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Eels looking for new leader

By Steve Jancetic 18/04/2009 11:30:20 AM Comments (0)

Parramatta backrower Ben Smith claims the Eels' NRL struggles will continue until someone assumes control of the team's attacking destiny in the wake of Brett Finch's controversial departure from the club.

Like a ship without a rudder, the Eels are floating aimlessly without their on-field general, a situation Smith says won't be rectified without a new leader taking charge starting with Sunday's meeting with traditional rivals the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.

Parramatta proved against St George Illawarra last week that the enthusiasm and effort still burned bright, but when it came to getting the ball over the line, there was no-one putting their hand up.

Finch was released by the club just days before the game against the Dragons after being told he was no longer in the club's plans moving forward, the former Origin half having now signed with Melbourne for the remainder of 2009

"There wasn't anything wrong with the way we played last week, I think the main thing it came down to was just our attack on the line - we're just not getting it together," Smith said.

"We're not coming up with the right play at the right time - I think that's what is really letting us down. We're going to the wrong option.

"I don't know if we're tightening up or we're being a bit tense but things just aren't flowing as freely and that just comes down to maybe Finchy not being here.

"We just need a bit more control and someone taking some assertiveness in that area."

The man most likely to take on the responsibility is Feleti Mateo, the brilliant yet inconsistent utility who has been pushed back to five-eighth following the spectacular failure of the Jarryd Hayne experiment.

Mateo ran for 145 metres against the Dragons as he returned to his running game, but his four handling errors proved costly as the Eels attack stagnated.

Bulldogs coach Kevin Moore, riding high with four wins from his first five matches in charge, said he was wary of the Eels finding form following a tough few weeks.

"They've had a tumultuous couple of weeks with Brett Finch moving on, but I thought their attitude was really good last week," Moore said.

"St George Illawarra only really got away from them on the back of a couple of lucky tries from kicks - they'll turn up with the same attitude this week."

The Bulldogs could also be boosted by the return of prop Jarrad Hickey following off season back surgery.

Hickey, who is yet to play in 2009, trained with the side on Saturday morning though no decision has been made on the final make-up of the squad.

Parramatta's Nathan Hindmarsh is in doubt with a wrist injury, with coach Daniel Anderson likely to give the former Test start until game day to prove his fitness.

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