All posts by Victoria

Parramatta thank ANZ

Tonight, the Parramatta Eels faithful get to say farewell to the 2018 season – one which has been painful majority of the time – but they at least get to say farewell to their temporary home at ANZ Stadium.

This year, the stands at Olympic Park haven’t been a very happy place for the blue and gold army as there haven’t been too many reasons to cheer.

When you look at the big picture, though, over the two years without a Parramatta Stadium due to the construction of Western Sydney Stadium, there have been many positive moments.

It’s easy to focus just solely on this season as a Parramatta fan however; across the two years, ANZ has proved to be a lovely home.

As difficult as it may be to look at the future excitedly, this venture at Olympic Park may prove to be very helpful to the blue and gold.

Obviously the two years have been very different years on paper for the team, however, when you look at the records, ANZ still acted as a prime home base.

In 2017, the Eels played a total of 15 games at ANZ stadium – including 1 final and 3 classified away games.

Of those 15, Parramatta won 8 home games, the 3 away games and only lost a total of 4 games, home or away.

This year, in 2018, things haven’t looked quite as positive but for ANZ the record still isn’t half bad. They played a total of 13 home and away games at ANZ for a record of 5 home wins, 5 home losses and 3 total away losses.

Combine the two seasons together and despite the dreaded wooden spoon on its way to Parramatta this year, the win percentage at ANZ is still positive even if it is only just.

This season, the Eels have not won an away game. It’s a statistic that is very concerning and worrying for the fans and club as a whole.

Away games are inevitable and if you can’t win away from home, you aren’t a real dominate force in the competition.

2019 is going to be a whole new ballpark for Parramatta, however. they do have a little bit of help in fixing their away slump.

Many fans have been scratching their heads or throwing their arms up in frustration at the recruitment at Parramatta, or lack thereof I should say.

They seem to be forgetting, though, that the team hasn’t just recruited Blake Ferguson, Junior Paulo and Shaun Lane – they’ve also recruited a brand new stadium.

After two years away, Parramatta are finally returning home to Parramatta. They have a brand new stadium and as exciting as all of the new features are, the greatest benefit is the home ground advantage again.

This is their home. They won’t be sharing it with any other rugby league team like the 3 (occasionally 4) teams who have had to share ANZ.

Fans will have to travel to Parramatta and enter Parramatta’s territory to verse the team which proves to be a real benefit for teams. What Parramatta also has on their side now is a backup home.

Fans have become accustomed to traveling to ANZ. They’ve figured out the best time trains and favourite food or drink vendors.

They’re used to the parking lots or the walk around the stadium to the station.

It’s become a part of their overall football experience as a fan so flocking to ANZ for the 3 or so away games against the Dogs, Rabbits and potentially Tigers won’t be an issue at all.

In a way, they’re like bonus home games.

Who knows what will happen with this game in 2019.

If this season has proven anything, it’s that anything can happen so there’s no real point super-analysing sides before the season has even started.

However, one inevitable is that Parramatta have a new home. They may physically farewell ANZ tonight against the Roosters but mentally, they’ve still got ANZ on their side next year.

Panthers prove they’re still the real deal

Not only did the Penrith Panthers keep the minor premiership race well and truly alive, they also killed a 5 year losing streak against the Melbourne Storm.

Having only won 1 of the last 18 games against the Storm, the boys from Penrith were in for quite a challenge however, the challenge appeared a little lessened with the late withdrawal of Billy Slater due to personal matters and Cameron Munster and Brodie Croft due to injury.

Despite the players lost, the Storm still put up quite a fight in front of their home crowd finding themselves first on the board early in the game through a penalty conversion from the skipper.

Just seven minutes later Josh Mansour responded with a powerful solo try which found him fighting off three Melbourne defenders to muscle the ball down for the first try of the night.

The tables turned for Mansour very quickly, however, when he left his team down to 12 men after he was deemed to have grabbed the arm of Justin Olam restricting him from possibly scoring a try.

The professional foul sanction proving quite costly to Penrith as their frustration quickly took over the game as displayed through a very uneven penalty count.

