden roster low on talent and motivation into a finals contender, and there are plenty of alternate dimensions where years 2019 through 2022 lead to at least one Eels premiership. Unfortunately he couldn’t deliver one in the dimension we exist in, and the price of failure in rugby league is inevitably your employment.

It was probably time. Post the Dolphins loss was the first time I thought Brad looked totally out of ideas, and while there was merit to the Manly and Brisbane performances following that, they were ultimately losses, and the same players Arthur had called out in Darwin got no better in the following weeks. You could make excuses for Brad both last year and this year; suspensions and injuries cruelled a 2023 campaign that ultimately finished within a single win of a finals appearance, and 2024 was derailed by injury to key players in Moses and then Gutherson. Yet there will always be excuses in rugby league, and the eye test suggests he couldn’t get any more out of this team, particularly this forward pack, and when that happens it is time for a change.

As for how it was all handled, there is never a good way to sack a coach, which is funny since almost all coaching jobs eventually end in a canning. It wasn’t the worst handled exit ever, it was far from the best too. I’m not sure what the point was in our executives coming out and saying “we asked Wayne Bennett out and he said no!”; traditionally I’ve not been fond of bragging about rejections myself. There are a lot of questions about whether our executive group can cut it, now that they are front and centre of a coaching search the harsh light of day will either expose them or see them shine. Hopefully it is the latter.

Despite my protestations, the football season waits for no sacked coaches, and the Eels must front up against South Sydney tonight. Only a fool would try and guess what happens here between the two biggest disappointments of the 2024 season, but I’m a Parramatta fan, you already knew I had a bit of fool about me. Into the preview!

Game Info

Date: Saturday May 25, 2024
Venue: Stadium Australia, Homebush
Kick-off: 7:35PM AEST
Referee: Chris Butler
Bunker: Wyatt Raymond
Weather: Cool, slippery
Broadcast: Fox League, Kayo


Parramatta Eels

1. Blaize Talagi 2. Maika Sivo 3. Will Penisini 4. Sean Russell 5. Bailey Simonsson 6. Daejarn Asi 7. Dylan Brown 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Joey Lussick 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 14. Bryce Cartwright 13. J’maine Hopgood.14. Bryce Cartwright 15. Makahesi Makatoa 16. Joe Ofahengaue 17. Kelma Tuilagi 18. Brendan Hands.

22. Luca Moretti 19. Morgan Harper.

I’m looking forward to the party restarting

Trent Barrett would have barely finished peeling Brad Arthur’s name off his parking spot when asked to name a team this week, so he’s stuck with a side that just got humiliated at Magic Round. While there is still hope for a youth movement in the coming weeks, or at the very least some accountability for a season of failure from names like Sivo, Lane and Lussick, this week is not when it begins.

Ryan Matterson is a late withdrawal, Bryce Cartwright will move into the starting side in his place with Brendan Hands coming onto the bench. Aside from Joe Ofahengaue the bench makes for miserable reading, and it doesn’t really improve much with out of form captain Junior Paulo inevitably shifting there before kickoff.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Taane Milne 4. Michael Chee Kam 5. Jacob Gagai 6. Jack Wighton 7. Dion Teaupa 8. Davvy Moale 9. Damien Cook 10. Sean Keppie 11. Jacob Host 12. Jai Arrow 13. Keaon Koloamatangi. 14. Peter Mamouzelos 15. Tallis Duncan 16. Siliva Havili 17. Thomas Burgess.

19. Izaac Thompson 20. Matthew French.

Cody Walker is a big out for South Sydney, leaving a fresh halves combination of centre recruit Jack Wighton and two game halfback Dion Teaupa. I wonder if Wighton’s value on the cap for Souths has changed now he’s a half again. It’s a good result for the Eels, though the Rabbitohs left edge will still pose its usual lethal challenges with Latrell and Alex Johnston in combination. Damien Cook may fancy his chances to play himself into an Origin jersey against our pathetic ruck defence, too.

