Doin' it for my mate

Look at Parramatta this year and what becomes surprisingly evident is the real sense of loyalty and mateship emerging from a team that is quietly moving up the ladder. Turn the pages back eighteen months ago and that definitely wasn?t the case. Players were unhappy, unhappy enough to leave and quit the NRL. Big changes were needed at the Eels and thankfully big changes have taken place.

This year however, it be the camps that the players go into before each game, even for those just across town or the new players headed by Mark Riddell injecting some much needed enthusiasm into the club, it appears to be giving the club a real edge on the field.

The typical Australian... was seldom religious in the sense in which the word was generally used. So far as he held a prevailing creed, it was a romantic one inherited from the gold-miner and the bushman, of which the chief article was that a man should at all times and at any cost stand by his mate. That was and is the one law which the good Australian must never break. It is bred in the child and stays with him through life... [1]

Brian Smith coaches a team game, promoting within the team smaller close-knit crews who work together on different combinations which in the end benefits the team as a whole. For this to work effectively the players must not just be playing for themselves but the sixteen other players out on the field beside them. They have to works as a unit and not a team of individuals.

Two months ago, Parramatta were being labelled underachievers. Now people are asking whether they are genuine title contenders. Seventeen men working together for a common cause are very hard to beat. [2]

Amongst the players a real unity exists, a genuine sense of working for each other and it doesn?t just happen on the field. While many clubs pride themselves on the bond there players have, Parramatta have this year taken it to another level. They?ve followed PJ Marsh off to church to support his life choices and rallied behind Michael Vella when he found out he had thyroid cancer. They have even been off playing lawn bowls on their day off or any other number of events chosen by different players when they get the chance.

"It?s knowledge and experience", he said "We know in tough games, when things are getting tight, the man next to you is going to aim up for you, and your going to aim up for him. It?s that belief. And we?ve got it this year" [3]

It comes through in the way they play the game with the constant talking on field, the excitement when one of the players scores and the encouragement when something goes wrong. The players are enjoying their football and want to be on the field. Against the Cowboys earlier in the year Riddell, Tahu, Grothe and Stringer were given a rest, which the begrudgingly accepted. The disappointment of not playing was clearly seen on their faces as their team mates racked up a big score on their more fancied opponents. But the blokes that were chosen did just as good a job, not wanting to let down the mates they had replaced.

The biggest benefit of the camaraderie that exists is the level to which many players have brought their games. Eric Grothe Jr, who was thought to have missed out on realising his huge potential, has shown so far that he can possibly reach the dizzying heights his father once did. There has been no more explosive player coming off the bench at any club than Dean Widders. Adam Peek, Paul Stringer and Wade McKinnon have improved remarkably since joining the club and their value inside the team is the same as that of more notable players like Hindmarsh or Cayless. Tim Smith is enjoying the benefits of playing his debut season alongside happy and in form players, while they are benefiting from his play as well.

The pictures littered throughout this article show the jubilation on the faces of the players. They aren?t forced expressions; no they are 100% genuine. Ironically, much like the Eels chances of taking out the premiership. Amazing what a bit of belief in yourself and your mates can do.

[1] CEW Bean, The Story of ANZAC, 1921 [2] Sydney Morning Herald, June 6 2005 Article by Phil Gould. [3] Chad Robinson, Rugby League Week June 8, 2005 Page 5

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