The Storm looked to capitalise on the advantage, over coming an initial no try, with a try to Felise Kaufusi who finally broke the Penrith defense wall which had stood so strongly until that moment.

Cameron Smith was sweet with the boot to convert the try and found himself lining up just 3 minutes later after a Tyrone Peachey tackle was deemed head high.

Uncharacteristically, the skipper missed the conversion but not even a full minute later the Panthers found themselves down to 12 men again with James Tamou in the bin after repeat penalties.

Smith couldn’t miss two in a row and slot the goal sweetly to take his team’s lead to 6 points.

2 minutes before the half time siren rang and the Panthers pounced on a penalty conversion chance late in the half – this goal proving to be Nathan Cleary’s only successful shot at goal all night.

The second half looked to have started off bright with young debutant Scott Drinkwater crossing the try line only to have his moment denied due to an obstruction.

The Panthers jumped at the opportunity to level up the scoreboard and just minutes later, Mansour was over for his double after some individual excellence from Waqa Blake.

As time quickly ticked on, the Storm looked to be showing signs of weakness as they missed their star players who provide extra creativity in attack.

The Panthers were looking to load the points on with Blake getting himself on the score board this time off a perfectly weighted James Maloney kick. A kick which definitely cemented the importance of the veteran half in this team.

The two teams continued to tussle hard for the next 20 minutes with lots of near moments of brilliance – including a no try to Olam – but the Panthers, through Blake again, put the dagger into the Storm as he got himself a double.

The night wasn’t finished, though, with a new contender for try of the year going to Christian Crichton after he managed to acrobatically grab himself an intercept from Cheyse Blair to take the lead to 12.

Nathan Cleary’s boot was the only real concerning signs for the Panthers, keeping the Storm ever so slightly still in the game.

A 12 point lead quickly dropped to 6 through the young boy on the park. Amazingly, the debutant Drinkwater managed to score himself a try even after being denied in the first half and the Storm kept the faith alive at AAMI Park.

The Storm threw everything they had at the Panthers in the final minutes with some very near misses but some brilliant defence, particularly from Cleary and Regan Campbell-Gillard, granted the Panthers their 2 points.

Panthers coach Cam Ciraldo admits that he could not be prouder of his side’s performance.

“I couldn’t be prouder,” Ciraldo said.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks.

“Just the way they prepared all week gave us a real confidence coming down here.

“The way they hung in here tonight, I couldn’t be prouder of their effort.”

Still a chance to win the minor premiership if results go their way, Cam Smith admits that the Storm are lucky to even have a chance to win it.

“Winning the minor premiership would have been really nice, but if you look at the way our season’s panned out,” the Storm captain said.

“It’s quite a remarkable effort to be quite honest to have the Melbourne Storm sitting second and playing a game in the last round to wrap up the minor premiership.”

Player of the Match:

3. Waqa Blake

2. Josh Mansour

1. Scott Drinkwater

Tigers plant a small seed of hope

The rollercoaster that the 2018 NRL season has been only continued tonight with a bizarre performance between the Manly Sea Eagles and Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium for Thursday night football.

An abundance of errors, 3 tries in 5 minutes, an estimated 70 metre attempted conversion and another win for the Wests Tigers to plant the smallest of hope in the hearts of their fans.

Early on, it appeared that Manly had come to play and redeem themselves from the devastating second half beat down from the week before.

However, after Daly Cherry-Evans put the first 6 points on the board, it seemed there was nothing but errors to follow.

The Tigers’ attack seemed to be struggling to gel and find any composure.

25 minutes later however, they were finally able to put a complete set together to put points on the board.

Kevin Naiqama grabbed a nice offload from Mahe Fonua who pushed the defensive line strong and hard and proving that when it is on, the Tigers’ attack is amazing to watch.

As the half time siren rang, Cherry-Evans pounced on a careless Tigers penalty to put his team up 8-6 leading into the second half.

Both teams displaying incredibly poor first half statistics, particularly the Tigers with only a 67% completion rate and 29 missed tackles.

