Eels fans: Trust the process

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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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.

    Brad Takairangi Eels

    Brad Takairangi of the Eels (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    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.

    Parramatta Eels

    Dejected Parramatta Eels players (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

    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.

    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?

    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 (37)

    • Roar Guru

      May 26th 2018 @ 6:38am
      The Barry said | May 26th 2018 @ 6:38am | ! Report

      Hi Mary…tough times.

      I never thought I’d hear myself trying to empathise with Parra fans 😉 but it must be hard for them to ‘trust the process’ when they’ve been let down by the club so many times. It reminds me of Peanuts comics where Lucy would hold the ball for Charlie Brown and say “no really, trust me this time I’ll hold it”. Charlie would run in to kick and of course Lucy would pull the ball away and Charlie would go flying.

      Actually – I hope people are old enough to remember Peanuts 🤔…but that was a running gag that lasted 50 years and as far as I know Charlie never got to kick the ball.

      So it’s gotta be hard for Parra fans, after 32 years of bungling to trust the clubs administration when they say “no really, this time you can trust us. We’ve got a plan” when they’ve been let down so many times before.

    • May 26th 2018 @ 6:53am
      Peeko said | May 26th 2018 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      A good Parra is great for league and I wish them well
      Saying that, I do love watching Moses struggling every week

    • May 26th 2018 @ 6:56am
      Chris Love said | May 26th 2018 @ 6:56am | ! Report

      Stop talking so much sense Mary. I too was one of those predicting Parramatta to finish top 4. Based off of last years performances and the relative stability of finally having a similar squad for 2019 it seemed like a no brainer.

      I’m not sure what’s going on either but I like Brad Arthur’s move to switch Norman and Gutherson. It make Moses the shot caller and this will spark Norman to impose himself when he sees an opening. Because the bottom line is, even without Nathan Brown this year the Parra pack on the back of Mau and Alvaro are getting the halves into the red zone only to find no points set after set after set.

      If Parramatta needs anything it’s the same stability in the office and the same coach for a while yet.

    • May 26th 2018 @ 8:03am
      Kangajets said | May 26th 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

      As a lifelong parramatta fan , the eels are exactly where I thought they would be in 2018 . Some fans get false expectations, but the longer I support parra the more sober my expectations become. Basically it all starts at the top , no club has recruited worse over time or lost so many of their own juniors to other clubs .,

      It’s a shame you never saw the sterling Kenny grothe Cronin Ella backline , what a team they had in the 80s.

    • May 26th 2018 @ 8:04am
      Forty Twenty said | May 26th 2018 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      I’ve never been able to figure the Eels out Mary . As a Manly fan I’ve long been jealous of their juniors and how they win so many lower grade comps as well as their proper stadium yet despite a brief period when they ruled the roost they have been much more likely to win the spoon than the title.

      If we knew before the season started how much teams like the Cows and others have struggled I would have thought this was a golden chance for the Eels. A great year last year , an unlucky loss to the Storm in the finals with help from the refs should have set them up for a real crack this year but I can’t explain it.

      • Roar Pro

        May 26th 2018 @ 9:40am
        Davico said | May 26th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        Think you have hit the nail on the head there FT.

        As a Tigers fan we have been a bit of a shambles since the merger what with multiple stadiums, board issues etc, etc.

        But I have always been a little bit jealous of the Eel’s. Big leagues club, plenty of juniors, own stadium and when I was a young tacker they had that golden era.

        I have never been able to understand how they cannot pull it all together as from the outside looking in they should be up there with the Broncos as one of the consistently dominant clubs. I would put the Panthers in that group too.

        There does seem to be a lot of in-fighting though which is never good for any club and it just feels like if they can sort themselves out the Eels could be one of the BIG clubs in the league.

        • May 26th 2018 @ 10:04am
          Forty Twenty said | May 26th 2018 @ 10:04am | ! Report

          The Tigers of a few years back had a sensational team but a few things went wobbly and some terrible career ending injuries really upset things. It would have helped if Benji matured earlier as well and another title was within reach I thought.

        • May 26th 2018 @ 1:07pm
          McNaulty said | May 26th 2018 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

          Parra juniors are terrible now. I mean that in the sense that they do not make good first graders.

    • May 26th 2018 @ 8:08am
      Busty McCracken said | May 26th 2018 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      Hang in there mate. 2008 Manly grand final will go down as one of the best days of my life after the tough decade that preceded it with failed mergers and dismal efforts. That was 11 years I had to wait in hindsight so I can not even begin to imagine how hard it must be for you.

      My brother is 41 so he remembers winning as a kid but for the most part he knows failure and disappointment. But to his and your credit you have stood firm and by your team which is a lesson for so many bad sports followers in the world. Hang in there, your day will come and when it does it will be bloody glorious!

      • May 26th 2018 @ 10:00am
        Forty Twenty said | May 26th 2018 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        From the depths of the Northern Eagles the 40 nil 2008 end of year bonanza seemed a hundred years away. My take on where a club is largely revolves around recruitment and Manly’s at the moment is great in my opinion. Plenty of young players to build up for a tilt at the title.

        One benefit of Manly’s style is that in our dull years we could still bung on some great tries and would chance our arm. This helps the remaining players develop their attacking skills for the golden years.

        Parras fortunes can turn around in the blink of an eye like any club.

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