We’re just four rounds into the 2012 NRL premiership, yet already there are numerous rugby league identities feeling the heat. Or in the hot seat. Or under the blowtorch.
Use whatever overly dramatic analogy you want, but there is no question that some individuals are feeling the pressure.
And when talking about pressure, all conversations start and finish with Parramatta.
The Eels are all alone at the bottom of the ladder, having failed to register a win so far this year. Their season went from bad to worse on Friday night when Penrith, a team no one is expecting to win the premiership, gave them an absolute hiding, 39-6. The Panthers actually dropped off in intensity in the last 20 minutes, or the score could have been even more horrific.
Parramatta has now scored just 38 points at an average of 9.5 points per game, whilst conceding 135 points at 33.8 points per game. Both statistics are the worst in the competition.
When a club starts the season so poorly, everyone is under the microscope, but none more so than the coach.
Last week, Parramatta Eels Chairman Roy Spagnolo publicly stated that Stephen Kearney’s job is safe. If I’ve learnt anything in sport, it’s that when a club official publicly backs a coach, the coach is usually sacked within weeks. It’s one of sport’s great little quirks.
Kearney’s winning percentage is a terrible 21 percent, and he has won just 2 of his last 18 games.
Considering Daniel Anderson was sacked for a lack of wins, and he won at a 48 percent clip and took the club to a grand final, Kearney must surely be on the thinnest of thin ice.
It seems the playing group isn’t 100 percent behind Kearney either, particularly some senior players. Shane Shackleton was forced to apologise to Kearney when, after being asked why he wasn’t part of the first grade side, he posted on Facebook: “Kearney is f**cked”.
Fans are so frustrated with the club that the team was booed off the park on Friday night.
Whilst you could argue that fans should never boo their own team, one can also understand their disappointment and anger. Parramatta fans are some of the most passionate in the competition, and that emotion works both ways.
But no level of emotion can excuse the reports that some Parramatta fans threw coins at players. That is disgraceful and totally unacceptable.
News Limited reported on Sunday that the Eels are looking to tap club legend and captain Nathan Hindmarsh on the shoulder and tell him that his services are not required for next year. Considering all that Hindmarsh has done for the club in a glittering NRL career that has spanned over 300 first grade games, it would be a shocking move to tell the all-time great that he is no longer wanted.
Whilst there has been talk of Hindmarsh retiring at the end of the year anyway, the decision should be his and his alone. He’s earned that right. For the club to even discuss telling Hindmarsh he’s not wanted is disgraceful.
Furthermore, considering that the club is under fire from its own fans, dumping the Eels most popular player would not seem the most astute move.
It’s not like Hindmarsh is deadwood or a liability on the field either. Whilst his career peaked a few years ago, he’s still been one of the Eels best this season. And the news that he called an ‘honesty session’ yesterday with his players highlights his exceptional leadership qualities, something the club desperately needs at present.
Most importantly, he always gives 100 percent. That’s a lot more than you could say about some of his teammates.
The club is even under fire from ex-players, with former Parramatta hooker Mark Riddell launching a tirade on Twitter at besieged Eels chairman Roy Spagnolo, saying he should be punted, with Dennis Fitzgerald re-instated.
To make matters worse for the embattled club, Penrith coach Ivan Cleary branded Parramatta Stadium’s sandy surface “disgraceful”. There is even a suggestion that the injury to the Panthers Nathan Smith was sustained due to the poor quality of the ground.
Danny Weilder reported on the weekend that there is a division at the club over star Jarryd Hayne. Apparently some players have complained that he appears disinterested, and that he’s exaggerating the extent of his injury.
To me, that sounds like pure speculation, and reeks of a journalist printing a story/theory that is only newsworthy when a club is struggling. I’m sure not every player at the club gets along with Jarryd Hayne, but you could level the same accusation against the star player at every club.
However, the simple truth is that if the club was winning, all the negative talk and innuendo would disappear. Yet with the Eels facing the defending premiers Manly this week, a win still seems a long way off.
Winless in 2012. Last in points scored. Last in points against. A coach with a 21 percent success rate. Fans booing and throwing coins at players. Disgruntled players. Talks of sacking a club legend. Honesty sessions. Officials under attack from ex-players. A sub-standard playing surface. Rumours of a rift concerning the team’s best player.
Parramatta are currently a disgraceful shambles.
It’s not hyperbole. It’s not sensationalism. It’s just fact.