This article was written by Melissa Muscat, Inaugural Parramatta Eels Members Councillor – 2018.
Here we are Parramatta Eels fans. At the backend of another season, but the difference this year is that we’re still playing footy in September. For only the second time since I’ve been a member in ten years, the Eels are about to play finals footy. And I am so excited, I’m telling anyone who’ll listen. What a season it’s been too. Momentous is what comes to mind so here I’ll attempt to cover all that was big for the blue and gold since March.
Best to begin with what was arguably the biggest thing to happen to the Eels since 2016, and that is the beautiful Bankwest Stadium, also known as Parradise, pun intended. She’s a gem. From the facilities, to the atmosphere, to the proximity. Lovely. All of it. Sitting six rows from the front, I feel I can almost touch Mitch Moses and Maiko Sivo when they are warming up near the sideline pre game. The ‘Sivo, Sivo, Sivo’ chants and team victory song ringing out in the stands is spine tingling. If you’re not an Eels fan reading this and you’re yet to visit the stadium, do yourself a favour and get there. Everyone needs to experience this little piece of Sydney sporting magic.
Our strong signings including our rookies. Firstly, the man, Maika Sivo. Surely contender for Rookie of the Year. A player who is leading try scorer of the competition in their inaugural season has to be in contention for that accolade. What a powerhouse. It’s almost like witnessing the rebirth of Semi Radradra all over again. Two flying Fijians charging down the wing, pushing aside anyone in their way to get that football over the tryline. Dylan Brown and Ethan Parry are another couple of notable successful rookies in the blue and gold this year. The former overcoming a serious back injury to pick up where he left off. The latter scoring on debut, ten minutes into his first match. Waqa Blake, Shaun Lane and Blake Ferguson have also proven to be invaluable signings to the Eels team roster.
Farewell, to Tim Mannah, Manu Ma’u and Tepai Moeroa. Tim, our club legend and captain for so long. Thank you for your contributions and for everything you epitomise at the Eels. It’s become apparent this week, you will be greatly missed. Manu, thanks for being so scary on field but the gentlest giant off it. A good news story of a player who turned their life around to give back to the game and life in general. Tepai, another gentleman of the game, always giving time to the fans and your all on field.
Parra’s in the tunnel. The infamous words left behind by the Eels heart and soul, Denis Anderson. The passionate Football Operations Assistant amongst many other things at Parramatta home games, sadly lost his life in May this year, succumbing to cancer. Known for his many contributions to the club over many years, fittingly the Eels named the dressing rooms in his legacy, The Denis Anderson Rooms. Another moving tribute is the lighting up of the stadium stands with his famous quote. ‘They say no individual is bigger than the club. He’s the exception.’ In reference to the Big D as he was affectionately known, from usually stoic coach Brad Arthur to The Sydney Morning Herald.
The Parramatta Eels Women in League jersey. It had been a number of years since the side donned a jersey for the round, but this year the club outdid itself with this sentiment. 200 lucky female member’s names were also printed on the jersey adding to the occasion. A huge success, also due to the result achieved playing in the jersey, a very convincing 36-12 win against the Gold Coast Titans. A second appearance in the jersey for the finals, boys? It seemed to prove successful in round 22.
The Eels broke the Cronulla Sharks hoodoo defeating them in April after three long years and beat Manly in round 25. Convincingly. Enough said.
Last but not least, the all important fact the Eels are about to play finals footy for only the second time in ten years and the impressive leap from 16th to 5th. Heartwarming and promising. I do hope this is a sign of things to come. I’m about to say something though that may not go down well with everyone, but I believe I share the sentiment of many other long suffering Eels fans. I’m only interested in a Premiership. Now before the daggers come out, I am realistic in understanding that it is unlikely to happen this year but what I do hope is that it is a reality over the next two or possibly three years. Not another 33. I believe some good wins and improvement isn’t enough long term for the loyal Blue and Gold Army who have waited patiently over the course of a lifetime or even half a lifetime to witness their footy team win the NRL Premiership. I think Brad Arthur and the players would also agree with this sentiment. Clint Gutherson was recently noted as saying, ‘That’s why you play the game.’ It’s time Parramatta. It is most definitely time. With the third highest membership in the NRL, given how long it’s been since the Eels won their last grand final, the blue and gold supporters would have to be one of the best in the land. Something I’m noticing though as an educator of teenagers is that we appear to be lacking in numbers with the young demographic. On a Thursday when I proudly donne the Eels jersey on sport day, I often get the comment, ‘Miss, my dad goes for the Eels’. One day soon I’d prefer to hear, ‘Miss, I go for the Eels!’ Let’s keep that unwavering support going.
Overall, it’s fair to say every Eels supporter should be pleased with the progress made this season on many fronts. The year has brought much joy and many favourable moments which should be acknowledged and celebrated. Moving forward, I hope this season has been a huge stepping stone to a Parramatta Eels premiership in the not too distant future. Good luck for finals footy Parra.