When it comes to Rugby League, the rot always starts from the top.
How on earth are the Parramatta Eels supposed to succeed on the field when every other level of the club is a complete mess? What makes anyone think that for some reason an entire club can be rotten to the core, and yet on the field they should be belting teams?
Now, before I go further into this I want to make one thing clear. I don’t want some former football to sue me just because I decided to point out the bleeding obvious. I think you are smart enough to read between the lines though….
Keep in mind that the Parramatta Eels are a club that has a bunch of old men struggling to gain control and settle into the gravy train lifestyle. When it comes to football clubs, no club board has ever voted to cut back on their own perks.
The Parramatta Eels have issues that go all the way from their Junior Rugby League right the way to the top. We have seen many areas of their operations being investigated for financial irregularities….what does that tell you?
You have different factions pulling the club in different directions on top of all of that.
Those that want Denis Fitzgerald back and pointing to his supposed success must not have watched the Eels over the last 20 years*. I was there when Parramatta spent twice as much as you’re even allowed to spend now and ended up with nothing to show for it. I went to Eels games with all of 4,000 fans to watch them struggle to beat the likes of the Gold Coast Chargers.
In the last 20 years the Eels have made one Grand Final and managed to pull off one of the great choke jobs in the history of sport. This Grand Final appearance was the shining light in two decades that, at best, saw the Eels seen as possible contenders once or twice, all for no result.
Is that really want Parramatta Eels fans seen as the gold standard of success? Of course not. So instead of looking to the past for some of the same old, same old, how about the club looks towards the future for once.
Fitzgerald of course was rolled in a very public club election that saw a number of the old busy body players from the past come out of the woodwork and demand change. When change occurred, those same players all put their hands out and publicly started attacking the club once again when they didn’t get some sort of job out of it.
Brett Kenny was a great player in the 1980’s, but he whinged when the new board couldn’t get him a job any better than the clubs gardener. Not for a second considering the fact that he wasn’t actually qualified to do much more than that. This is the mentality of the people around the club right now.
Just a couple of weeks ago you had another club great, Ray Price, coming out and lambasting the team in the papers once again, offering to teach them how to tackle. A great player, but this is an old man who now drives a bus for a living! A rent a quote former player who has never said anything positive about the club since he stopped playing!
Once again, these are the types of people that are around the Parramatta Eels club. Imagine dealing with that shit if you were a current player!
The only former player that has kept his dignity and been above all of this has been Peter Sterling. Sterling has been critical, but his criticism has been measured. He has always understood the gravity his opinion hold with fans and the media. He should be commended for his restraint over the years.
The current board has some really important people on it. Just ask them! The same old names keep coming out in the media talking big, making promises, making great declarations, and yet the club just keeps getting worse and worse!
A good football club board, you don’t hear from them. They meet behind closed doors, that is where they do their job. When they leave the board room, you don’t hear from them. They know that it is not their place to talk on behalf of the club. The CEO, the Coach and the Captain are the ones who are there to give a voice to the club, not football club board members.
That is not what happens at Parramatta though…
On the field, Stephen Kearney inherited a broken club. One that was on a fast downward spiral. So much so that many people suggested this was not the job for Kearney to take. That this was a poison chalice, not a way to kick off your coaching career, but a way to end it.
Kearney, admirably, took on the job anyway.
He took over a club that has a declining talent pool. One that had neglected its junior development system for years. One that held on to the wrong players, released the wrong players, that signed the wrong player and that has not seen any sustained success in the lifetime of any of his players.
Kearney came into the coaching role knowing he had to rebuild the club. Naively, he probably thought he could do this despite the mess going on around the club. It understandable, they have a big junior base and the talent should be there. It hasn’t worked out though.
I honestly can’t tell you if he is a good coach or not. I see some things that tell me he might not be as good as advertised. I see other things that tell me that no matter who you put in charge of this club, they wouldn’t be able to fix this mess.
Kearney has been publicly backed by the clubs major sponsor, who’s owner is another who wants to run the club in some capacity. You know there are issues what the clubs major sponsor thinks it has every right to try to for a clubs hand in regards to personnel decisions.
What a farce.
