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Why must there always be a problem? Big four weeks loom for Eels players and fans




As an avid Seinfeld fan, there’s always an appropriate George Costanza quote that summarises how I’m feeling.

After the Parramatta Eels beat the Penrith Panthers on Thursday night 34-10, I was elated. Nathan Cleary got sent off. The Eels remained in the hunt to finish in the top four. Mitchell Moses was in exceptional form, kicking a scintillating 30/20 in the first half. Things were looking good.

But then, the next day, amid conversations about how long Cleary would sit on the sidelines for after his tackle on Dylan Brown, it was also announced that Moses would be out for four weeks with a dislocated finger. All I could think of was George:

“Why must there always be a problem?”

The injury to Moses puts some Eels fans in a challenging predicament given that the replacement for Moses will be Jake Arthur. Without dramatically changing the structure of the team, indeed he is the only viable replacement.

Over the years, I’ve felt many emotions about my club. I’ve felt pain, anguish, elation, joy and pride. Rarely have I felt embarrassed to be an Eels fan.

But when I sat in the stands for the Eels match against the Sydney Roosters and heard fans booing when Jake Arthur’s name was announced over the loudspeaker, I was embarrassed. And then I was angry.

Regardless of what you think of Jake’s ability, he is a teenager who has been around the club since he was a tween. He does not select himself, and the fact that some fans decided it would be appropriate to boo him, even though he barely took the field, speaks to a certain rabid energy that many of our fans have because of how long it has been since the team won the premiership.

This rabid energy is unkind, unnecessary and not behaviour I want associating with our club.

But now, given the position of the Eels on the ladder, how will these same fans respond to the inclusion of Arthur? Will they continue to boo him or will they grow up and support Arthur and the team as they push towards the finals and perhaps even a top four position?

Anything other than support may sabotage Parramatta’s hopes for a successful finals campaign.

(Photo by Steven Markham/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In an article for the Sydney Morning Herald this week, Michael Chammas wrote about a potential disconnect between the Parramatta Eels football team and the Parramatta Eels as a club. The article also highlights a potential disconnect between the team and the fans, citing the example of the number of Panthers players who stayed on the field after their defeat last Thursday and the lack of Parramatta players.

I don’t really buy into this idea. I know how passionate these players are and how much they care about the fan base, but given the behaviour of some of our fans over the last couple of weeks, I certainly don’t blame any of the players for being miffed.

Not only has one of their own players been booed for simply being selected and for having the audacity to be the coach’s son, but following the Eels’ loss to Brisbane there was some fairly disgraceful commentary about our captain, Clint Gutherson.

I will be the first to admit that Gutherson’s form this year has not been as good as in previous years. Could it be the security of a long-term contract? Could it be a leadership burden following the last two years of a pandemic? Could it be that he has a new baby at home and is not getting as much sleep as he needs to?

For the last couple of seasons Gutherson has been the Eels ‘energy’ barometer. While not the most talented player, his work ethic, fitness and commitment have always made him a leader at our club.

For some fans, a down year for Gutherson has been enough for them to call for him to be got rid of and sent to pasture.

As fans we demand loyalty, but only when it works for us.

I understand the frustration Parramatta Eels fans have. I want a premiership just as much as the next fan.

But we are currently supporting a team that has made the finals four out of the last five years.

The 2022 season has been up and down, but it is still not over yet. The Eels have a tough run home but are still in the mix for finishing in the top four.

This is the part that I find the hardest to understand. Eels fans support a successful team that has so much to be proud of, including a new facility at Kellyville, the incredible CommBank Stadium and a Women’s National Rugby League team.

There are some fans who would be thrilled with where Parramatta has finished in the last five years. That’s certainly not to accept mediocrity and not to push the club to be better, but surely there is a middle ground between pushing the club to be the best it can be and resorting to booing the coach and his son.

The Parramatta Eels have a big month of footy coming up. But it’s not just the players, it’s the fans too.





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