Why are people getting behind the Eels?

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    On Friday morning, it finally hit me. This year, for the first time since 2009, the Parramatta Eels will be playing finals football.

    What’s more, after their 52-34 win over the Broncos on Thursday night, the Eels find themselves sitting in the top four. Should they finish there, it will be for the first time since 2005.

    If my maths is correct, the highest the Eels can finish is second and the lowest is fifth.

    It’s hard for me to put into words how much it means to me to see my team feature come September. The magic run in 2009 seems so long ago, and as an Eels fan, I’ve had to endure plenty both on and off the field since, including player movement, several coaches and some really appalling rugby league.

    Heading into this year’s finals series, Melbourne are the benchmark. After the Storm posted their 19th win of the season, against the Rabbitohs last week, the question now being asked is not ‘who will feature in the grand final’ but, ‘who will play the Storm in the grand final?’

    Plenty of teams have been thrown around. The Brisbane Broncos. The Sydney Roosters. The Cronulla Sharks. Even the Penrith Panthers on their day.

    But over the last couple of weeks, the Eels have suddenly been mentioned as contenders, particularly with some of their more significant wins, such as the victory over Brisbane. Not only do many think that Parra have a genuine chance of playing deep into September, but it seems like they have plenty of support from the rugby league community.

    How do I feel about that? Fantastic. The more the merrier – there is plenty of room on the bandwagon. But I must admit, this support has surprised me given what happened with the Eels last year.

    I remember the fallout from the salary-cap scandals featuring the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Melbourne Storm several years ago. In the case of the Storm, it took years for people to begin forgiving them for what happened during those years.

    But Parramatta, it seems different somehow. As the Eels have gone from strength to strength both on and off the field, I’ve heard very few references to the salary cap breaches which landed the club in so much hot water last year.

    Why are the Eels different from the Storm and the Bulldogs? Why aren’t Parra experiencing the same sense of ill-will?

    Is it pity? The Storm breached the salary cap and won the 2007 and 2009 premierships, as well as the 2006, 2007 and 2008 minor premierships. In contrast, during the years the Eels breached the cap they did not play finals football once (and even collected two wooden spoons for their troubles).

    Is it because Parramatta have been genuinely unsuccessful for such a long time? When they make the finals this year, they will break what is the longest streak in the NRL for a club not having featured in September. The Eels also hold another unwanted record – they are the club with the most number of years between now and the last time they won a premiership.

    I wasn’t even alive the last time Parra won the premiership, which was in 1986. Is it possible that rugby league fans pity us so much that they would be genuinely happy to see us finally succeed?

    Parramatta Eels Rugby club signage

    AAP Image/Joel Carrett

    Is it because during those years the Eels were poorly managed? In sharp contrast to the Storm, who are the benchmark when it comes to discipline on and off the field, it’s clear that incompetence was a major reason Parramatta found themselves in so much trouble last year.

    Factions. Infighting. A divided board. All these things have characterised the Eels’ management over the last decade and contributed to a club that was brought to its knees last year.

    It’s almost unbelievable that Parramatta were over the salary cap by offering contracts to players like Carl Webb and Chris Walker.

    Additionally, despite playing for little more than pride last year, the Eels showed a sense of resilience and togetherness which I found inspirational. There was no arrogance or attempt to convince the rugby league community that the club had not done anything wrong. There was acceptance and then a real willingness to move on.

    Whatever the reason, I’m grateful to see so much support for my team heading into the finals. Because for Eels fans this is a genuinely exciting time and I would encourage other rugby league fans to share in this joy.

    And while I’m not convinced Parramatta are contenders this year, I head into September knowing that success for our club looked like playing finals football this year. Anything more is an absolute bonus.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (119)

    • August 29th 2017 @ 5:34am
      Matt Dustby said | August 29th 2017 @ 5:34am | ! Report

      Congrats Mary but I think you are imagining wide spread support for the eels

      • Columnist

        August 29th 2017 @ 10:06am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | August 29th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        Hi Matt – that’s fair enough. But in my experience, the people around me seem pretty happy. That may be because I try to be a positive person so they are trying to reflect positivity back to me. I’ve certainly heard no mention of the salary cap breaches and that was why I wrote the article!

    • August 29th 2017 @ 5:44am
      Parrathon said | August 29th 2017 @ 5:44am | ! Report

      Because everyone feels sorry for us…

      At least the Storm and Bulldogs were successful…. we cheated the cap and still came last. 30 odds years of nothing… Its called sympathy.

      • Columnist

        August 29th 2017 @ 10:06am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | August 29th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        I’ll take some sympathy!

