With the news today that Parramatta halfback Brett Finch has quit the club, it seems that new coach Daniel Anderson is trying to regain control of a football club that has been run by the players in recent years.
It probably dates back to when Brian Smith was told he wouldn’t be controlling the Eels beyond 2006.
With the coach set to go, the players basically put the cue in the rack and felt there would be no pressure on their jobs – as the outgoing coach had little influence on the future.
There was no option but for Brian Smith to quit early, leaving mid-season and in stepped Jason Taylor. As is the cases for most mid-season coaches, there was instant success. Taylor managed to gain the respect of the players and the Eels went on a late season surge to sneak into the NRL Finals in 8th spot.
Jason Taylor had already been snapped up by South Sydney, so the Eels brought in Michael Hagan.
In 2007 the Eels had a good year, the easy-going Michael Hagan didn’t tinker too much with the playing lineup and with the Eels winning, there was little pressure on players or coach.
The Eels nearly went all the way, falling one game short of the Grand Final and were the only team to threaten the Melbourne Storm that year.
With the loss of personnel, little if any recruitment and the saga surrounding Tim Smith – the Eels were off to a frustrating start in 2008. When things turned bad on the field, the easy-going Hagan was quickly left high and dry by the players.
You had the senior guys like Nathan Hindmarsh and Nathan Cayless who were doing everything they could on the field, but probably should have been more vocal in support of their coach and the wayward players.
Cayless and Hindmarsh, much like Hagan were probably too nice.
You had certain younger players demanding to be played in the positions of their choice, you had others suggesting their ‘friends’ from the lower grades be promoted or they would be themselves frustrated and upset.
Someone needed to tell all the players who was boss and which direction everyone was pulling in. On some occasions Hagan would approach the senior guys in the sheds and ask them to pass on instructions for him – hoping it might be received better.
Hagan was quickly made a scapegoat.
The pressure built and understandably – the astute, quietly spoken coach packed his bags.
Denis Fitzgerald knew the club needed a hard line coach, Daniel Anderson was the only choice. Fitzy may have made mistakes in the past, but he seems to have picked the right guy in Anderson.
Not only does Anderson have the ability, proven by his time at the NZ Warriors and in the UK Super League – he has the leadership qualities to guide the team in the right direction.
Some suggested that the likes of Stephen Kearney should have been given the nod, with his ability to ‘connect’ with Polynesian player supposedly a key asset. But, it seems Kearney may have reverted to the softly, softly approach of the past.
Politically correct approaches are ruining every aspect of society today NRL included. It seems you cannot tell players they are; slow, non-committed, lacking of skills and heaven forbid they might taste a bit of reserve grade.
It has however, come as a surprise that Brett Finch was the first player to rebel against the hardline of Anderson.
Admittedly,Â Finch has had a lot on his plate. Since Tim Smith left, Brett Finch has been responsible for all play making duties. Something that gets even harder when you play behind a beaten forward pack.
The Eels have been drained in the forwards over recent seasons, PJ Marsh, Mark Riddell, Ian Hindmarsh, Glen Morrisson, Chad Robinson, Daniel Wagon and Aaron Cannings all departing to leave the stocks really dry.
Apart from Fui Fui Moi Moi, it seems very few of the Eels forwards have really given thrust up front – leaving Finch and more recently Feleti Mateo to pick up the pieces.
The creativity, skill and drive from Finch and Mateo probably got the Eels their handful of wins last season – these guys were at times doing it on their own.
Looking at 2009, the one mistake Anderson has probably made – is throwing Jarryd Hayne in at five-eighth.
Hayne is a very talented player, there is no doubting that. However, Hayne isn’t a great communicator and he doesn’t always seem to have the respect of his teammates at times. There were several instances in the Canberra game where Hayne, Finch and Keating all argued behind the ruck about the next play – obviously something was wrong.
The pressure of trying to gel with Jarryd Hayne, carry the hopes of the team and keep soaking up the pressure from the coach seems to be why Brett Finch has had enough. Everyone handles stress differently, maybe Finchy should have sat back and if he was dropped to the NSW Cup – surely his replacement would be short lived, he too would be trying to survive behind a struggling forward pack.
However, thats all history now. Finch made the call and it seems player and coach weren’t backing down. For Anderson, there was no way he could have backed down or done things differently – or he would have suffered a similar fate to his predecessor Hagan – lost respect from the playing group.
For Eels fans, buckle up – there could be more tremors and until the dust settles, it will be hard to know the makeup of the team and how they will perform.
The only thing for certain? There are always youngsters coming through, only too keen to get their shot on the big stage.