Eels exclusive: 'Why we are struggling'

Parramatta coach Daniel Anderson has given his players three days off in a bid to freshen up for next week’s clash with Canberra, but is it really that simple for the Eels?<br><br>Well, yes, according to those in the eye of the storm.<br><br>Plenty of bad traits have crept into this Eels outfit so far in 2010 – slow starts, predictable one-out football and an apparent expectation that it will all happen for them – but players contacted by NRL.com today say that panic isn’t one of them.<br><br>“I’m still confident we’ll turn it all around,” explains five-eighth Daniel Mortimer – one of a number of key players to come in for criticism by Anderson following Saturday night’s dismal performance against lowly Cronulla.<br><br>But rather than punish his squad for their insipid start to the year, Anderson has instead told his players to freshen up.<br><br>“He sat us down on Saturday night and spoke to us after the game,” Mortimer continues. “We knew we were going to get bagged in the press and he gave us three days off to get away from all of that. <br><br>“He told us just to get ready for Wednesday, when we get stuck back into training… hopefully it freshens us up a little bit, although I don’t think we’re too far off. <br><br>“Our defence has been quite solid and the attitude is still there, we just need to click as a team.<br><br>“We’ve got all the talent in the world but we’re not playing together at the moment.”<br><br>So where has it all gone wrong?<br><br>We asked Mortimer and centre Joel Reddy for their thoughts on some key issues:<br><br><b>Slow Starts</b><br>All fans thought Parramatta would rocket out of the blocks in 2010 but they’ve done nothing of the sort. In fact, in 160 minutes of first-half football this season the Eels have scored just six points (against St George Illawarra in Round 1) and have trailed 12-0, 20-0, 15-0 and 11-0 in their four games thus far.<br><br>Asked why Parramatta was starting so poorly, centre Joel Reddy had just two words: Ball security. <br><br>“We’ve given a lot of ball away early in the halves, then had to defend a lot,” he says. “We need to work around completing our sets and then worry about scoring after that but at the moment we can’t seem to get out of our own half.”<br><br>The stats agree. After four rounds the Eels have made a whopping 61 errors – the third worst in the NRL behind only Cronulla (65) and Canberra (62).<br><br>“We dropped the ball the first couple of sets against Cronulla and then couldn’t get out of our own half,” Reddy laments. <br><br>“You can’t even think about scoring tries when you don’t complete yardage sets.”<br><br><b>One-Out v Second-Phase</b><br>In 2009, Parramatta ranked first in the NRL for offloads with 405 from their 24 regular season games and the side’s ability to create second-phase play was a key component of their attack.<br><br>This season that has broken right down.<br><br>Mortimer says that the Eels have reverted to one-out football which has made them easy pickings for opposition defences.<br><br>“Teams read that easily,” he explains. “You’ve got to mix things up. The thing is that we’re not playing together – everyone has got their own ideas.”<br><br>Reddy said it was about getting the balance right.<br><br>“If the pass is there to be thrown you don’t want to be tucking it under your wing but we also need to learn to play the tough footy,” he says.<br><br>“When you need to get dirty, you get dirty – but we’re just not getting it right at the moment.”<br><br><b>Forwards</b><br>They boast one of highest-profile forward packs in the NRL but the Parramatta pack has been belted into submission in 2010.<br><br>In fact, the difference in go-forward between the Eels and their opponents has been staggering.<br><br>Held to just 1019 metres by the Dragons (1404) in Round 1, they were monstered by Wests Tigers (1683m to 1186) in Round 3 and again by Cronulla (1538 to 1226) last Saturday. <br><br>High-profile recruit Justin Poore declined to comment when contacted today, but Reddy said there was no doubt the side wasn’t effectively working as a team.<br><br>“It’s the same thing that happened last year,” he says. “I don’t know why – we haven’t been able to take what we did at the end of last year. <br><br>“I mean, we knew coming into this year that we wouldn’t just be able to use the momentum we built up last year, but nothing has clicked. <br><br>“We’ve got a few new players… it’s a little bit frustrating but at the end of the day it’s still only four games into the season, so there is a long way to go.”<br><br><b>Confidence</b><br>The Eels admit they are down on confidence but insist the tide will turn quickly.<br><br>“There is no doubt we’re a confidence team,” Mortimer says. <br><br>“Last year our confidence was sky high and things happened but we just need to get that basic structure back where we play simply, get a few wins and hopefully that confidence will come back.”<br><br>Reddy agrees. <br><br>“It’s still early in the season and you just can’t write a season off after four games,” he says. “The confidence will grow and will get better.”<br><br>“It’s a fine line – you want to be winning but you need that confidence to do so. I think as time goes by the confidence will grow. <br><br>“We’ve got to focus on playing well this weekend and not worry so much about the result. <br><br>“It’s about playing well and consistently through the whole game and the results will come.”