Eels in Crisis
Coach resigns midway through the season, players fined and demoted for disciplinary reasons and any chance for the finals are gorn not even half-way through the season. This is what life is usually like for a South’s supporter but alas it is the Eels who are having a rough time on and off field at the moment.
Eels coach Brian Smith resigned on Monday. He was leaving to join the Knights in 2007 but his signing with the Knights was predicated by being unwanted by the Eels next season. Smith’s reasons were that he didn’t feel that he had it in him to turn the Eels already precarious season around. The same day he resigned it was revealed that two players, Mark Ridell and Tim Smith, turned up drunk to training. Both have been fined $5000 and dropped to premier league for this round.
One criticism of Brian Smith was that he has never won a premiership and his sides have a habit of ‘choking.’ Irregardless of the validity of such observations he has left the Eels in a far better position than when he started.
The Eels of the early to mid-90s were a woeful lot. But when Smith came on aboard as coach along with some Canterbury refugees from Super League, the Eels fortunes changed. They started to challenge for the top 8 once again. Great young players were developed and brought through the grades along with some astute buys. The club became professional and developed a great setup for its players. Sure the Eels should have at least won a premiership during his tenure (apart from 2001, 98, 99 and last year were the seasons of opporunity). But in the end Smith has left the club with a good foundation for the future.
As much as I like Smith it seemed that this year his mind was elsewhere. Some selection decisions were a little strange for the Eels faithful. However Jason Taylor has the reigns and an opportunity (even though he is going to Souths next year) to impress. And it starts with the Panthers on Friday night. It may not be the best Eels side available (due to Origin and two naughty boys) but the Panthers better be wary.
Our season starts now! History will be made!
State of Origin I
The two sides for SOO I on May 24 have been announced. While NSW have the better forward pack the Maroons backline is just all class and pace. NSW are in trouble as their halves pairing of Anasta and Gower find both players not at their best and truth be told, if all eligible players were fit, unlikely to be picked. But they do have experience on their side and Hodgson deserves his place as fullback. He is player better than 2002 when he last appeared for NSW and won’t let the side down.
The loss of Cooper is not a big blow as Tahu will more than cover his absence. Tahu has been one of the Eels’ best players this year and with more space to move than on the wing will be dangerous is given room. Eric Grothe, after doing the right thing an apologizing for missing a medical for City v Country, comes in on the wing. His form has been a little patchy but on his day is one damaging and dependable winger.
Sheer NSW parochialism only sees a Blues win. Their experience will see them home but the enthusiasm of the Cane Toads newbies and potent backline will need to be countered.
Tips for Round 11
The greatest resurrection in NRL history begins with the Eels over the Panthers
Tigers to triumph over the Warriors
The Sea Eagles to be struck down by the Storm
The Knights to charge in and put the Raiders to sword
Bulldogs to leave the Sharks high and dry
The Roosters over the hapless Bunnies but it will be hard fought.
Note the Dragons, Broncos and North Queensland have the bye.