      • Roar Rookie

        August 29th 2017 @ 10:27am
        Bunney said | August 29th 2017 @ 10:27am | ! Report

        Yeah, it’s largely sympathy.

        If a team I don’t like is doing poorly over an extended time, my hate fades, and I start cheering the underdog. I certainly feel sympathy for you Mary – born after 1986 and cheering the Eels. Tough gig

        • Columnist

          August 29th 2017 @ 10:48am
          Mary Konstantopoulos said | August 29th 2017 @ 10:48am | ! Report

          I hear you Bunney. I was right on board the Sharks last year (from the start of the season). I still think they are a great club but have less affinity with them than I did last year.

    • August 29th 2017 @ 5:55am
      Tigranes said | August 29th 2017 @ 5:55am | ! Report

      Mary, as a Tigers fan, I hope either the Eels or the Panthers go all the way, even better make it an all Western Sydney grand final, Eels have given their fans something to be proud of, unlike the rabble that my club has turned into this year.

      • Columnist

        August 29th 2017 @ 10:07am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | August 29th 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

        You are so welcome on the bandwagon, Tigranes. And just for the record, I have a massive soft spot for the Tigers and think you are in good shape for next year!

        • August 29th 2017 @ 11:04am
          Albo said | August 29th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

          Mary, as a large percentage of NRL fans in Sydney are based in Western Sydney, even if Parra aren’t their first choice team, and their team hasn’t made the finals, they will likely have a soft spot for the “local” team that does have a shot at the prize. So either Parramatta or Penrith are likely to be well supported out in the Sydney suburbs. Both play an attacking style which also helps attract people. Whilst I doubt either of these two teams have the defensive qualities to hold out the likes of the Storm, I am sure Western Sydney fans will have Parra or the Panthers in mind rather than the Storm, Broncos , Roosters, Sharks or Manly !
          High flying Queenslanders, Sydney silver tails or battlers from the ‘burbs ‘ ? Make your choice !

    • Roar Guru

      August 29th 2017 @ 6:05am
      eagleJack said | August 29th 2017 @ 6:05am | ! Report

      Don’t confuse stating that a team is a contender with that of support.

      I’m sure there is a sense of pity for a club that has bumbled its way from one disaster to the next for nearly 30 years. And I’m happy for the few Parra supporting mates I have who are finally about to witness Finals footy again after close to a decade.

      But I’m also a realist. And if the Eels were to play the Storm in the GF, the 40-0 record would be in danger of being eclipsed. There is a huge gulf in class.

      • August 29th 2017 @ 7:25am
        mushi said | August 29th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

        I see it as continuing the trend – cheat the salary cap and you will be better after you are caught and “punished” (the eels slap was the weakest wet lettuce yet).

        Message to those outside the top eight – if you’ve got the cash go nuts.

        • August 29th 2017 @ 11:08am
          Glenn said | August 29th 2017 @ 11:08am | ! Report

          Mushi, the loss of players was a first for the NRL. Both the Dogs and Storm retained all their players which enabled them to win a premiership shortly after the breach/s were discovered.

          The Storm’s breaches were very serious, $1m over a $3m cap was some cheating!

          • August 29th 2017 @ 2:03pm
            matth said | August 29th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

            Storm lost Inglis, Hoffman, Folau? I can’t remember if the Dogs lost anyone.

          • August 29th 2017 @ 4:24pm
            Mushi said | August 29th 2017 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

            Glenn was there a sale on the cool aide?

      • Columnist

        August 29th 2017 @ 10:49am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | August 29th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        eagleJack, definitely not getting ahead of myself. To be honest, I am happy with featuring in week 1 of the finals – I’m not expecting us to be playing all the way to October.

        It may just be my experience, but I’ve seen no ill-will towards the Eels which I found unusual.

    • Roar Guru

      August 29th 2017 @ 6:34am
      The Barry said | August 29th 2017 @ 6:34am | ! Report

      I hadn’t realised everyone was getting on board the Eels. Probably the 30 year fairytale. Nothing against the Eels but I’d prefer one or two of these droughts to continue. It adds to the drama.

      It’s a good point about the cap. The lack of ill will I’m sure is due to the lack of success while cheating. But this does show again that there’s a clear advantage to be had post cap breach by assembling an illegal squad then picking and choosing which players you cut to get back under the cap.

      Boo Eels.

      • Roar Guru

        August 29th 2017 @ 9:41am
        Nat said | August 29th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        My sentiments exactly

        • Roar Guru

          August 29th 2017 @ 9:53am
          The Barry said | August 29th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          With the Dogs gone I’m finding it tough to pick any of the semi final teams to cheer for.

          Maybe the Cowboys but if they scrape in I can’t see them going deep.

          Other than that it’s who do I dislike the least!

