Bulldogs v Eels rivalry still strong
He grew up idolising the Bulldogs and went on to captain the club with distinction, but after starting his career in the blue and gold, Andrew Ryan is in a better position than most to discuss the rivalry between Canterbury-Bankstown and Parramatta.
The recently retired Ryan played three years with the Eels, including a grand final, before moving across to his beloved Bulldogs.
The rivalry is something he says is instilled in the players, there is always extra meaning when the two sides clash and according to Ryan, it is openly spoken about in the lead up to their matches.
"Both clubs do speak about the rivalry, in the change room and leading into the clashes, they always want to get the wood on their rival," Ryan tells NRL.com.
"I went for Canterbury when I was a kid, but then got my first opportunity in first grade to play for Parramatta.
"They place a huge amount of emphasis on the game. I think I was one of the only players to go the other way, a lot of players who had played for the Bulldogs played for Parramatta, not too many went the other way.
"Both clubs demand success and they want premierships because they have been successful over the years. Especially at the Bulldogs, once you get into their system, they expect to be successful."
The Bulldogs have enjoyed more recent success than their traditional sparring partner, a fact pointed out by Ryan in a humorous Rivalry Round advertisement conducted with his good friend and Eels legend Nathan Cayless.
The Bulldogs claimed premierships in 1995 and 2004, while the Eels have made two grand finals in 2001 and 2009, but lost both.
The rivalry was well and truly cemented during the 1980s when Parramatta and the Bulldogs battled for supremacy, both claiming four premierships.
The clubs are at opposite ends of the table, but that won't stop these two sides from putting on an epic encounter.
The rivalry still burns strong.
"My old man was a Dogs fan and he loved all those players through the 80s," Ryan muses.
"Watching it as a youngster, just watching those games and seeing the footage of them, now after being at both clubs, watching all the footage back from the 80s, it is pretty amazing.
"It hit me a little later, the guys in the 90s side, Jim Dymock and Dean Pay, those sort of guys, because Dean Pay is from my home town, so I watched a fair bit of what he did and then he ended up going across to Parramatta.
"I was lucky enough to play alongside Jimmy and Jason Smith and those guys, so I have plenty of good memories of the clashes."
More recently, Ryan recalls a game between the two sides that established a young Sonny-Bill Williams as a player to watch.
"I remember in 2004 we had struggled against them and it was one of Sonny's first games and he absolutely blitzed them," Ryan said.
"I think Jamie Lyon went back to Wee Waa soon after. We had so many tight clashes with them over the years and then when we ran through them it was such a great feeling.
"On the flip side, I remember when they absolutely towelled us up. I'd only gone back and played at Parramatta Stadium once, and they flogged us and it wasn't a real good time."
Then there was the massive 2009 preliminary final that saw a crowd of over 74,000 flock to ANZ Stadium.
"That game was massive. The atmosphere just warming-up was intense," Ryan recalls.
"It was funny in the warm up, the crowd was split right down the middle and we ended up warming-up at the Parramatta end, and they ended up at the Bulldogs end. So both teams copped a lot just in the warm up.
"It is the biggest atmosphere I've ever experienced outside of State of Origin, only the support was 50-50 not 80-20. It was electric. We didn't get the result, but I'll never forget the noise."
Parramatta is coming off a thumping at the hands of Manly, but Ryan believes they will be inspired against the Bulldogs and will have more focus and motivation on Friday night.
"The way Parramatta played last weekend, they will be pretty disappointed," he said.
"Especially with their first half, they were hammered. They'll be pretty fired up and they always step up for these games, so I'm expecting a physical match."
So with the Bulldogs placed second and charging towards the finals, coming into a massive Rivalry Round game against Parramatta, does the recently appointed NRL Player Welfare and Education Officer miss running out in front of the bright lights and television cameras?
"It is different watching on the sidelines," he says.
"There have been a few changes obviously with the staff and a few of the players who have come on board.
"I don't know Des that well, but he has said to me that I’m always welcome to be around. It is good to see them doing well, I'll definitely be there on Friday."
There should be a big crowd on hand to watch the Bulldogs take on the Eels on Friday night, with the Canterbury-Bankstown club getting very creative in their marketing of the clash.
Cheeky t-shirts with the insignia "Friends don't let Friends be Eels fans" will be sold at the ground among plenty of other initiatives.