Eight things the Eels should do, to win by 8
Parra can win this. All the predictions of Melbourne’s class overwhelming the baby Eels will count for nought when the smoke from the fireworks clears and the ref looks across to the timekeeper.
Grand Finals are the ultimate leveller and are often won by players you’ve never heard of, who get out in the middle and realise decades of training, injury and going home early comes down to this.
Here’s what I reckon the Eels need to do to take the silverware back to Church Street on Sunday night.
KICK AWAY FROM BILLY SLATER. Absolutely crucial. Slater is at his most dangerous taking the ball at full gallop inside his own half. He has the ability to carve up a staggered defensive line chasing a kick but even if you get him his quick play the ball gives his forwards the chance to make easy metres. Daniel Mortimer must find the turf all night, end of story.
INGLIS, INGLIS, INGLIS. This bloke seems to have a roo bar fitted to his torso. His right-hand fend is the best in the game and will embarrass the Eels’ right side if they don’t deal with him early. Ask Manly’s David “Wolfman” Williams, who became GI’s rag doll in State of Origin. Parra’s Joel Reddy is a gun defender, but Inglis will park himself anywhere he senses a weakness, which makes him every Eels player’s problem.
KEEP ERIC GROTHE ON HIS WING. We’ve already established that Joel Reddy’s in more trouble than a one-armed man hanging off the Harbour Bridge with an itchy bum. So the last thing he needs is for Eric Grothe to come rushing off his wing, leaving a yawning gap for Inglis or Dane Nielsen to run or chase a kick to the line. The other problem is the Storm’s Ryan Hoffman, who will run at the Eels’ right edges all night, trying to suck in defenders so he can get a ball to Inglis on his outside. Grothe has to trust Reddy to take his man and be there when the attack comes his way. He’s a generous guy, Eric, always wanting to come in and help, but if he gets it wrong again it could cost the Eels a premiership.
CAMERON SMITH. The last time the Storm visited ANZZZZZ in October they were hammered by 40. It was no coincidence that Smith was serving out a suspension from the bench. It’s easy to lose sight of the slightly beige captain in a team of entertainers, but Smith’s work at dummy half is the cornerstone of their attack. He preys on forwards struggling to get back the 10, either drawing a penalty or creating a gap in the middle for his fast men. Smith and Slater work better together than Parton and Rogers.
LET JARRYD RUN FREE. Jarryd Hayne is the most undisciplined, unstructured superstar we’ve ever seen. But it works. The last thing he needs is to be tied up feeding the ball to the backline or taking on the full-time kicking role. He did this when Mortimer went off injured against the Titans two weeks ago and his lethal running game suffered. Parra can’t look to Hayne to win it for them, but their rookie halves – Mortimer and Jeff Robson – need to keep doing their jobs so Hayne can do his.
THE FUI FACTOR. We’ve heard it all this week. Fui lives on horse meat, teammates say. He hits with more force than a 20kg bag of cement dropped from 22m, the physicists say. What is undeniably true is that Fui Fui Moi Moi has hit career best form with a cracked rib, which he’s carried through Parra’s extraordinary finals run. Fui either gets an offload away or forces three or four opposition forwards to stop him, creating a gap somewhere for his for Hayne or Mortimer to exploit on the next play. So good they named him twice.
HINDY. I’m starting to sound like this bloke’s agent. The Storm’s biggest problem is they don’t have him. Did you seem him against the Dogs? A defensive machine with a blue and gold striped heart. He was on the Footy Show last night and was asked how it felt to be back on the dancefloor after the Eels’ cataclysmic grand final outing eight years ago. “I’m scared. Not scared of Melbourne, scared of losing it,” Hindy said. Honest, intense, skilful and deserves to be on the back of a ute with ripped shirt, sunnies and a VB on Monday morning.
THE NO NAME FACTOR. The Eels’ success has been defined by the freakish form of Hayne, Hindmarsh, Moi Moi, Luke Burt and Feleti Mateo. But the foundation of that success has been built by offcuts, who 10 weeks ago would have struggled to pick up a contract at the Woy Woy Roosters. Players like Todd Lowrie, Jeff Robson, Kevin Kingston, Tim Mannah, Joe Galuvao are proof of Vince Lombardi’s line about confidence being contagious. Desperation sometimes wins over class and the grunt work done by these players will be the difference.
Eels by 8.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
RT @Rob_Stott: Like a lot of Republicans in the US, it's much easier to support gay marriage when you're no longer in a position to do anyt…
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…