Eels legends a reminder of when Parramatta could play

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Former Parramatta Eels' player Ray Price. AAP Image/Paul Miller

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Yesterday five-time NSWRL premiership-winning skipper Steve Edge had a building named after him.

It was fitting recognition for one of the very best leaders in the code, with two premierships for the Dragons in 1977 and 1979 and three on the trot with the Eels in 1981, 1982, and 1983.

Edge was the bricks and mortar of both clubs.

When I look back on that era, watching the Eels strut their magnificent stuff is one of my fondest sporting memories.

They were dazzling for 80 minutes every week, with the bonus in the shed afterwards as they doyen of coaches Jack Gibson dropped one droll one-liner after another.

The line-up from the back – Paul Taylor, Eric Grothe, Mick Cronin, Steve Ella, Brett Kenny, Peter Sterling, Ray Price, John Muggleton, Peter Wynn, Ron Hilditch, Bob O’Reilly and of course Steve Edge.

What a line-up, bristling with Kangaroos.

Right across the park they toyed with opponents. Not only by their own breathtaking brilliance, but bolstered by the coaching genius of Gibson for the finishing touches.

They beat Newtown in the 1981 grand final 20-11, Manly 21-8 in 1982, and Manly again 18-6 in 1983 – crossing for 12 tries to six.

Emphatic.

Edge was asked yesterday to compare his superstars with the modern era.

“Other than being bigger, stronger, fitter, faster, more skilful – and they would beat us by 40 points – no (difference) at all,” Edge replied with a big smile.

Always the realist.

But I must recall two stories about two legends – Laurie Daley and Ray Price – associated with the Parramatta club.

One of Daley’s early first grade games for the Raiders was against the Eels at Cumberland Oval.

The teenager took on the far bigger and far tougher Eric Grothe around halfway. Grothe just picked Daley up ball and all and threw him like a sack if potatoes across the sideline.

I was the sideline eye for 2KY callers Geoff Prenter and Roy Masters, and Laurie landed right in my lap on the full.

The modular chair exploded into a hundred pieces with Laurie right on top of me.

With his hand outstretched he introduced himself – “Hi, I’m Laurie Daley,” – and shook my hand. I replied, “likewise”.

Laurie untangled himself from me, shook himself clear of the modular debris, and ran back onto the field to continue the battle as though nothing had happened.

Before he switched codes, Price was on the 1975 Wallaby tour.

Always a renegade, Ray was reminded by backrower John Lambie to get rid of his chewing gum as the team entered the front door of Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen.

Happy to oblige, Ray stuck his gum behind the closest Rembrandt.

I often wonder if that piece of gum is still there.

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