Since overcoming last years premiers in the Manly Sea Eagles, the Parramatta Eels have seen a big change in their mood, attitude and approach footy games – at least according to strike centre Willie Tonga.
After being placed under monumental pressure by both the media and some fans, the Eels responded with their first-win of the season, an upset win over the Manly Sea Eagles.
The boys are a lot more upbeat and there’s a really positive vibe around the joint,” said Tonga, noting management had done their best to keep pressure from outside criticism off the players before the win.
“It was nothing the boys had spoken about. The pressure was coming from outside and we were told not to even worry about that, not to read the papers or watch the news or anything like that.
“We just wanted to focus on what we could control and we came up with a good win on Saturday.”
Despite last week’s first win however, Tonga knows that the Eels side cannot afford complacency, and will have to play at their best to beat a Knights side who have had some poor games themselves.
“Across the park they are dangerous … they look to Darius Boyd, Timana Tahu a fair bit and Akuila Uate out wide … we’re going to have to be on our game.”
For Tonga himself, he thinks that he is getting close to the level that he has to be at consistently – with his pre-season and start of the NRL season hampered by a torn pectoral muscle that he suffered in October at the Four Nations tournament.
“I feel that I’ve had a slow start to the season due to not having a full pre-season under my belt but I’m slowly getting to where I want to be,” he said.
Tonga, who made his debut at the Eels, before playing for Canterbury and North Queensland, believed that it was only a matter of time before the Eels cylinders were firing.
“I think it was a matter of the boys coming up with a bit more confidence and the coach tweaking our game plan a little bit and we came up with the win,” he said.
“Maybe the boys were feeling a bit down after that first month but after the win the boys have got a lot of confidence … We’re hoping to build on that and we’re starting with Newcastle on Sunday.”