Tough Decisions

Mitchell Moses missing was always going to be a tough situation. For as much as he is seen as "going missing" or "not stepping up", this Eels side is far better with him in the number 7 than anyone else.

His kicking game, organisation and ball-playing will be sorely missed.

But that would be an easy thing to hide behind.

Penrith won this week without Nathan Cleary.

Brisbane won this week without Reece Walsh and Payne Haas.

Even if you throw in Bryce Cartwright, the Eels have enough depth in the forwards to cover his absence.

This match was a microcosm of the Brad Arthur era. It promised much in certain areas. Like when Hopgood sliced through to send Gutherson over just after half time. It was pure Parramatta footy. Hard running, support play and the class to finish it off.

But too often, we have seen Brad Arthur's Eels sides lack attention to detail. Simple passes dropped from the dummy half, passes thrown behind players, passes thrown over the sideline. All things a side that has premiership aspirations should be nailing.

It seemed like Parramatta rocked up to this game expecting to win.

Where was the composure they showed in their three previous matches? Don't forget they led Penrith at Penrith despite playing a backrower in the centres, and a centre on the wing.

Against Manly, they flipped the script after 15 minutes and powered home.

In my mind, much of this started with BA deciding to start Paulo and Matterson while benching Hopgood and Ofahengaue.

That forward rotation was good enough to take on Penrith's Golden Boot winning James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota. Apparently it wasn't good enough for an ageing Klemmer, Utoikamanu and Fonua Pole.

It signalled that Brad thought the Eels could get this done before a ball had been kicked. It gutted one of the main differences the Eels had been using successfully. That Junior against tiring middles was a hell of a handful and no one had really been stopping him.

Take nothing away from Parramatta's bench players. They came on and lifted the defensive tempo. But why change something that was working?

Arthur has been at this club for a decade. And the same problems continue rearing their heads. Lack of cohesion, lack of attention to detail, lack of true winning mentality.

Those things exist, but not across a full season. Not like sides such as Penrith and Melbourne who seem to turn up just about every week. 

Parramatta has not won six consecutive games since 2017. They have not managed that two month period that premiership winning sides do. Where a marker is laid down and they announce themselves as title threats.

And this has occurred over such a long period that it simply boils down to the coach. How can you coach for a decade at one club and never win 7 games in a row?

Let's compare him to Brian Smith as the pair have coached a similar number of Eels games. 

Smith, during his 243 games as Eels boss, won six or more games on six occasions, covering five seasons (1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2005). At a minimum the Eels made the preliminary final in those seasons. Two of them resulted in minor premierships, one resulted in a grand final.

They may be different eras, covering different sides and the comparison may not entirely be fair given Smith arrived at the same time the big four from Canterbury switched due to Super League.

But his sides also undertook far more change than Arthur's have. Arthur has had the same halves pairing since 2019, the same props since 2019, the same fullback since 2019, the same left winger, the same left side back rower.

He has had far more consistency than Smith ever had.

At the end of the day, this is Arthur's team. Sure 2016 threw an absolute spanner in the works and the side was rebuilt after 2018, but he has put this side together and it is thoroughly his.

The responsbility therefore for the side's lack of mental application throughout matches and seasons lies with him.

Brad will always be a good NRL coach. He's had to rebuild Parramatta twice. But with only one grand final appearance in 10 years and continuing struggles with consistency, he will not win a premiership at the club.

Before the season started, it was rumoured Parramatta was looking at Wayne Bennet for a head of footbal role. In my mind, that's trying to be half pregnant. You bring Bennett in to coach, or not at all. The presence of the winningest coach in rugby league history will do nothing but attract questions at every Eels loss or tough period.

Brad has taken the team as far as he can go.

Bennett is available, and while it's been 18 years since his last premiership, he remains ever present as a coach who can galvanise a squad and do what few think they can do.

No one gave the Dolphins a hope last year. He had barely 6 months to piece a team together. Well, they did more than make up the numbers.

If we go back to 1980 when John Peard was head coach, the Eels finished one point out of the finals. They had made two grand finals under Terry Fearnley and what the club saw as a failure wasn't left to stand.