Ivan Cleary and his boys were obviously not impressed with these statistics too, however as they came out absolutely firing in the second half.

Only 7 minutes into the half, Robbie Farah put a feather touched kick into the in goal for a flying Chris Lawrence to pounce on. Esan Marsters cleared the conversion for a 12-8 lead.

The Sea Eagles kicked off to the Tigers and just 2 minutes after the first try, they were on the board again after an Alex Twal line break which displayed some very worrying defensive signs from the Sea Eagles.

Fighting the desire to score himself, Twal eventually passed off to Mbye who scored between the post for an easy conversion.

Just another 3 minutes on the clock and the Tigers were in again for a Kevin Naiqama double.

The Tigers capitalising on a penalty conceded saw Moses Mbye put the Fijian over in the corner.

Manly fans surely were feeling sick to their stomachs with deja vu as the score board flashed 22-8 with just under half an hour to go in the half.

Keen to avoid a repeat of last week, the Manly players dug deep and fought hard even after a no try from a questionable forward pass call.

Trent Hodkinson spotted a weak spot in a tired Tigers defensive line and found himself converting his own try to even up the difference a little.

Manly fans were left feeling even more unwell when Brian Kelly bombed what could have been a sure try with a fumble over the white line.

However, with the clock quickly ticking and breathing fire down their necks, Tom Trbojevic stepped up.

Jack Gosiewski broke through a weak defensive line to let off a floating pass to Tom Trbojevic who managed to grab the ball one handed, just scraping clear of the ground and then quickly passing back to Cherry-Evans for his double of the night.

Not only a possible contender for try of the year with the amazing hands of Trbojevic, but also a crucial try to keep Manly in the game.

Unfortunately, for the men in maroon and white, it wasn’t enough.

The Tigers defended strong and managed to keep Manly out of the game with that two point margin proving just enough.

Cherry-Evans wasn’t willing to give up with 10 seconds to go however, opting to take the conversion from a penalty practically on the sideline at the half way mark.

The kick was swift, straight and just short proving the Tigers victorious in front of 8,163 fans at home.

After a tumultuous week of rumour and innuendo, Manly coach Trent Barrett was proud of his side’s effort.

“I think everyone knows what I think of the players and I love the blokes I’ve got there,” Barrett said.

“We’ve had our fair share of adversity to deal with this year, and they don’t give up and that’s what makes it hard to take.

“I feel for them because they put themselves in positions to win so many games this year and they haven’t been able to get over the line. I can count probably eight [games] that are just like that.”

Keeping their slim finals hopes alive, the Tigers now have to rely on other results to go their way.

“There’s a certain No.7 over in Auckland who knows what he’s going to do,” Cleary said.

“Hopefully, they can do their job over there.

“I’ll sit there and watch it, what can you do? Just cross your fingers.

“It’s great we’re still alive at this point.”

Man of the Match:

3. Alex Twal

2. Tom Trbojevic

1. David Nofoaluma

Storm rattle the Eels back to 16th

The Melbourne Storm took to AAMI Park looking to break a rare losing streak and secure equal first place while Parramatta Eels were looking to continue a rare winning streak and avoid the wooden spoon.

The game went much more in the way of the home side as they rattled the bottom ladder team to secure a 20-4 win despite an injury to captain Cameron Smith. 

Melbourne were out to prove their dominance early in the game with 4 repeat sets forcing Parramatta to defend strong early on.

Will Chambers finally broke the Parramatta defense after beating George Jennings for the retrieval of a floating kick to score Melbourne’s first points.

The two teams fought hard for the remainder of the half, however, Parramatta’s lack of discipline secured a handy 10-point lead for the Storm with Smith kicking two penalty goals. 

With 10 minutes to go in the half, Cameron Smith left the field with a back injury after an awkward tackle from Parramatta enforcer Nathan Brown. 

The injury was deemed severe enough to keep Smith out for the remainder of the game and cement concern amongst the fans.

Parramatta came out firing in the second half, however, Melbourne’s defensive pressure managed to hold them out despite multiple repeat sets. 

