Tonights War in the West

Parramatta Eels vs Newcastle Knights

Don’t let anyone tell you tonights game between the Eels and the Knights means nothing more than 2 points on the NRL table.

This is a Monday night match laden with passion; with two coaches desperate to get a win for their ego and NRL players who want to prove a point to their old masters.

A little bit has been said in the media about the match up with both coaches and players hosing down suggestions of a ‘get square.’

While obviously Brian Smith and Michael Hagan can’t take the field, both these experienced coaches will want the win plenty, to prove to their former bosses that the decision to sack them was wrong.

Take Brian Smith for instance, at Parramatta for near enough 10 years and shown the door in tumultuous circumstances in late 2005. When 2006 came around Smith limped along for a few tough months and eventually jumped off the cliff.

If your employer sacked you, tell me you wouldn’t love coming back into your old place of work and smacking everyone in the face? That will be Smiths plan tonight; to bring a young and injury ravaged Knights side into Parramatta Stadium and walk away with pride and the 2 points.

For the easy going Michael Hagan, so far in 2007 at the Eels it’s been happy days. Leveraging the system put in place by Smith over the past decade. The best facilities in the NRL, a junior talent pool full of stars in waiting and a position on the NRL table that others are envying.

Still, Hagan wants this one bad. He never saw it coming – when sacked from the Knights. The Knights management, some of them close friends of Hagan sent him packing early last year in a decision that shocked the NRL world. Hagan will want to really give the Knights a hiding so he can smile back at his old club and give the management the message he has moved on to bigger and better things.

The other angle tonight is the players. For the Eels, several players privately did not like the strict style of Brian Smith. They continually talked of the harmony and relaxed atmosphere when Smith left and Taylor took over last year – a change that saw the Eels go on a 7-0 run to make the NRL top 8.

So there is a portion of Eels players that will want to spank their old coach big time. There was a small group of Brian Smith supporters in Nathan Hindmarsh, Daniel Wagon and Nathan Cayless – but for many of the others, it was eerie style of Brian Smith that drove them nuts. SMS text messages before big games, mind games and never knowing where you stood – were some of the complaints from Brian Smith coached players. So this is more than enough reasoning for the Eels to get some back on their former principle.

For the Knights players it’s a different reasoning. Tonight we see plenty of young stars on show for the Newcastle side. These players will be thankful for Brian Smith giving them a start over the ‘old boys club’ at Newcastle. The ‘old boys club’ that Michael Hagan and his easy going personality let run the Newcastle club at times in the past. The Knights youngsters will be keen to reward their new coach and send a message to their old coach – that held them back for too long.

It all makes for great theatre and with the weather in Sydney closing in, it means it will be a tight contest with close quarter ruck battles. Just the type of match to light the fuse for all of the flammable portions we’ve talk about.

Bring it on.

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