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I was born in 1989, three years after the Parramatta Eels won their last premiership. My father, Peter, is the reason I support the Eels.
Dad lived through our glory days, was at all those grand finals through the 1980s and often regales me with stories about Peter Sterling, Ray Price, Michael ‘Gentleman’ Cronin and Steve ‘Zip Zip’ Ella. Then I get jealous because he was there and I wasn’t. I tell him to stop.
Since starting to support the Eels I have had nothing but pain. In fact I started supporting the Eels in 1998, and the way the Eels exited the competition that year is pain personified. I’ve had nothing but pain ever since.
I often joke that all I want before I die is one Parramatta premiership, but it really isn’t a joke – I know that when the Eels finally get there, it will be one of the greatest days of my life. I can’t even imagine what it will feel like. Thinking about it gives me goosebumps and almost makes me teary. I know that it will be a feeling worth waiting for.
And the way this season is going, it looks like I’ll be waiting a bit longer.
After Round 6 of this year I accepted that Parramatta’s grand final drought would not be broken in 2018. How far my expectations have fallen since I made my top eight predictions at the start of the year.
If you had asked me at the start of the season where I honestly thought Parramatta would finish, I would have said top four. I told everyone that the Eels would finish fifth to be on the safe side, but in my heart of hearts I was confident in my top four prediction – and I certainly wasn’t the only person being so bold with my predictions.
At the conclusion of this round, though, the reality will be very different. Parramatta will be on the bottom of the ladder. We have won a pathetic two games this season – one against the Wests Tigers and one against the Manly Sea Eagles. It is basically impossible for the Eels to make the finals now, particularly given the way they are playing.
I will not sugar-coat it. This season has been awful. It has been really hard to watch. I have so many conflicting feelings. I feel like some members of the squad are trying too hard. I feel like we are so close, yet still so far from turning a corner.
Silly errors and lapses in discipline are killing us and it just feels like nothing can quite go right for the squad at the moment. It’s shattering to see vision of a devastated dressing room at the end of every game and it’s clear that the squad are really hurting right now.
It’s not just the players that are hurting, though; it’s the whole club, including the staff and the administration.
The fanbase is hurting too, but in challenging times it is our job as fans to rally together and stick with the club. This doesn’t mean blindly supporting the club – you can certainly offer constructive criticism – but it does mean being there. It is in times like these that the club needs the support of the fans more than ever.
Unfortunately this season has been so challenging that I think some fans have become confused about what our team is.
I was disgusted – and, yes, I’ll use language that strong – to hear that some members of the Eels fanbase are agitating for change at a board and CEO level simply because things are not going the way they like on the field.
Earlier this week it was reported that there was a ‘membership revolt’ to overturn the club administration through a letter written to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and in particular targeting Max Donnelly and Bernie Gurr.
One of the greatest gripes of these ‘agitated fans’ is that there is no general manager of football in place and that the Parramatta Leagues Club made a significant financial loss last year.
It’s incredible how quickly some fans forget where our club was two years ago, but I’ll remind them – it was on its knees. This rebuild is going to take more than just a year and it is going to take some time to get the structure of the club right and build a solid platform for long-term success.
As hard as it is to admit, perhaps Parramatta overachieved last year and our success on the field masked some already existing problems at the club.
It’s a really poor and short-term attitude that some fans have – the minute that the going gets tough, they throw their toys from the cot and demand change.
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Do you know what change for the sake of change does? It causes instability. It means that the club is forced to rebuild again and it breeds a culture which focuses on instant success rather than building for success from the ground up.
Some fans have short memories. I’ve had a gutful of change for change’s sake, particularly after the Eels went through four different coaches between 2009 and 2014. Every single time a change was made I knew it effectively meant that the team was starting again.
Fans have a right to be disappointed, but channel that disappointment appropriately. You can be disappointed in the squad and you can be disappointed in the coach, but I don’t see how starting all over again is going to be helpful.
I encourage all Parramatta fans to channel Clint Gutherson and ‘trust the process’. It may not be our year this year, but the club needs us to stand with it more than ever right now.
The year the Cronulla Sharks won the premiership I predicted they would ‘because I love fairy tales’. Call me crazy, but I see a fairy tale coming next year. Wouldn’t a premiership be the perfect way to christen the new stadium?