The Wests Tigers always felt Mitchell Moses strutted around Concord with a sense of entitlement.
Perhaps it was the result of hearing constant references to being “a superstar in the making” since the age of 16.
But at Parramatta, he isn’t owed a thing. In fact, it is he who owes them for taking a punt on a player many thought might never live up to the hype.
There were plenty who questioned Parramatta’s pursuit of Moses, wondering why Brad Arthur would fork out in excess of $700,000 a season on a player shown the door by the Tigers.
But those doubting Arthur’s vision have been wiping egg off their face for the past few months as Moses put together the most influential half-season of football in blue and gold since Jarryd Hayne shined for the team in 2009.
So how does a player who produced just two try assists in 10 games for the Wests Tigers this year then lay on 14 tries and 14 line-break assists in the following 13 weeks wearing another jersey?
“The Tigers were the ones that took his contract off the table,” his housemate and former Tigers teammate James Tedesco said. “If the club is doing that, it became obvious they didn’t really want him here.”
“From that point, as a player, that would affect you mentally and that’s why he wanted the change. You could see that he just wasn’t himself any more.
“You can tell he was just a bit frustrated. The way the whole situation panned out for him was disappointing. He’s said the fresh start over there was what he needed and he couldn’t be happier.”
Tigers fans criticised Moses for this perception he stopped trying in his final weeks at the club.
But interestingly, he touched the ball more and ran for more metres this season at the Tigers than he has at Parramatta.
Sometimes less is more, right?
In the past, Moses has been guilty of trying to overplay his hand. In his first three weeks at the Eels, probably with the intention of trying to prove himself, the Parramatta halfback touched the ball an average of 45 times per game.
Compare that to his last three weeks of football, where, despite only handling the ball an average of 29 times per game, Moses has still managed to produce four try-assists and six linebreak-assists.
Arthur is a big believer in making sure his players stick to the game plan. The right play, not the big play. On the surface, that seemed like a recipe for disaster given Moses’ track record of thriving when playing off the cuff.
He was never satisfied with the game plan imposed by Jason Taylor at the Tigers, constantly seeking approval to throw off the shackles.
Interestingly, Arthur is a stickler for structure. Yet Moses has flourished and finally found some consistency in his game. Maybe Taylor was on to something after all? But the constant undermining and lack of respect for Taylor shown by some must have filtered its way down.
Perhaps that sense of entitlement played a part. But there is little doubt Moses’ attitude has shifted dramatically since arriving to play under Arthur.
Parramatta officials noticed how wary Moses was when he first arrived to play at the club. He was scarred by everything that had happened at the Tigers.
If they aren’t already, perhaps the Tigers will one day regret the decision to pull his contract off the table. But had Mitchell Moses been playing this sort of football, he might have been the member of the big four they wanted to keep most.
“Me and Brooksy both said, ‘Do whatever makes you happy’,” Tedesco recalled of the turbulent period in which contract negotiations at the Tigers dominated the headlines.
“We knew we weren’t going to be as good as a team without him, but that would have been pretty selfish of us to ask him to stay for our benefit. He had to do what would benefit him as a player and a person, so we supported him 100 per cent. We said to him, if you’re not happy here and you think you’ll be happier over there then go.”
Earlier in the year, when it looked increasingly likely the Tigers would be fighting to avoid the spoon than competing for a top eight berth, Tedesco, Brooks and Moses organised a trip to Melbourne with a punters club in September.
Clearly, Moses won’t be attending now.
“Who knows, the way Parra are going they can make the grand final,” Tedesco said. “That would be a great success story from what happened at the start of the year to take them to a grand final.”
And if they do, they’ll be talking about Moses in the same light as Hayne, the man he cheered on from the stands as a Parramatta-adoring teenager all those years ago.
Low key exit
Still on the Wests Tigers, two of the remaining members of the big four will bid farewell to the club after Sunday’s Leichhardt Oval fixture against the Warriors.
The club wanted to organise something special for Tedesco and Woods, however the pair are keen on a low key exit from the club.
They have managed to win back plenty of support from disgruntled fans over the past few months with the way they have conducted themselves and are wary of how a big send off will be perceived by the supporters.
The club has repeatedly been told the pair is content on shaking hands and waving goodbye to the fans and don’t want a big song and dance made of their exit.
Eels stand ground
The Eels were hoping to open the 2019 season at the newly renovated Parramatta stadium. However that now appears unlikely.
The stadium may not be ready until at least a month through the season, potentially even mid-way through it.
There’s been some talk about the naming of the stands. It’s likely the Eels will retain the Ken Thornett, Mick Cronin, Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny stands, however they will likely be changed for when the Western Sydney Wanderers use the venue.
Moylan on bench
Matt Moylan has been named on an extended bench for the Panthers but don’t expect him to play this weekend.
The Penrith five-eighth hasn’t even been given the green light to resume running duties.
The club hopes he will be right for the first week of the finals, but that could be pushed back to week two if he struggles to heal quickly.