          • Roar Guru

            August 29th 2017 @ 11:48am
            Nat said | August 29th 2017 @ 11:48am | ! Report

            That’s fair enough. Aside from the Qld factor, the Cowboys are a 2nd team most league fans can get behind. At least there is a peace as a neutral so you can enjoy a good game of football.

            • Roar Guru

              August 29th 2017 @ 12:46pm
              The Barry said | August 29th 2017 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

              I’m not too fussed by the NSW v Qld factor at club level. A lot of the time I’ll cheer for a ‘new’ team over a team I’ve had a rivalry with since I was a kid.

              I don’t have a second favourite team…it changes regularly. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Knights and the Cowboys because they’ve had lots of ex-Bulldogs over the years.

              • August 29th 2017 @ 7:28pm
                db said | August 29th 2017 @ 7:28pm | ! Report

                Come on, you know you want the Roosters to go all the way this year.

      • Columnist

        August 29th 2017 @ 10:49am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | August 29th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        Can’t you pick another team for the drought to continue for… 😛

      • Roar Guru

        August 29th 2017 @ 11:45am
        Dutski said | August 29th 2017 @ 11:45am | ! Report

        Bulldogs 2004 anyone… 😉

        • Roar Guru

          August 29th 2017 @ 12:50pm
          The Barry said | August 29th 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

          Agreed mate.

          I’ve never defended the Bulldogs for rorting the cap. It’s indefensible.

          And it’s clear that there’s an advantage obtained a couple of years later by rorting the cap and then getting back under.

          All I can say is that the 2004 team was completely legal based on the rules at the time and won the grand final fair and square. It’s all well and good to say “the rules should have been different” 13 years later. But they weren’t.

          Just like the 2012 Storm team that beat the Bulldogs in the GF.

          • Roar Guru

            August 29th 2017 @ 3:20pm
            Dutski said | August 29th 2017 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

            Just stirring, mate. Couldn’t resist.
            But yes, there is a clear pattern. So by extension the Roosters should have been using clear plastic bags not brown paper ones, so they can get caught, drop some dead wood and win the comp the year after next!
            Easy!

            • August 29th 2017 @ 8:15pm
              Grunta said | August 29th 2017 @ 8:15pm | ! Report

              Let’s not forget it was Storm who beat Parra in the GF in 2009, by 7 points only to be found of being 1.3m over the salary cap.
              Geez it would be nice to get some revenge by beating them this year.
              Most won’t agree, but I honestly believe if there is a team that can stick it to the Storm in the GF, it is Parra.
              Now, we just need to get there and it appears that we will play storm first week of finals.
              Go you Eels!

      • August 29th 2017 @ 5:32pm
        BleakCity said | August 29th 2017 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

        …”there’s a clear advantage to be had post cap breach by assembling an illegal squad then picking and choosing which players you cut to get back under the cap” How is that an advantage? Every team can do this every year?

        In fact that is exactly what the bulldogs & raiders are doing right now that they are currently “over the cap” for 2018.

        The only difference for the Eels was they were not allowed to renegotiate player contracts to get under the cap whereas the dogs & storm were. Parra had to cut Peats & Paulo. In fact Parra were under the cap in 2016 but had their unapproved/secret TPA’s from previous years added to their 2016 spending so the NRL could justify docking points in 2016.

    • August 29th 2017 @ 7:24am
      Busty McCracken said | August 29th 2017 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      Yeah i think difference being that storm and dogs tore apart all opposition during their cap rorting times.. add to the fact Melbourne had successful Queenslanders and Canterburys rape scandal and parra have been pretty squeaky clean in comparison.

      Storm look unbeatable at moment but sport has a funny way of bringing upsets so all the best to the parra faithful

      • August 29th 2017 @ 7:50am
        mushi said | August 29th 2017 @ 7:50am | ! Report

        Yeah I think the cap scandal was forgotten pretty quickly at the dogs and it was the Coffs incident that soured things for a bit.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 29th 2017 @ 8:21am
        Hard Yards said | August 29th 2017 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        Yeah we call it ‘rorting’. That puts a benign nod and wink gloss on it. But we should call it for what it is – fraud.

      • August 29th 2017 @ 4:06pm
        Peter said | August 29th 2017 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

        What?? What exactly are the similarities between the Storm having “successful Queenslanders” and the Canterbury Bulldogs presenting a united lying front on the rape allegations? (Except Hazeem El Masri, who was the only one who showed any integrity in the whole sordid issue. Hurray for him!)
        Are you serious?

        • August 29th 2017 @ 4:26pm
          Mushi said | August 29th 2017 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

          He’s not saying they are equivalent just that both gave reasons for Sydney fans to not like them.

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