After coughing up a 20-0 lead, Parramatta Eels fans can be thankful it’s only the preseason.
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The Parramatta Eels have probably survived the most turbulent time in their history. It got so bad that many were asking if Parramatta even mattered.
Luckily for their fans, it seems that the club has come through the scandals of the previous couple of seasons with only cuts and bruises. They are waiting to be a force once more.
It took the club a while to make the grand final, and although they didn’t win on their first two attempts, they would not be denied for long. The 80s were glorious times for their fans.
Firstly, the 1981 win over Newtown killed the witch. Cumberland Oval burnt to the ground and from the ashes, a dynasty was in the making.
They backed up the 1981 title with consecutive wins in 82 and 83 over arch-rivals Manly.
They couldn’t go four in a row as the Dogs bit back. A repeat match-up in 1986 saw Parramatta win their fourth.
They were a champion team consisting of champion players. During the 80s golden period, the team was littered with stars: Peter Sterling, Brett Kenny, Eric Grothe, Mick Cronin, Ray Price, and Steve Ella to name a few.
At the conclusion of the 1986 season, people could see that the dominance of Parramatta may not be as strong. However, no one would have thought that they would not have won a title since.
They came close many times in the late 90s. If you look up the definition of a sporting choke, you will see images of them losing to Canterbury-Bankstown when they had an 18-2 lead with 11 minutes to go. A classic game – that is, if you are a Dogs fan.
In 2001, an Andrew Johns and Newcastle Knights first-half masterclass denied them. In 2009, Jarryd Hayne inspired the team to the grand final. Disappointingly, Melbourne had cheated the salary cap and so filled a team full of stars and ultimately ran out winners.
Since then, only disappointment has followed. Though the 2017 season hopefully presented fans with a picture for the future.
The question for Parramatta is not if, but when? When will the club be a champion of rugby league once more?
Firstly, the club finally seems to have its front office in order. This has been the achilles heel of the Eels in recent years. It has not been their opponents that have knocked them down, but more themselves who have tripped them up. Under their new front office, this problem should be solved.
Secondly, much to the discussion in the public domain, Parramatta will soon be tenants of a brand new 30,000 seat stadium that was made for viewing this great game. This arena should enhance the game-day experience for the fans and hopefully increase their crowds. Currently, their crowds average 14,346 people per game. It is hoped that the new stadium will increase this number.
Finally, memberships. I know this point may be repetitive, but it doesn’t make it less relevant. For 2017, Parramatta was third with 24,462 signed up members. That is pretty good considering the turmoil that has engulfed the club in recent times. It still needs to climb.
I’m not a Parramatta fan, yet I recognise that they are easily one of the most supported teams in the competition. The club should not be aiming to be the best team in rugby league; it should be striving to be the best sporting club in Australian sport. Ambitious, yes, but if the club does not set itself high targets, then it is selling itself and their fans short.
Hang tight Parra fans. Your time for waiting may soon come to an end. If all goes to plan your club will be a champion of rugby league once again. Though, this is rugby league, so when do things go to plan?
First Season: 1947
Titles: 4 (1981, 1982, 1983 and 1986)