The 2019 Parramatta Eels are not the Melbourne Storm. They are not the Sydney Roosters and they are not the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
2018 – a year that opened with so much promise yet was over in a matter of moments for the Parramatta Eels.
Many were quick to jump ship, and the pitchforks quickly followed for head coach Brad Arthur.
Yet, there was one Parramatta supporter who was there for all 19,000 kilometres of the journey.
You won’t meet a more passionate Eels fan than Troy Worner.
The diehard Eels supporter attended every single one of Parramatta’s games this year, including their Round 14 win over the Cowboys in Darwin, travelling over 19,000 kilometres.
He has been supporting the club since 1986, the year that they last tasted premiership glory after defeating Canterbury-Bankstown 4-2.
Troy still remembers that day, when he tuned into the live coverage of the game, still in his pyjamas for what was then a 3pm kick-off.
Since that moment, Troy has dedicated his life to creating an extraordinary shrine decked out in the Blue and Gold known as the ‘Parra Cave’.
His collection spans from regular items such as jerseys, posters and flags to the not so standard assortment of Parramatta Eels Toohey’s New supporter cans.
The list of visitors to the cave is extensive, including current Parramatta forward Daniel Alvaro as well as ex-players such as Brad Drew, Eric Grothe Sr, Troy Campbell and Mick Delroy.
While Troy may hold the largest collection of Parramatta mementoes in Australia, his most important asset is something that money cannot buy and it is something that the struggling Eels are in desperate need of – loyalty.
After last year’s top-four finish, many were expecting that Parramatta would at least replicate that effort if not improve on it in 2018. However, a dismal year saw them slump to a 6-18 record that left them at the bottom of the competition table.
While season 2018 may be a disappointment, Troy has shown no indication that he will be giving up just yet.
“It has been my dream to go to every single Parramatta game in a year,” he says.
“It is good when the players do see you after the game and know you are there every week.”
Troy stressed the importance of Eels fans remaining positive despite the tough opening to 2018 while also throwing his support behind the playing group.
“I feel their frustrations and disappointment as well because I am one of them, but the boys aren’t giving up, they are not going to throw in the towel, they are still going to play to win,” he says.
“We see a few of the guys after the game sometimes and you can the disappointment and anger on their face about the performance.
“They know they are not only letting themselves down but also the fans, club, coach and sponsors.
“At the end of the day, we need to get behind them and support them.”
Troy’s message of positivity is one that he believes is particularly important given the negative press that has followed the club this season.
“You get a bit downhearted when you start reading all the negative comments about how this player should be dropped and the coach should be sacked,” he admits.
“Doing all those things aren’t going to change anything.
“The tough times will be there but they won’t last and eventually, when the good times roll around, it will make it even sweeter.”
Parramatta supporters only need to look at the Cronulla Sharks to see that those good times may come sooner than expected.
In 2014, Shane Flanagan’s men were consigned to a 16th place finish after a year of off-field dramas. However, they quickly put that result behind them to reach the semi-finals the following year before claiming a drought-breaking premiership in 2016.
Troy is optimistic for the future and believes this year’s disappointing results will not last very long.
“It is a pretty strong squad on paper so once they get the confidence back and throw the ball around they can definitely be a danger to any team in the competition,” he declares.
He also looks forward to seeing his beloved Eels run out closer to home in 2019.
“Next year, they go back to Western Sydney Stadium so it is obviously going to give them a big boost going back to Parramatta,” he says.
The start to 2018 has certainly been one to forget for Parramatta fans like Troy, who long for the day when they can finally celebrate like they did back in 1986.
Back then, Clive Churchill Medallist Peter Sterling had long blonde hair and a much younger Troy had only just been introduced to the wonder that is rugby league.
32 years later, Troy still hopes to watch the Blue and Gold hoist up the Provan-Summons trophy once more. Unfortunately, he will have to wait another year.
However, I doubt that will bother him all too much. His loyalty and passion will only continue to grow.
“Keep the faith and stick strong,” Troy says.
“Tough times don’t last but tough people do.”