Gutho’s contract, the loss to the Raiders and the BankWest gates open to the public – these are the major talking points from the past seven days. But, without ignoring the importance of re-signing the inspirational “King”, I’ve decided to make this post a Gutho contract free zone. Gutho wants to leave the talking to his manager, so I’ll do the same.
On the footy front, I came into this past week dreading the appointment of Henry Perenara to such an important Eels clash. His officiating would ultimately validate my fears.
But without doubt, the headline out west this week is the stadium. There was nothing wrong with the views at the old Parramatta Stadium, but the facilities were dated. BankWest Stadium takes patrons into the 21st century. Watching NRL live will never be the same again.
Here’s how the past week has gone down.
It’s a rest day for the NRL team, with only the Captain’s run remaining in their preparations.
Writing for NRL.com, Chris Kennedy produces an intelligent analysis of Parramatta’s start to the season. He highlights the back three, edge defence, and discipline as significant improvements on 2018.
If you haven’t done so already, check it out here.
The team undertake their first ever Captain’s Run at BankWest Stadium. The serious hats are on as the sets and plays are rehearsed. Nonetheless, there’s a sense of excitement in the air and the player’s stay on the pitch after their extras, going through their own kicking competition. Fergo absolutely nails a sequence of goals from around 40 metres out and about 3 metres in from touch.
In a special moment for Brad Takairangi, his 150 matches jersey is presented to him by Brad Arthur. Earlier in the week, Taka spoke about the pride of playing at the same club his father debuted for.
Over at Brookvale Oval, the SG Ball team suffer a 36 to 6 defeat against minor premiers, the Sea Eagles, in Week one of the finals. They will now face the Bulldogs in an elimination final at Jubilee Oval on Good Friday. Kick off is at 11:30am.
The Tarsha Gale girls fared much better, registering a 48 to 4 hammering of the Canberra Raiders. They now face the Knights at Jubilee Oval, with kick off at 1pm.
It was the first day for the average punter to get a first hand look at the spanking new stadium. After weeks of media sneak peaks and tours, a collection of Eels and Wanderers supporters, along with other sports lovers, flooded into BankWest Stadium.
For many, it was the chance to check out the long awaited season ticket seats. For others, it was an opportunity to have a “sticky beak” at Sydney’s newest arena.
Down south, it’s a big day in the nations capital with three grades of footy on show.
The Jersey Flegg team continued their winless start to the season, going down 30 to 12. The match really got away from the Eels with Canberra leading 24 to nil before the Blue and Golds even troubled the scoreboard.
Wenty then went down 32 to 16 in the curtain raiser against Mounties. After taking a lead into half time, and then kicking out 16 to 12 early in the second half, the Magpies could not hold on against a strong Mounties outfit. The try scorers for Wenty were Leleisiuao, Goolagong and Kaufusi.
In the top grade, an aggressive Raiders were far too strong for the Eels, winning 19 to nil. The Green Machine pushed the rules to the limit, taking the punt that Henry Perenara would be unlikely to blow his whistle too much in what was his comeback match.
A “rapidly advancing” defence, facials in the tackles and plenty of niggling set the tone for a Canberra team that put on plenty of unchecked bullying on the Eels. Blake Ferguson would be the major casualty, suffering a badly broken nose and then a painful rib injury which forced him from the field.
The Raiders were prepared to get into the grind against an Eels team which didn’t show enough respect for their limited possession. A completion rate of just over 50% will rarely win NRL matches.
Though the attack never clicked for Parramatta, they were resolute in defence during a first half which found them pinned in their own quarter. An erroneous forward pass call against Brad Takairangi robbed the Eels of a first half try against the run of play and could have proved crucial in determining the flow up to half time.
Needless to say, Mr Perenara has maintained his reputation amongst the Eels faithful.
As the players counted the bruises from the trip to the Nation’s capital, Inside The NRL was on location at BankWest Stadium for more behind the scenes footage at the Eels new home. You can view the episode here.
Brad Arthur gave us a view from the coach’s box, whilst Tim Mannah showed the path from the sheds to the arena, and the exclusive Field Club where punters will be able to get up close to the players in what is anything but an old-school tunnel.
Clint Gutherson then looked anything but comfortable as he road tested the stadium’s ice baths. The temperature controlled pools have come a long way from the barrels or garbage bins filled with water and ice!
Team list Tuesday delivered a double barrel surprise as firstly Blake Ferguson was named for the Tigers clash, and secondly as Ray Stone replaced Kane Evans on the bench.
There seems little doubt that Fergo will still be in considerable doubt for the opening of BankWest Stadium, but it appears that he’ll be given every opportunity to recover from his rib injury. A Monday clash gives him a crucial extra day in his rehab.
As for Ray Stone, the mobile and aggressive middle forward has not won his spot by default. Stone has been in rare form for the Magpies, and his exceptional defence has delivered plenty of pain for the opposition.
We wish him well for his second game in the top grade.
It was billed as Wednesday Night Lights and it didn’t disappoint. Around three thousand supporters filed into BankWest Stadium for a light show and open training session.
During their extras, some of the team put on a kicking exhibition for the supporters. The biggest cheer came for Junior Paulo, who, after encouraging the crowd to give him an Olympic Long Jump style handclap, duly delivered a conversion from the sideline.
After the field work concluded, the players and Brad Arthur then moved to the fences to mingle with supporters.
The club also hosted a collection of current and potential corporate partners, along with past Eels greats such as Eric Grothe, Mick Cronin, Steven Edge and Neville Glover. The hospitality offered by the stadium is world class, and unlike private boxes at other stadiums, the seating configurations are close to the action, heightening the big match atmosphere.
The anticipation is building!
It’s a rest day from training for the Eels in what is an eight day period between games.
The club’s media department release footage of the squad’s visit this week to Westmead Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House.
The NRL can be rightly proud of how they give back to the community, and the Parramatta club has a long and proud association with the Hospital and RM House. The phrase, “reality check” is often used by players in their community work. When you’re dealing with sick children and their families, it’s easy to understand why.
The Final Word
In just a few short days we’ll be experiencing the new BankWest Stadium on match day. The last time I was this hyped up for a match was at when the Parra faithful invaded Melbourne for the 2017 finals clash.
Every one of the Eels’ homes have held a special place in my heart. Cumberland Oval was my childhood, and the place where the Eels evolved into a premiership team. Parramatta Stadium became the best suburban ground in Sydney. The new BankWest Stadium has placed a gold border around that title,
The Cumberland Throw and associates will be taking our place in Bay 215 at the stadium. Be sure to say hello when you see us.
In the meantime, happy Easter to everyone.