This is a Souths side rather ravaged by injury. Johnston and Mitchell are the only first choice outside backs in their preferred positions, while one of the few Eels junior departures I’ve never seen lamented in Sean Keppie will get a front row start. Seriously, I’ve seen people complain that we didn’t keep Zach Dockar-Clay, Dave Hollis and Elie El-Zakhem, among many, many others, (I even saw somebody threaten to burn their membership because Ky Rodwell left) but never once Sean Keppie. Take that for what it is worth.

Dead Coach Bounce

Well at least you never have to suffer another post-match press conference BA

While the “win when the coach is replaced” factor is overblown (there are probably twice as many inept fallovers are there are revitalised performances the week after a coach goes) there are three possibilities here.

The team realise how bad they’ve let Brad Arthur down and “do it for Brad” this week
The weight of Arthur being lifted from their shoulders allows chronic underperformers to find form
Everybody is very sad and phones it in

Trent Barrett’s prior first grade coaching career does not suggest he is a great motivator of men, so I might just rule out number one there. I don’t think the club had a real problem with Arthur ala the Tigers with Madge or Broncos with Seibold, so I don’t see much chance of two happening. That leaves a hiding. Great.

That oversimplifies things. The reality is that this is a crucial game for the club in terms of pride, and even more importantly; avoiding the bottom of the ladder. Souths are dead last, sacked their coach a month ago and against every competitive team for most of this season they’ve had 30+ put on them. Even the uncompetitive teams like the Cowboys and Dragons did them in relatively comfortably. Wayne Bennett may be signed on for 2025, but he isn’t in those sheds right now motivating this group that has shown absolutely no ticker all season long, pre and post coach sacking.

In the corresponding match last season; the second year in a row the Eels draw South Sydney on indigenous round, Parramatta started the death spiral that has ultimately landed Souths in 17th position this year. The Rabbitohs defence was elite to that point, then the Eels put 36 on them like it was nothing, snapping a six game winning streak and ultimately they only won three more games that year.

Maybe it was the shame of the Eels, for a long time the Bunnies bunnies, who made Shane Warne’s domination of Daryll Cullinan look like a competitive rivalry, doing the Rabbitohs in so thoroughly that started this rot. Maybe it was all smoke and mirrors, and a dedicated Parramatta team cracked them in a way they couldn’t recover from. I’m not sure what happened, but this version of Souths, this is a team that Parramatta can absolutely beat, Indigenous Round or not.

The Game

None of the current roster deserve their picture in the preview, so here’s Mitch

There is no tactical analysis worth spouting here. Either the players are determined to put in and show they’ve turned things around, or they roll over and phone in the rest of this season. If the team can finally, just for once (please Shaun Lane, please) hold onto the ball and not make basic errors coming out of yardage, that’d be a big start. Not burning themselves out in the first 45 minutes and then being sitting ducks for the remainder of the game, that’d be nice too but probably not as easily fixed in one week.

Rabbitohs fans would hope they smell blood in the water and turn up, but the last 12 months of footy suggests they haven’t got it in them. Maybe the Wayne effect is immediate, but traditionally a coach needs to step foot into a dressing room to start having an impact on the team. Is the only thing wrong with Latrell Mitchell that he misses Wayne as a coach? Maybe he has his best game in years tonight and single handedly kills us. There are so many ways it could all go.

To be blunt, this Parramatta team hasn’t shown me any evidence of the kind of mental toughness or fortitude you would require to put in a big post-coach effort here. They had plenty of chances to lift for a coach they supposedly loved, and never managed it. It’d be almost insulting if they came good now. Then again, the Eels do love an insult win, just look at knocking off Penrith in their final game last season.

I’ll take an insult win, but I ain’t tipping one. A disrupted week, a familiar and uninspiring voice in the coaches box, and oh yeah, our two best players are still missing. It’ll go the usual way; we keep it close for the first half, Damien Cook probably sets up three tries in the second as our defence falls to pieces. Slow, tired legs and lazy grabs, no cover behind the ruck, we’ve seen it all before. Wake me up when we’ve signed a coach and season 2025 begins, because this one is done.