The visitors were granted a prime opportunity when Cameron Munster was sin binned, although they were unable to capitalise on this advantage. 

With a player in the bin and their captain in the sheds, the Storm dug deep and found their next points through Nelson Asofa-Solomona who steamrolled over multiple Eels defenders to get the ball down.

Parramatta’s lack of composure and defensive pressure from the Storm kept them scoreless and obviously rattled.

The Storm strengthened their lead with a try to Curtis Scott who took on a tired, disheartened Parramatta defensive line.  

The home team were unable to keep the boys in blue and gold pointless however with Clinton Gutherson showing incredible acrobatic skills to put a Brad Takairangi ball down in the corner. 

A late no try to Mitchell Moses kept Parramatta’s final tally at 4 and the Melbourne Storm equal first. 

Eels coach Brad Arthur did not mince words. A lack of execution is what cost his side.

“We created some opportunities that we didn’t take – you can’t do that against close to the top side in the competition,” he said.

“We were our own worst enemy.

“We needed more patience at the try line.

“We don’t need to score off every play.

We needed to be more patient and build some pressure on the try line.”

The big talking point will be the Cameron Smith injury, though there was some positive news with it, for it could just be back spasms.

“Cameron [Smith] just had a spasm in joints in his back which he’s had before,” Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.

“I don’t know if there will be X-rays or anti-inflammatories.

I don’t think it’s anything too serious but how serious is, I don’t know, especially with backs.”

Player  of the Match:

3. Brodie Croft

2. Jesse Bromwich

1. Dale Finucane

Moses Parts the Red V

Parramatta Eels halfback Mitchell Moses celebrating

A very unexpected and one-sided affair at ANZ this evening saw the bottom of the ladder Parramatta Eels defeat the St George Illawarra Dragons 40 points to 4.

The Dragons have now fallen to their third straight loss and fifth in six weeks, leaving fans with a knot in their stomach heading into the finals.

The affair seemed to go Parramatta’s way from the very beginning with Jarryd Hayne scoring his first of three tries in only the third minute.

It was Mitchell Moses with a beautiful cut out pass for his first of four try assists.

After copping an accidental boot to the face, Hayne was left with bandages across the face in his best The Mummy impersonation but that didn’t stop him from scoring the second try for the evening.

A Kane Evans offload followed by a Michael Jennings flick pass to  Hayne saw Moses grab another try assist for Jarryd Hayne to crash over the try line.

It was only the second try of the evening but was a perfect representation of the dominance Parramatta were looking to display.

A trickle of errors and stream of penalties saw the Dragons seriously back pedalling and matters only got worse when Cameron McInnes was sent to the sin bin with just under 15 minutes remaining in the half.

Parramatta immediately went on the attack which ended up seeing Gareth Widdop up the tunnel with a dislocated shoulder and possible long stint on the sideline.

With a man down and Widdop out, Parramatta struck through George Jennings who steam rolled a weakened Dragons defense.

Parramatta kept the pressure strong, forcing errors and keeping their near 65% possession alive.

With just three minutes until the half time siren, Jaeman Salmon – the rookie in only his second NRL game – put a bomb in the air which flustered the defenders to allow for Jarryd Hayne’s first hattrick since Round 1, 2013.

Mitchell Moses proving to be sweet with his conversions again, saw the Parramatta Eels lead the Dragons 22-0 at half time.

The second half seemed to be much more positive as a Red V fan with Luciano Leilua out-hustling Michael Jennings for a kick return to score the Dragons’ first points of the game.

Unfortunately, for the Dragons, their goal kicker in Widdop was on the sideline so Ben Hunt’s attempt was waved away giving Parramatta a still comfortable 18 point lead.

Uncharacteristically, the Eels hit back almost immediately with a flying Clint Gutherson jumping off a Mitchell Moses grubber kick.

An injury scare almost soured the effort, however, the Parramatta captain shook off any concerns and continued to put together one of his best performances this season.

Mitchell Moses wasn’t happy with a 24 point lead and in the 51st minute, he put together one of his best individual tries almost as if the assists weren’t enough for him.

