This story was written by Melissa Muscat – Parramatta Eels member and Members Councillor 2017.
So here we are, season over…almost. It’s taken me this long to pen my thoughts after Parra’s finals exit to the Cowboys. I was shattered, like most loyal supporters. It took me till around the Thursday to feel half happy again, constantly asked by the teenage boys I work with ‘What happened to Parra?’ Ah, the youth of today.
It must be said that the Eels exceeded expectations of most this season. To finish in the top four with injuries to a couple of our best and missing from the finals for eight years, it was a pretty solid effort. However, to agree with Cameron King, it was also ‘a lost opportunity.’ So close, yet so far, as is the case for most footy teams in September though. At the end of the day, only two teams can be there on Grand Final Day. Hopefully it’s a motivating factor for the Parra boys next season.
Reflecting on the recent tough times at the Eels, 2017 was definitely the best season the Blue and Gold Army have witnessed in a long time. If you are that Parra supporter who is synonymous with your team, it was hard to even get around wearing the team colours last year. So many were there to bring up what was going on at the club, it was hard to look beyond. I think this season witnessed that every club goes through tough times at some point. The year saw many ups and downs with various clubs experiencing board factions, salary cap issues and loss of coaches and players mid season, but rest assured, nothing is permanent. Adversity is a part of sport, or life even, many external factors and politics surround a widely followed and popular sport such as Rugby League, but stand loud and proud with your club because the rewards when delivered will be even greater.
I think I qualify as that person who is synonymous with their team. After the match that the Eels lost to Cowboys, I had several messages of support on my phone. A cousin from Malta messaging ‘Go Parra’, back at work the following week I had many current and ex colleagues asking how I was feeling…I had to remind myself, really Mel, it’s a footy game, ha! My gorgeous neighbour Kath, the aunt of the late Cronulla Shark Steve Rogers, called me often after each game this year saying ‘Melissa Love, what about them Eels? Well I never thought I’d be tuning in to watch Parramatta, but I always hope they win for you.’
No matter where your team finished this season, what troubles they may have encountered, what disappointment they may have brought, stay loyal. The adversities are only temporary and when the rewards are reaped they are so much greater for those who are known for supporting and staying loyal to their team. Look at the big picture, the game of Rugby League really is a great one.
So now we look ahead to the 2017 NRL Grand Final this weekend, Melbourne Storm versus North Queensland Cowboys. I’m not going to lie, I’m not overly thrilled about the fact there are no Sydney teams to support but nonetheless, the two in form teams are on the big stage and it should make for a fantastic match. This time last year I was surrounded by the hype and excitement of Grand Final Week, with the Sutherland Shire completely transformed. It was the next best thing to having my team there. The Mall was a sea of black, white and blue. Shop front windows painted with ‘Up, Up, Cronulla’. The Sharks Leagues Club dripping with balloons, streamers and club merchandise. The local primary school which is only 50 metres away changed their bells to…wait for it…the Up, Up, Cronulla song!!!! I knew the words within a week. That was a fantastic initiative.
The dilemma for me this year is do I support the team that booted the Eels out of the 2017 finals series or the team who beat us last in a Grand Final? So tough, but maybe I’ll be cheering for the other team who will be wearing blue and gold. Hopefully the off season for all will fly by and the NRL faithful will be out stronger than ever getting behind their teams because remember, tough times don’t last, tough people do.
I’ll take this opportunity to wish the Eels NYC side the best of luck on their grand final appearance against Manly this weekend, what a phenomenal effort. If our first graders can’t be there, this is the next best thing and of course good luck to the Melbourne Storm and North Queensland Cowboys on what is the equivalent to Christmas Day for adults for many in Sydney, NRL Grand Final Day 2017.