Richie Barnett on league

Opinion and analysis from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett

Richie Barnett: Putting Kearney's Eels on a hook to wriggle cowardly

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Kris Keating of the Eels makes a line break during the round nine NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the Canterbury Bulldogs. Photo / Getty Images
Kris Keating of the Eels makes a line break during the round nine NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the Canterbury Bulldogs. Photo / Getty Images

We've all made mistakes. And we can all get over our mistakes - but one thing that doesn't help, is being publicly hung out to dry.

That's what happened to the Eels this week, when the board and management shoved the playing squad and coach Steve Kearney up on stage in front of a couple of hundred angry club supporters at the AGM. All that was missing was the mediaeval stocks and a basket of rotten fruit to be thrown.

This wasn't fair on the Kiwis coach and it only encourages the blame game. As for players being called to account, these guys are called to account every weekend on the playing field.

It looked to me like the board and management were pushing the players into the public eye in an effort to cover their own asses.

Yes, this is their worst start to a season in 52 years.

But the problems at the Eels have been coming for a long time and they run deeper than the playing squad.

For a start, the playing squad is built on recruitment - and that requires planning. So how have the Eels ended up with a 6 and 7 pairing who are so far off the pace? You could pretty much say they're the worst in the competition.

How did they ever think Ben Roberts was the solution? The playing squad, however, will have to find the answers.

The team is not cohesive - they just don't have it.

As a player, I never found myself in the kind of hole from which Parramatta are now trying to scramble free. Even when we had a bad run of results, I knew my Roosters teammates were putting in the yards - and we always kept our structure.

Kearney's dilemma now is that he has a squad full of guys who can add impact, but are low on hard yards. I don't envy him sorting that one out.

At the Warriors, we've seen some good recruitment planning in action. Dane Nielsen is exactly the sort of guy the club should be signing. Fans will cry that they want bigger names. Star power. Billy Slater!

The reality is that those guys are hard to get. In Neilsen, they've secured a hard-working centre with Origin experience who - crucially - has been developed in one of the sport's finest greenhouses: The Melbourne Storm.

This guy can add a lot to the club.

As for this week, the Warriors and Roosters are two evenly matched sides. Both are on the rise after some ropey form, both are dangerous in the back three and both are concentrating on a structured game before the halves are released. This will be a pearler.

The key could be how the Roosters contain and unsettle Alehana Mara, the Warriors hooker.

Right now, there is no better prop in the game than Ben Matulino - happily, no one in Sydney has noticed.

He brings his A-game every week and he provides the platform that allows those halves to be released. Let's hope the Sydney press and pundits keep missing his dynamite efforts. And let's hope that tomorrow, Mara can keep the big man running.

- NZ Herald

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