NRL head of football Graham Annesley has defended a brutal detail in the draw that will see the Parramatta Eels face three-consecutive opponents fresh off the bye. The Eels have slumped to 0-3 on the season and are currently languishing in 16th position, just one spot ahead of the last-placed Tigers.
They have suffered consecutive losses to the Storm, Sharks and Sea Eagles, and come up against heavyweights the Panthers and Roosters in the next two weeks. But as Matty Johns noted last week, the Eels' clash with Penrith will mark their second game out of a run of three against an opponent who had the bye the week before.
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“This has been a complete oversight as far as the draw’s concerned," Johns said on ‘The Late Show with Matty Johns’. "Tonight they play Manly coming off a bye, next week they play Penrith coming off a bye, the week after they play the Roosters coming off a bye.
“That should not happen. That shouldn’t happen. You’ve got a side like Penrith now who are going to sit, have a two-week preparation to freshen up to play. The bottom line, it should not happen.”
Addressing the issue on Tuesday, Annesley insisted the situation didn't come about because of an oversight and pointed out the complexities of producing a draw. "None of those things are ideal in any draw," Annesley said.
"But they are consequences of all the competing factors that get built into the draw. We have club requests. We have venue availability. This year we are really heavily constrained in venue availability.
"There are major events like Magic Round. We have to look at the placement of byes and when teams get them, to try and give teams relief around Origin if possible. There are so many factors that play into the draw, it's not possible to completely resolve everything you would like to resolve."
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Annesley pointed out that the issue doesn't impact Parramatta alone and highlighted the fact the Eels are only subjected to a completely fresh rival once more this season. The Broncos also have four games against fresh rivals coming off the bye, while six other teams face the same scenario three times.
The situation facing the Eels is nowhere near as bad as what the Panthers endured in the first year the NRL introduced a bye in 1999. Penrith were forced to play 13 of their 24 matches against teams fresh from a week off.
Annesley said the NRL uses the same software to do the draw as employed by the NFL and other big sporting leagues around the world, which allows for several factors to be loaded in. And that includes a limit on how many games each team plays against sides after the bye.
"It's not that this is something that slips through the cracks" Annesley said. "A lot of time and effort goes into trying to minimise those matters as much as possible. If you have a look at how many teams play teams coming off the bye, it's pretty widespread."
Parramatta great Nathan Hindmarsh was less critical than Johns, saying a fresh opponent shouldn't be as big a factor so early in the season. “I think if you looked at it and it was Rounds 10, 11, 12 then it would be something to go, ‘Oh, it’s a rip-off’," he said. However some fans labelled the situation 'ridiculous' and 'unfair'.
Feel for Eels fans.
When your team plays Thursday night and gets beat.
Eels 2 Thursday night games already for no wins, and have Panthers and Easts over the next two weeks. You guessed it, both on Thursday nights.
Plus playing 3 teams in a row that are off the back of a bye.
— Woody & Slugs do League - RUGBY LEAGUE PODCAST (@woodyandslugs) March 19, 2023
With the draw the NRL have given them, they don't want the Eels in the premiership race. Matty John's was spot on when he noted that in there 1st 4 games 3 off there opponents are coming off a bye week so well rested, & yes the NRL shouldn't have let that happen!!
— Claire (@ClaireO1902) March 20, 2023
Yeah it’s weird this wasn’t picked up before the draw was released, surely someone looked at who teams played after their bye and went, ohh they all play the Eels after the early bye rounds.
But also not surprised the #NRL didn’t pick this up.
— T Mac #Croker300 (@NoShins81) March 18, 2023
I remember many yrs ago where teams coming off “byes” would see it as a disadvantage. Now the media sees “byes” an excuse for the 0-3 start to the Eels season. Excuses are what little children use to avoid getting in trouble. The problems are internal & not with the “bye’s.”
— Hector Samuels🇦🇺🇮🇹🇺🇸 (@HS19661966) March 17, 2023
The fact is, the Eels weren’t good enough to beat Manly, the “Bye” had nothing to do with the Eels losing. Come to think of, the Eels haven’t been good enough to win their previous 2 games.
— Hector Samuels🇦🇺🇮🇹🇺🇸 (@HS19661966) March 16, 2023
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