The playing staff is a mix of veterans who work their arses off, role players who would be handing coming off the bench for other clubs but who aren’t really up to being starters and headliners, and youngsters who have had to be thrown into first grade early as the club needs change on the field and to try and blood youngsters.
You have to give Kearney credit in that regard. He has left no stone un-turned in his quest to find the right lineup. Really, what more could he do?
Yesterday the club has what it called an “honesty session”. This is where the players and sometimes the coaching staff sit in a room and basically tell each other how terribly they are going and what they need to do differently, in the hope that such criticism and self reflection will be motivating to the team and help them go out and improve their on field performance.
The problem is, we are only one month into the season. When you are having “honesty sessions” this early in a season you have to question what you were doing over the entire preseason. Did the Eels spend 6 months blowing smoke up their own arse and convincing themselves how good they were?
Many people are pointing fingers at new signing Chris Sandow. Sure, his form hasn’t been great, but he isn’t the lone ranger in that sense. Playing halfback in a side that is completely inept in a no win situation.
When I watch Sandow play this season, I see a player trying to do things and none of it is working because he has no support what so ever. His pack is getting terrible go forward, they are always in bad field position, he is having to get through a heap of work in defense, and when he does get the ball in hand, teams are simply getting up on his quickly because they don’t have to worry about any other playmakers!
Take out Chris Sandow and tell me, which other Eels player do you have to worry about kicking, passing or even being dangerous running the ball on the last? There is no one!
Jarryd Hayne’s season has yet to get under way but the fact is, you could throw Billy Slater into this side and he wouldn’t even make a difference in this lineup. They are playing terribly.
A Danny Weidler report last night that referenced “Too many Polynesian players” was nothing short of disgusting. He can try and defend himself all he likes, but the fact is this was yet another of his supposed “sources”, who he never has the courage to name. By giving such crap a platform, Weidler is no better than the person that is alleged to have made those remarks.
As usual, Weidler thinks the sensationalism is the story. The real story would be to name and shame the ignorant moron that made these supposed comments. Until such time as he does that, in his capacity as a “reporter”, Weidler has to wear the racist comments himself!
Last but not least, we have Nathan Hindmarsh, who you can’t help but feel sorry for.
This will be Hindmarsh’s last season at the Eels. He hasn’t officially announced his retirement yet, but the club simply want’s rid of him at this point for some reason.
Nathan Hindmarsh is the only point of consistency in the entire club. He is the only person at the club any Eels fans have any faith in, as a player, as a leader, and as a representative of the club.
His form hasn’t been great this year, but he is not alone there. He has tried his arse off this season and still ended up on the wrong end of huge scorelines. Now, there is talk he may be stripped of his captaincy, with that handed to…..I’m not sure who!
If you are a Parramatta Eels fan, call the club right now and tell them that if they replace Nathan Hindmarsh as captain, you want a refund on the remainder of your season ticket.
It would be the mist despicable, short sighted, out of touch, disloyal move in the history of the club. If the Eels strip Hindmarsh of the captaincy it is nothing more than a symptom of a rotten club that has completely lost its way.
There is not one level of the Parramatta Eels that isn’t a mess. Unfortunately, it is the playing staff and the coach who are the most public face of this mess, and therefore they are the ones that are under the most scrutiny.
In the short term, I just don’t think the Eels have the cattle to get the job done. I look at their line up and, even at full strength, there isn’t a lot there to worry most teams in the NRL.
In the medium term, the Eels are going to struggle to recruit any players of any ability simply because they are such a mess.
Long term, the club needs major changes. It needs new blood at board level. It needs to sort out issues in its junior league, in its player development system, in its talent identification systems and in its general player recruitment.
I don’t think they can say Kearney simply because he has a long term deal in place, his buy out will cost the Eels a huge amount of money, and on top of all of that, I can’t see any coaches out there that are available who would be a huge upgrade over Kearney himself.
Once again though, even if there was, what top of the line coach would walk into this mess?
The Eels have major issues, all of which start at the top. Until that is sorted, the poor performance of the Parramatta Eels on the field is nothing more than a side show.
*Note: The Eels lost the 2009 Grand Final to the Melbourne Storm. The Storm were stripped of that title for salary cap breaches. I wasn’t about to use that as a black mark against the club.
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
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