The 23 year old looked reborn as he faked Matt Dufty – the try scorer in the last minute victory for the Dragons against Parramatta just 6 weeks prior.

The night only seemed to get worse for the young fullback with two knock-ons to keep Parramatta’s possession percentage in the higher figures.

Siosaia Vave crashed over a tired and deflated Dragons defense with 3 minutes to go to sum up the night perfectly. T

he man of the hour, Mitchell Moses, slotting his 6th conversion for the night to bring Parramatta’s grand total to 40.

It was a forgettable evening for the Dragons as the Eels kept their hopes of avoiding the wooden spoon well and truly alive.

The Eels are off the bottom of the ladder for the first time since round 1. 

Despite the Eels win, Widdop’s injury was a big talking point but Dragons coach Paul McGregor did not say much.

“We will know a lot more tomorrow afternoon,” was all the coach could muster when asked about it.

Although they need to look at themselves and regroup, Cam McInnes says the players still believe in their abilities.

“Individually, we need to have at ourselves,” he said.

“But we’ve got a great team here. People might want to write us off, but we’re not fazed at all.

We’ve got three games left and if people want to say ‘it’s scary not to be in the (top) four’, well, we will be back. We have all the confidence in the world.”

Each Eels player did their part but coach Brad Arthur admits that the make-up of the side is not necessarily set in stone.

“Who knows? We’ve got plenty of options,” Arthur said.

“Jarryd is floating around there, Guth’s going there, it gives us a bit of flexibility and a bit of unpredictability with our backline.

“Normy was blowing a touch there at the end but he just likes to get his hands on the footy and [fullback] takes him away from having to worry about too much organisational stuff and just play a bit of footy.

“He did well.”

Arthur also praised rookie half Salmon in just his second NRL game.

“I thought young Jaeman warmed into the game well,” Arthur continued.

He was good physically, which was always going to be the test for him. I thought they did okay.”

Player of the Game:

3. Mitchell Moses

2. Jarryd Hayne

1. Nathan Brown

Cowboys push Roosters to the limits

It was the blockbuster game that no one expected from Super Saturday. With so much on the line for both teams – the prospect of second place for the Roosters and the prospect of the wooden spoon for the Cowboys – the 9,721 fans at Allianz Stadium definitely got their money’s worth.

Despite a near perfect completion rate from North Queensland, the Cowboys came up short to the boys from Bondi fighting for the minor premiership.

The game looked to go the way of the Roosters from the beginning with Johnathan Thurston missing a sure penalty goal in the 7th minute, pushing it wide.

A miss which proved costly with Latrell Mitchell scoring just 4 minutes later after beautiful quick hands from captain Boyd Cordner. Mitchell converted his own try giving Sydney 6 points to enjoy.

With a decision that originally left some scratching their heads, Johnathan Thurston looked to bring his men back into the game with a penalty goal from right in front. With the possession granted back from the conversion, Jason Taumalolo was unstoppable absolutely steamrolling James Tedesco to get 4 points under the posts.

Joseph Manu took the spotlight from the big man however, scoring what could easily be a contender for try of the year. The centre broke down the sideline beating two defenders before flicking a no look pass off to his winger Ferguson who put a perfectly placed kick up in the air and back into the hands of Manu for the try.

From this moment, the Roosters let the clock count down before half time with 2 penalty goals taking them into half time up 16-8.

The Roosters came back in the second half picking up exactly where they left off with a Blake Ferguson try 9 minutes in after a run from Joseph Manu who obtained the ball from a Boyd Cordner fed scrum.

Not even 5 minutes later the Cowboys found themselves down 26-8 after a cut out pass from Cooper Cronk put a flying Daniel Tupou into the corner.

With 25 minutes to go and down by 18, the Cowboys came to life – led by both JTs.

Jason Taumalolo was finding metres any chance he could to march the team up the field and in the 56th minute, Johnathan Thurston fooled every defender with a textbook dummy to put himself down for a try beside the posts.

Almost 10 minutes later, Taumalolo helped make it a 6 point game with an offload to Gavin Cooper to grant the second rower his 8th try this season.

