Parramatta’s forwards have vowed to act as “bodyguards” for Mitchell Moses to ensure he doesn’t become a defensive liability at his new club.
Moses met his new teammates for the first time on Wednesday after receiving a release from Wests Tigers the previous day. The playmaker appeared at ease in his new surrounds after becoming frustrated at the length of time to gain a release from the joint-venture outfit.
Tigers coach Ivan Cleary took a subtle dig at Moses’ attitude, as well as accusing his manager, Isaac Moses, of “manipulations of the media to drive a personal agenda”.
The Eels believe Moses will put two ordinary performances behind him, including a shocking defensive display that included eight misses against South Sydney. Moses misses an average of 3.5 tackles per game and will undoubtedly be targeted by a rampant Canberra pack that includes returning Raider Josh Papalii, who will be making a late audition for a Queensland Origin spot.
Eels skipper Tim Mannah, who has been in contact with Moses through his contractual saga, believes he will get plenty of support without the ball with the blue and golds.
“Like any half, you need to have your bodyguards around you helping you a lot,” Mannah said.
“The halves, they’re not traditionally making their money whacking people, their job is to create with the ball.
“They need a lot of help in defence and he’s no different to any other half we have, he needs support.”
Parramatta back-rowers Tepai Moeroa and Kenny Edwards will be tasked with providing protection for their prized new signing.
“Mitchy likes to get his body in front, it’s not like he doesn’t like tackling, but we know we’ve got a job to help him out,” Edwards said.
“We’re not trying to be his bodyguard or anything. Our job as a back-rower is to be into that tackle first and help out our halves as much as we can.
“At the end of the day that’s part of my job description. I’ll be looking to do that and he’ll be sweet.
“One of the things with Mitchy, I remember the reason why he wanted to come was because our back-rowers [provide] high energy in defence helping the halves. We’ve got high energy and help our halves as much as we can.”
Fellow back-rower Manu Ma’au terrorised Moses in defence when the teams clashed a few weeks ago but said he would be getting plenty of help protection from now on.
“My job is to run him over but now that he’s with us I have to look after him,” he said.
“Our job is to look after the halves. For him coming to Parramatta, Tep is on that right side and does a good job of looking after Gutho [Clint Gutherson] when he was there and Will Smith.
“He’s in good hands and we’re looking forward to seeing him in that blue and gold jersey.”
Moses will face his former team in round 20 and indications are there will be no love lost. Cleary felt he had to release the disgruntled pivot disturbing changes in demeanour and performance.
“The last time I spoke about [Moses’ situation] publicly was after the Bulldogs where I thought he played well,” Cleary said.
“I mentioned that I hadn’t seen anything to suggest in his performances or preparation that he wanted to leave. And that was the thing I was going to go by. Again, there was no benefit to our club for a release.
“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence but things changed after that.
“His last two performances and general demeanour suggested he just wasn’t happy and the logical conclusion was for us to part ways and that’s what we’ve done.”
Isaac Moses had complained to the NRL and Rugby League Players’ Association, expressing concerns about player welfare after Cleary reportedly told the player he would be granted a release before last week’s game with the Rabbitohs, only to change his mind.
“I’d like to discuss the accusation around the way we’ve handled this situation,” said Cleary.
“We take well-being very seriously at this club and the track record at the Tigers has been very strong, including the last 12 months.
“I take it very seriously as a coach and it’s a huge part of what we do.
“I’ve been transparent and forthright with my conversations with Mitchell. They’re personal and I’ll leave it at that.
“It’s a bit disappointing some of those conversations have ended up in the media – I don’t want that to happen from my end.”