When the Parramatta Eels went out in the last off season and signed Carl Webb, Paul Whatuira, Chris Walker, Chris Hicks and Reni Maitua off the scrap heap, I was certain it was all going to work out just fine for them.
I was certain that by signing all of these player who were in career best form between 2001 and 2003 was going to be a master stroke. In fact, you’d have thought that the Eels would have been flat out trying to lose a game this season!
Alas, it didn’t turn out the way I expected. Who would have thought that off the five has beens the Eels signed, three would retire mid season, one would spend all but a couple of games injured or in reserve grade, and their best buy would be a bloke coming off a two year drug suspension!
When you throw in the fact that in the last off season Timana Tahu asked the club for a paid holiday for only six months, and then was released by the club, and the Dan Mortimer would turn out to have been a bit of a flash in the pan, and that Jarryd Hayne would once again cap his decent games per season total at 6, and that the club would struggle to blood any decent juniors doing all of this….Stephen Kearney has actually done pretty well!
Imagine being Stephen Kearney, and THIS is your big break.
Think about this; during the Eels best run of form in the 2011 season, they lost every single game. That shit has got to keep Stephen Kearney up at night. In fact, that he isn’t greyer than Phil Gould is some kind of fucking miracle!
I don’t know how to rate Kearney as a coach just yet. I think he has got this team prepared pretty well for the 2011 season considering what a mess he inherited. I also see things in their style of play that shows me they are trying to play to a game plan that has some purpose. Still, even at its best, it wasn’t working, and at this stage I’m willing to put that down to a simple lack of personnel.
The Eels have tried to recruit for next year and their two big names are Chris Sandow (Who they got at a very cheap price and who is the halfback they have always wanted) and Willie Tonga (Who is a solid center but not a headliner in my opinion).
The problem the Eels really have is that their junior development is bloody terrible!
You can look through most clubs under 20’s teams, and teams of the last few years, and see that just about every club is producing a handful of decent young players. The Eels have not.
The Eels should have one of the best junior development systems in the game, hell they have a good catchment areas to draw from. However they just are not drawing through the number of good players they really should be, and that needs to be addressed.
This season has been a total write off and you can excuse Stephen Kearney to a pretty big degree for that. However next season, there can be no free passes. Kearney needs to at least show that he is pushing the clubs in the right direction.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com