Both teams fought hard for the final near 15 minutes, pushing each other to the limits. The Cowboys earned their first and only incomplete set in the 77th minute and the Roosters finished the game with the 6 point lead secured.

Johnathan Thurston played his final game at Allianz Stadium, being gifted the match ball at full-time in what was the Cowboys’ strongest performance this season.

Although his side won the game, Roosters coach Trent Robinson could not go without praising Johnathan Thurston.

A man that he describes as a ‘once in a generation player’.

“We wanted to honour him as a person, we wanted to beat him in the game but wanted to honour the legacy he left,” said Robinson.

“JT left a similar legacy to Artie Beetson and I think that’s the biggest rap I can give him and didn’t want to let that pass.”

Robinson was disappointed with the poor showing from his side in the second half that led to a fade-out, despite holding on to win.

”Nervous is not the right word but obviously what we did to them for most of the game,” Robinson said post-game.

“Especially heading towards half-time and out of half-time, they started doing to us for about 10 minutes there and it was game on.”

It was an improved Cowboys showing but in the end, an inability to defend consistently ultimately let them down.

“Our ball control was pretty good tonight, we just probably defensively didn’t control their power game very well for periods,” said Cowboys coach Paul Green.

“[During our comeback] we found a pass, got a bit of an offload and played a bit of footy which you need to do against good defences but couldn’t get it on in the middle of the game.”

Player of the Game:

3 – Cooper Cronk

2 – Jason Taumalolo

1 – Johnathan Thurston

The Surprise of the Sydney Roosters is Not a Surprise At All

Trent Robinson came into action for the Sydney Roosters 5 years ago in 2013. Since then, each season seems to have gone along the same path – aside from the 2016 season which many are still scratching their heads over.

In his debut season as coach for the tri coloured boys from Bondi, Robinson found himself with the minor premiership crown.

This accomplishment however, came very unexpected for many particularly the South Sydney Rabbitohs. This was a season in which the Rabbitohs dominated for a large portion of the season. They enjoyed a glorious 12 weeks on top of the ladder before the Roosters took over at the tail end of the season. From there, the most entertaining cat and mouse chase came alive as the two fought for the minor premiership. Eventually, with an incredibly point differential of +315 the Roosters were crowned minor premiers.

Four weeks later, they were holding the trophy high and mighty in front of a sold out ANZ stadium. Not a bad start for the new boy in town.

2014 came along and fans were feeling déjà vu.

The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles were sitting nice and pretty on the top of the ladder for 10 weeks from round 15 onwards. They had one week where the Panthers took over due to point differential but the moment passed very quickly and the Sea Eagles enjoyed 8 weeks on top of the ladder looking like sure minor premiers.

They lost in round 26. The Roosters did not.

By point differential, the Roosters took home the minor premiership and finished the season in the preliminary finals after falling short to the Rabbitohs who went on to win the whole thing.

2015. Same deal.

The Brisbane Broncos led the competition for 11 weeks, until round 24 when the Roosters took over and won the minor premiership.

2016 is the dark year for Coach Robinson. A year that he definitely does not want to remember and would very happily bury it dead. Let’s call this year the exception to the rule.

2017 was dominated by the Melbourne Storm in every single way. They seemed to have won the premiership back in round 3 however, the Sydney Roosters still gave them a good run for their money. Recovering from a year from hell, Robinson kicked his team into action however the trend still followed. The run home didn’t fully take place until the tail end of the season.

Whether it’s the impact that State of Origin has on the competition or something else, I don’t know. History does not lie however.

Under the guidance of Trent Robinson, the Sydney Roosters have not been a long running, dominating team in the NRL.

They are not a poor team by any means.

They are a team however, that peaks late. They peak when it well and truly matters.

Can history repeat itself this year? With the way Cooper Cronk, James Tedesco, Luke Keary, Latrell Mitchell, Victor Radley etc etc are firing? Yes. It definitely can.

Reflecting on the past 5 years I find it incredibly fitting that the Sydney Roosters have an extremely high chance of winning the minor premiership and the NRL premiership come September.