Next few months will hurt for Eels veterans
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.”
“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.”