The Parramatta Eels need to punt on talent, not pokies
Andrew Wilkie does not strike you as someone who skips straight to the back page of the newspaper every morning.
But the anti-pokies campaigner should be very interested in Nathan Hindmarsh’s upcoming autobiography, which contains a stunning admission that the Parramatta Eels skipper blew more than $200,000 on poker machines early in his career.
Hindmarsh apparently wasted several thousand dollars per day at the height of his gambling addiction. Sadly for Parramatta, these investments were no wiser than any of the club’s recent recruitments.
Parramatta coach Stephen Kearney is the perfect example of a gamble gone sour. The coach of the New Zealand international side joined the Eels in 2011 and quickly seduced the faithful with his characteristically wide smile.
Parramatta fans have not grinned since. A growing record of dismal results forced the Kiwi coach to furrow his brow ever more until now, finally, he has been forced to step aside.
You could not possibly envy his replacement at Parra, given the laughing stock that any new coach is set to inherit. The Eels are well on their way to finishing last this year, having barely avoided the wooden spoon less than 12 months ago.
They really are a godsend for the supporters of other incompetent clubs. With the Eels acting as a constant source of embarrassment, the rest of the league’s cellar dwellers actually look OK by comparison.
So should the players and fans at Parramatta despair? Of course not. Just take a look at Nathan Hindmarsh, the reformed problem gambler.
The amount of money that this guy poured into the pokies could otherwise have been used to buy a small apartment in Sydney.
As league scandals go, that may not be as shocking as Nate Myles’ controversial attempt at a hallway redecoration. But it is still pretty impressive in a perverse sort of way.
Parramatta has been similarly wasteful lately. All of the money that the club has sunk into purchasing rubbish players would probably have been better spent luring Sonny Bill Williams to the club for half a year.
Williams goes to the line, offloads to Hayne, Hayne scores. And repeat. Finals footy would return to Parramatta in no time.
The first order of business for Kearney’s replacement should be to recruit some talented players, because teams with talent tend to win more. Counter-intuitive I know.
Jarryd Hayne cannot carry the team on his back forever. He needs some extra skill alongside him, and he needs each and every team-mate to step up and assume more responsibility.
Nathan Hindmarsh has already decided to retire at the end of the season. His teammates should be desperate to finish somewhere further up the ladder, if only to avoid sullying the conclusion of their skipper’s tireless career.
But should they fail to avoid the wooden spoon this year, all is not lost. If an immature young league player can beat his gambling addiction, a proud club like Parramatta should have little trouble jolting itself out of a piddly two year form slump.
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