The perils of supporting the Parramatta Eels
They say a week is a long time in footy and it feels like even longer when your team is coming off the back of a heavy defeat.
It has been almost five days since I found myself in a position where I had driven more than an hour to sit in 40-degree heat to watch my team get done by 54 points by the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles at Lottoland.
I am not sure what was the worst part.
It could have been that I was sitting on the hill at Brookie surrounded by Sea Eagles fans (who in their defence thought I was so pathetic, that I was very much left alone). It could have been that I had to watch my team lose, but lose in the most disappointing of ways.
They were bundled into touch on three occasions, Mitch Moses was sin-binned for the second consecutive week, there was a sickening head clash for one of my favourite players Cameron King and a pack that seemed ineffective in the face of Manly’s forwards.
Or potentially it was that I had parked my car at the top of a giant hill and at the end of the day, not only was I miserable because my team had lost, but also because I had to hike back up that hill to get to my car in the heat.
It did not get much better on the way home. In between playing Simon and Garfunkel’s "The Sound of Silence" on repeat, my brother’s girlfriend (a Manly fan who had come to the game with my Eels-supporting brother) confirming that my brother had not spoken a word to her the way home.
My godfather also called me and I pleaded with him: "I just want one premiership before I die… is that too much to ask?"
Then I got home and had to go downstairs to make sure my dad had not broken the TV by hurling something at it and checked Facebook to see I had been tagged in several videos of the Eels press conference where you could hear Manly singing their victory song over a dejected Brad Arthur and Tim Mannah.
I have spent the week thinking long and hard about the defeat. It has led to a scenario at work where I have been so quiet that one of my colleagues asked if I was ill. It has also led to more questions and no answers.
Why did Arthur decide to make the Eels warm up in 40-degree heat for 15 minutes before the game? Did that even matter? If the Eels were doing sand dunes during the pre-season in summer, then that heat should have been nothing.
Why did Parramatta seem determined to give the ball back to Manly so cheaply throughout the game?
Why are people accusing Jarryd Hayne of being a poison in the dressing shed when I have seen no evidence of this on or off the field? Even if that appalling accusation is true, how is it that one man can have such an impact on a team after only a couple of months.
I think as fans we will get the opportunity for answers this weekend when the Eels line up against the also winless Cronulla Sharks.
If we see a similar performance to that from last Sunday, I think we can all agree there is something deeper happening at the Eels. If the Blue & Gold show the same intent, commitment and prowess in attack we saw throughout 2017, hopefully that thrashing by Manly will be remembered as a blip on the radar on what becomes a very successful season.
As a fan, my heart is certainly hoping for the latter.
I expect we will also see a couple of changes by Arthur for this game. Kenny Edwards has been named on the bench and should play his first game of the season this weekend. I am looking forward to the energy Kenny will bring off the bench (minus the silly antics) and I am hoping this helps to spark Parramatta’s pack.
Additionally, when the Eels signed Hayne at the end of the last year, I was hoping for a scenario in which Clint Gutherson could play fullback, Hayne could play in the centres and Bevan French could play on the wing. This weekend Arthur is saying Hayne will spend some time at fullback – a decision which I am pleased about until ‘King Gutho’ returns.
French is dependable at the back, but I think his size is limiting his ability to be an impact fullback.
But here is the thing about being a fan. Even if the Eels don’t bounce back, then I know I will still be there the following round to watch them play the Wests Tigers on Easter Monday.
Being a footy fan does not make much sense at all. If the Eels were my boyfriend I would have broken up with them a long time ago. Instead, they are something that will be part of me until the day that I die.
To all the Eels fans out there that have had a hard week, I hear you. I am with you. But, we’ve been through rougher than this. For those of you based in Sydney, I encourage you to head to the ANZ Stadium double-header against the Sharks to cheer on the team as they try to redeem themselves. Because as fans, that’s our most important job.