Next few months will hurt for Eels veter­ans

Daily Mercury - - NRL SPORT - Nick Wal­shaw

SEMI Radradra ex­ited the NRL ex­actly as he played it. Eva­sively.

Se­creted out a back door of ANZ Sta­dium on Satur­day night – a cor­ri­dor Eels staffers had de­lib­er­ately moved wait­ing me­dia away from – and into the night, the un­known and that $1 mil­lion French rugby deal. Fit­ting. If slightly an­noy­ing. But more on that shortly. First, you want to know if Radradra is ever com­ing back, right?

Des­per­ate to hear if this great­est Fi­jian en­ter­tainer since Jimmy ‘Su­per­fly’ Snuka is now per­haps feel­ing like he has un­fin­ished busi­ness in the NRL?

Cap­tain Tim Man­nah and cen­tre Michael Jen­nings sat at lock­ers across the room from one an­other, silent for who knows how long.

“Will Semi be back? I have a feel­ing he will,” Man­nah will even­tu­ally tell you, slowly ris­ing up to push a gi­ant arm into his suit jacket. “The mes­sages I’ve got from him is that he’d love to come back here.”

Few at Par­ra­matta are closer to Radradra, the tear­away winger whose fi­nal NRL game in­cluded an in­cred­i­ble 100m try.

“And Semi has a real soft spot for this club,” Man­nah con­tin­ues of the mate who, in five short years, has mor­phed from kava farmer into NRL megas­tar. “He loves this place. “He’s a part of the fur­ni­ture and I’d like to think we’ll see him back here.” But not this par­tic­u­lar night. In­deed, as Man­nah speaks, the clock ticks past 11.45pm.

He and Jen­nings the only fig­ures left in a shed emp­tied of ev­ery­thing else.

Of all the Eels who took the field this night, none un­der­stand the op­por­tu­nity wasted like this pair.

“Dev­as­tated,” Jen­nings con­cedes, eyes fo­cussed down as he wraps shorts and socks into a white towel. “It’s aw­ful. We didn’t han­dle the pres­sure out there.”

Man­nah agrees.

“We went away from our plan,” he says. “Went away from what works.” Trans­la­tion: We Blew It. Still, these veter­ans speak where so many other Eels refuse. Or dis­ap­pear out that back door.

And given how badly they bombed, the anger is un­der­stand­able.

Yet if Cate Camp­bell can blow Olympic gold and still front a mi­cro­phone im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards ... well, maybe that’s some­thing for leaguies to con­sider?

Re­gard­less, the truth of this one ex­ists best here in an emp­tied shed.

In the si­lence of two veter­ans al­ready hat­ing the pain they know will fol­low them up and out the door.

“Un­der­stand­ing what we were ca­pa­ble of, this hurts,” Man­nah says. “It isn’t the way we should’ve fin­ished. And, yeah, I know we’ll be back bet­ter for it. Stronger. But the next few months ... it’s go­ing to be a long wait.”

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