The success of the Eels in 2017
By round six, the Eels were 13th on the ladder with four straight losses behind them. Now they’re ranked fifth after six wins on the bounce, are level on points with the third placed Broncos and sit only six points from the top.
Phil Gould himself has said he thinks they can go all the way to take the series.
“They might not lose another game this season,” claimed Gould. “This year could end with them belting out their team song on the victory podium on grand final day.”
Working it out
So what is the secret to climbing the table? For the Eels, it is good old-fashioned hard work rather than some magical formula. After their latest win against the Bulldogs, Eels coach Brad Arthur spoke about his focus in training.
“All we worked on all week was kicking, chasing the ball and making our tackles,” said Arthur. “I thought the boys did a really good job on that and our completions. Their handling and the basic fundamentals was probably better than I thought.”
Many NRL teams lean heavily on marquee signings but the Eels have instead turned their focus onto the basic building blocks of a solid game – and it is clearly paying off.
Strength in key positions
While solid play might be the focus in training, it doesn’t mean that the Parramatta side are lacking in star quality. The aggressive forwards hold the game steady as the playmakers look to create scoring opportunities.
Corey Norman and Mitch Moses have been working particularly well together with the latter displaying his stellar kicking game as well as his ability to take the ball over the line. Norman has developed during his time with the Eels and the team is benefitting from his maturity and leadership.
Losing Clinton Gutherson should have been a serious blow to the Eels attacking capabilities but Bevan French took the number one jersey and has put in amazing performances so far. The ability to have quality players ready to step up will mean that the Eels stay strong. That could well be the difference between ending the season on a high and bowing out before the grand final.
Keeping it together
The Eels have been able to keep their heads above water and hold on, even when they are falling behind. The win over Brisbane highlighted this quality. The Eels were losing 12-0 at half time, but came back to win 28-14.
Gould puts it down to four main aspects – intent, physicality, patience and control. Whether ahead on points or playing catch up; playing in wet weather or dry; with a full squad or nursing injuries – the Eels have been playing the full 80 minutes and more often than not, coming away with the win.
Participating in finals football is an important goal for any team but for the Parramatta Eels it’s even more special. It took 30 years to reach their first grand final, where they lost to the Sea Eagles. They won four out of the five grand finals between 1981 and 1986 but then had to wait another 15 years for another shot, when they lost to the Knights.
If they make the grand final this year, it will be the first time since they fell to defeat against the Storm in 2009. Fans are ready to see the Eels top the tables and they are coming out to support them – with the top tally of 30,901 against the Tigers in round seven and an average of over 14,500 filling the stadium for each clash. The crowd support is always a factor in a team’s ability to go the distance and the Eels can count on plenty of fans to cheer them on.
The final word from the players
Tim Mannah isn’t worried about those who look past Parramatta for their grand final predictions.
“We are happy for people to write us off,” said Mannah. “We’ve got a job to do every week and we’re confident with the team we have and we’re happy to just slide under the radar and just keep chipping away. Everyone at this time is thinking along the same lines, thinking we’re on the home straight now and everyone wants to kind of step up a bit more intensity.”
Michael Jennings has a similarly simple but effective focus in summing up what the Eels need to do to compete for finals footy.
“We can be a top four team if we keep winning and other teams keep losing,” said Jennings.
If they can pull off that formula, there’s no reason why they can’t go all the way.
Do you think the Eels will make it to the grand final? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?