This article was first written and published for NRL.com.
On Monday afternoon 29,047 people attended the first match at Bankwest Stadium, starting a new chapter in the proud history of the Parramatta Eels.
If like me, you are a Parramatta Eels fan who was born after 1986, then you have not had the opportunity to watch your team win a premiership.
But, if, like me, your support of the Eels was inherited from a family member (in my case my dad), then despite not being there the glory years of the 1980’s never seem too far away.
My dad spent my childhood regaling me with stories from a bygone era. Like the battles between the Eels and both the Bulldogs and Sea Eagles during that decade. Or how most of the Kangaroos backline was once made up of Eels players.
Names like Bob “Bear” O’Reilly, Eric “Guru” Grothe, Steve “Zip Zip” Ella, Ray “Perpetual Motion” Price, Brett Kenny and Peter Sterling and their heroics on the field have been shared with me so many times, that I almost feel like I had the opportunity to watch them play.
And when someone says “ding, dong the witch is dead”, I always remember Jack Gibson and the moment when he made that statement; Parramatta’s first premiership.
My dad was also there when Cumberland Oval was burned down (although he assures me that he didn’t light a match) and of course, he was there when Parramatta Stadium was opened a couple of years later.
Those years may be long gone, but they are not forgotten. The new Bankwest Stadium makes sure of that.
What was so special about “going home” was how the history of the Eels is etched throughout the place.
This history is important. We need to remember those who walked before us and the contributions they made.
As I walked around the outside of the stadium on Monday, I walked past the statute of Ray Price, which many of you will remember from the old Parramatta Stadium. My dad said we should have draped a blue and gold scarf around his neck.
On the way to my seat, I spotted Peter Sterling, Steve Ella, Ray Price, Denis Fitzgerald, Michael Vella, Nathan Hindmarsh and Michael Cronin.
When I sat down I was overawed by the amount of blue and gold in the stadium and just how much joy there was for the occasion.
How fitting it was then to see Cronin given the opportunity to raise the blue and gold flag at the game and wave to a crowd comprised of men, women and children.
In a panel discussion leading up to the game, Sterling said “as much as I loved being part of it, I’m tired of talking about the glory days of the eighties and am hoping that the opening of this new stadium is the start of the next period of glory years for this proud club and that in 20 years’ time, there is a panel of players part of this squad now, reliving the glory days which started with the opening of this new stadium”.
I hope he’s right.
And whilst one positive performance does not make a dynasty, could Monday be a taste of what is to come for my club?
Regardless of what happens this season or next season, in 20 years time, I will have stories of my own.
Like how I was there when Bankwest Stadium opened and how dominant the Eels were on that day, beating the Wests Tigers 51-6 and elevating us from ninth to fifth spot on the ladder.
I’ll never forget Mitch Moses and his try, where he ran 70m to etch his name into the history books as the first try-scorer at the new stadium.
But most of all I won’t forget how jubilant all the players were and how pumped they were to be home in front of a crowd that was almost overawed by the occasion and the performance that they saw on the field.
On Monday a new chapter began for my club. Let’s hope that this chapter includes a premiership.