Jack Gibson was available, Peard was gone and the rest is history.

Bennett has openly said he has no intention of retiring once he finishes with The Dolphins. And I honestly don't care about the record of clubs after Bennett leaves. If he delivers a premiership it's a moot point.

The decision is there to be made. We can keep slowly chugging along, maybe consistently playing finals footy, or we can go out there and pick up the greatest coach since Jack Gibson.

We are closer to 2050 than we are to the 1986 premiership and I'm not waiting any longer.

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  • BA needs to go play golf before next weeks game

     Mental attitude is our problem

  • I wish I could be shit at my job and rake in millions of $

  • No need to overreact. The sharks got absolutely flogged by the tigers last week and are coming third or something. We are a very good side with our first string halfback and we aren't without him. The broncos are  the same. I've said it for years but the only side who seems to be ok without their best 7 is Penrith. I thought this year might be different but i was wrong 

    • Only thing Michael, same things appearing every year. No plan B, slow play the ball, playing sideline to sideline, taking opponents lightly, it is same every year under BA. We lose to Canberra and we can go 0-5 before bye. We cannot score points, NQ will run riot and Dolphins with Hammer can get points. A win today could be a blessing of kicking us in the arse, but losing to Canberra and it will more likely be a slide. Scoring points is our concern moving forward, defensively we were ok, but attack we have issues without Moses.

      Brown went in as lead and got it stripped off him in 2nd half for Gutho as he was doing nothing. Sanders is not answer either.

      Brisbane and Melbourne are fine without Reynold/Walsh and Munster. When i say fine i mean if they had a 5 game stretch without them they would get 2-3 wins.

      • Yup , we are the only side that our star 5/8 can't bring us home when the main man's missing. Last year Brisbane won plenty when Reynolds was out. Just his presence around the team changed their whole culture. 

    • I don't feel like I'm overreacting. I'm not just talking about missing Mitch here. I'm talking about the bloody basics. Basics that we continue to get wrong. Issues in the way we approach games against supposed lesser opposition. 

      As I pointed out, Brad has only managed to win 6 games in a row once. In a decade that is not good enough. If you expect to win a premiership, that is not good enough.

      Our best players are getting older. All of Gutho, Moses, RCG, Paulo and Lane are turning 30 this year, or are already 30. Right now there is a chance that if we galvanise the squad, they could push for that premiership. 

      While I don't believe in premiership windows on the whole, there is a good chunk of our side that are all going to either leave or retire within a year or two of each other and will take some time to properly bed in their replacements.

      I see Bennett as the guy who could pull together this group, and forge them forward.

      • Fair enough. Tactically I think Arthur does a lot wrong. I agree with your comments about changing the winning formula of bringing Paulo off the bench. We looked really good in the first 3 rounds, really good. A lot of that was around the impact Paulo was bringing off the bench. Yesterday he played like a 130 kilo halfback. I just don't get why you change a winning formula. Yes we were without our number 7 but that's more reason to stick to what's working 

        • Yesterday we tried to outsmart Wests where it showed being basic more likely gets it done.

      • Super, honestly the thing it should have been without Moses is just keep it simple. Roll through the middle and we will get luck. But we complicated things by going with the approach of "Well Mitch ain't here so we need to change it up as we can't do what he does". What happened to the crash plays on the line? Went for this stupid attack the Tigers right side but with these lobbed balls, simple quick hands like we have shown we can do would have been justified.

        You are right about the age. We are getting very dangerous to a whole group of our forwards regressing at once. When that happens we will go through a rebuild and waste another 3-4 years to get back to a chance to win it. These kids look alright but aren't getting the development needed in cup with coaches like Cayless.

        I am a little fatigued from the BA bashing as i think he is at fault for some of the loss yesterday and seeing signs of old problems, he is still here for this year at least. But man if the club want to get most out of our ageing forwards you get Bennett for one last push.

  • Goodl stuff Super and you're  1000x correct , you're about 7 years late but you got there in the end. 


    I appreciate  the fact you have a very clear memory of the Smith era as many don't .

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