Prediction: South Sydney 34 d Parramatta 4

Man of the Match: Damien Cook


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11 thoughts on “The Preview – Round 12, 2024: Eels vs Rabbitohs

  1. Noel Beddoe

    Our pyramid of coaches : Kearney Walsh and Provan valuable contributors; Fearnley, Monie and Smith a cut above; Anderson an unbelievable crucifixion leading to some of our darkest days; Big Jack indsputably towering above. How will we temember BA? Probably around the level of Fearnley and Monie, maybe a little behind Smith. The team he built peaked in 2021. By 2023 some stellar contributors were experiencing major injuries, at least one had lost the sharpest edge of pace which contributed to the power of his running expansion had inflated the player market leading to player loss and rule changes had exposed our lack of the blinding wide speed successful sides now need
    Time for a rebuild. We can be sure of this for Brad – he will always be a welcome sight if he walks into the leagues club; there will be a line up hoping to buy him a beer.

    1. Gol

      Yeah it’ll be an interesting debate when the dust settles on BAs career. Fearnley, Smith and BA are all very close for mine.

  2. Shaun

    I’m watching this game at a pub with a bunch of mad Souths supporters. A win may be too much (though I hope against hope) A gallant defat? Stil going to have RCG as first try scorer.

  3. Parramatta Peter

    Gol, Im surprised you’re not giving us any hope at all? Come on man, the footy gods have yet to speak upon Barretts 3rd attempt, one can never know what one can achieve, you can’t just simply write them off? Please Gol, have some hope 🙏 or at least give us some 🙏 I don’t like the experienced coaches that are sticking their hands up atm, and Im sure not interested in an untried one either. We’ve been patient for 11 years now, although it’s been a pass mark, we had to endure some tough times. The only untried coach Id have a crack at would be Slater and he’s way too smart to become a full-time NRL coach. Hence why my hope lies with a miracle in Barrett and I mean major miracle!

  4. B&G 4 Eva

    Just watching what Ricky Stuart and the Raiders are doing in recruitment just show they have a plan, they have signed maybe 5 or 6 of the U19 SOO team to commence a build below the NRL. Not sure out HOF is that smart or is our plan a secret?

    We need to be competitive tonight, a failure to stand up would really underline that the retention has missed its mark. Look at Manly they just promoted a 19 year old fullback into a spot, we have been far too timid in that area, trusting the tried and true for far too long.

    1. Milo

      B and G I agree abt Ricky and have been telling mates abt what he’s doing. The thing is – it’s not bloody rocket 🚀 science at all; and we have been left again 2-3 yrs behind again. Tbh I am sick of mentioning our recruitment and issues….the CEO and head of footy should be front and centre of things.
      We had Myles M and yes he was offered good coin to leave – but some kids you must keep. I said it back when he left. Sanders gone and no immediate back up.

      1. Gol

        Martin has already been poached twice before he’s even debuted, not sure you are ever going to get value out of that kind of mercenary streak. It’s the same thing we’re copping with Talagi, his manager will ensure we don’t see value or a loyalty discount for any contract for him, which are the main benefits you hope for when developing players yourself.

        Canberra aren’t the first and won’t be the last to buy up a wave of talented young players, let’s see how many end up long term first graders for them and how many they develop just for another club to snatch them away. If it was as easy as grabbing players when they are 19, everybody would do it.

        Our management level have been banging the development club drum for a long time, long enough that we should be seeing results from it. Maybe they should have thought about what these developed players would do when they see a squad full of first graders all signed up to 2026 as they reach debut age, too.

  5. Zero58

    Well, I tipped the Eels last week to beat the Storm and by 10 points. To say the least my confidence has been badly derailed. I am not a betting man, must be almost 30 years since my last punt. However, I have noticed one thing – the betting market is rarely wrong. It is as if they know something – inside information as it were and they have Parra as favorites.
    I am going with the betting market and tipping the Eels. Will it be close? I hope not!
    A word of caution – nothing is certain in football and the market can fluctuate. No – the last chance saloon is leaning to the Eels. Looking for a certain winning punt – Alex Johnston to score at least one try. I have the shakes now – but staying with the market favorite. Go the Eels.

  6. Tanky

    See NSW cup side had another win hopefully some of them notably Arthur at hooker get promoted if we continue to spiral

  7. Joseph

    Thanks for the write up. Hollis, NASA spent less time developing the space shuttle.
    I haven’t wasted any energy thinking about this game. Happy if we win and neutral if we lose.
    Go Parra!

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