It’s easy to lay the boot into someone lying on the ground. But when your job is to lay the boot into a ball that’s lying on the ground, well, that should be easy too.
At the beginning of the 2020 NRL season, a lot of people rated the Parramatta Eels as premiership favourites.
They started the season in tremendous form, winning their opening five games of the season either side of the competition’s suspension to sit in first place after nine rounds with only one loss.
Even though they had some lucky escapes, such as victories against Manly, Penrith and Canberra, they still dominated most of their matches.
In the past few weeks, they have suffered a dip in form, losing against the struggling Dragons, unconvincingly beating a severely under-strength Melbourne and getting thrashed 38-0 by South Sydney.
This run of poor form has led many to write off the Eels as pretenders, but things aren’t as grim as they appear.
Plenty of teams experiencing a poor end to the regular season are able to turn it around come finals time.
It’s often said that a team needs to have a loss to get their minds back on the job as they hunt for the premiership and has been shown by a number of teams in recent seasons.
In 2015, North Queensland lost three of their final five games of the regular season after winning 11 straight earlier in the year.
Even though they were defeated by Brisbane in their opening qualifying final, they were still able to turn it around and win their maiden premiership a few weeks later.
Even in 2017, they lost five of their last six regular season matches before they made the grand final.
In 2014, Canterbury lost six of their last eight regular season games to fall from third to seventh before they qualified for the grand final, where they ultimately lost to South Sydney.
Cronulla’s premiership win in 2016 is the example that Parramatta fans can look to most for solace. The Sharks beat all comers during the early parts of that season, winning a club-record 15 straight games, before drawing with Gold Coast.
From there, they lost four of their final five games, including a 26-6 loss against the Storm in Melbourne in the minor premiership play-off to finish third.
They were largely written off by experts and punters alike, but they turned it around to upset the Raiders in Canberra, smash the Cowboys in Sydney before they reversed the result against the Storm in the grand final.
Parramatta might be out of form at the moment, but they’ve put themselves in a position where they can still be a threat in the finals and claim a drought-breaking premiership.
They have an excellent roster, a good coach and now know what to expect from finals footy. To write them off this far out from the finals is nothing short of foolish.