Rugby League


Kearney cops a beating at Eels AGM

Beseiged coach Stephen Kearney fronted a disgruntled group of Eels fans at Parramatta's annual general meeting last night, pleading with them to believe in his vision.

There were no excuses, just a heartfelt plea to the Parramatta faithful to stick by the embattled football team he said should be striving for the top four on a yearly basis.

After chairman Roy Spagnolo spent the first hour of the night discussing matters relating to the operation of the leagues club, the elephant in the room was finally addressed.

Almost 1000 club members waited in anticipation to hear what Kearney had to say, and when he got up, so too did his players.

It was a move straight out of Storm counterpart Craig Bellamy's book on how to deal with adversity, as all in the NRL squad stood behind Kearney, united as one as their leader left himself vulnerable to attack.

''I take responsibility for where we are as a football team, I also take full responsibility for leading this group of men out of this situation that we're in,'' Kearney said.


''I've had to make some tough decisions over the last 18 months, I have no doubt I have to make some even tougher ones in the coming weeks. Every decision I make, I make for the benefit of the team, and ultimately, the benefit of the football club.''

But, as expected, after a 1-8 start to the season, not everyone was taken by Kearney's words. After Kearney, skipper Nathan Hindmarsh and recruitment manager Peter Nolan addressed the large gathering, it was open to the members to ask the questions they'd been yearning to hear answered.

It didn't take long, the second question to be exact, before Kearney found himself under fire.

''I'm sorry, I just can't support the coach Stephen Kearney,'' one member said before a handful of fans began applauding.

He continued, saying, ''From the moment you came to the club'', but Spagnolo intervened and deemed the member's comments inappropriate. The unhappy Parramatta fan later went on to question the style of play the Eels have adopted under Kearney, questioning the decision to play a ''one-out'' brand of rugby league, which Kearney disagreed with.

''If you look at last year, you'll have to ask Matty Keating and the forwards, but I don't believe we were running one-out,'' Kearney replied. ''You might think that but if I go into the details of the game plan and how we want to play the game, we'll be here all night. But we're not running one-out, mate.''

While Kearney was adamant the buck had to stop with him, Hindmarsh said it was time for the players to take some responsibility.

''Steve gives us the best game plan every week, along with his coaching staff. We do all the video we need to … but at the end of the day it's up to us players to get the job done,'' he said.