Just this week Parramatta CEO, Bernie Gurr took aim at some upstart comments made by interim Tigers CEO, Simon Cook.
As the two teams prepared to do battle in the opening game at BankWest Stadium, Cook was quoted as saying, “We can’t wait to play our five games at our new home, including next Monday when it’s hosted by our co-tenants.”
Gurr’s succinct response put context into what “home” means.
“That’s been our spiritual precinct and home ground since 1947, from Cumberland Oval, Pirtek Stadium to Western Sydney Stadium to now Bankwest Stadium… we’ve made a commitment to play 11 games a year for 15 years and with another 10-year option, which is effectively a 25-year commitment and 275 games. The good ol’ Tigers have made a four-game commitment.”
That passion about home flared up inside me last Sunday when, along with thirty thousand others, I toured BankWest Stadium on its community open day.
On inspecting the view from my season ticket seating, I found Wanderers supporters in my seats. After I offered a friendly greeting of “you’re the summer me”, their response of “you can thank us for this stadium” had me seeing red.
Only the unenlightened would believe that such a stadium would have been built were it not suitable for multiple sports, concerts, events and conferences.
But this site, in the heart of Parramatta, has held the footprints of the Parramatta Eels since 1947. For any part-time or recent tenants to diminish of the importance of the Eels in this place is frankly disrespectful.
No other organisation has supporters capable of describing generations of history at this ground. Like thousands of others, I spent my childhood, from the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, at Cumberland Oval. My cardboard season ticket was the key to securing family seating in the Noller Pavillion. As an adult, I enjoyed the banter in the bars under the Thornett and Cronin Stands of Parramatta Stadium, before taking in the unparalleled views afforded from my grandstand seat.
Those old enough might recall the early years of struggle for the Eels in the 1940s and 1950s, or the legendary Ken Thornett setting Cumberland alight in the 1960s. The phantom bugler brought many great joy as he tormented famed commentator Rex Mossop with victory tunes throughout the 1970s. The last memories of premiership success coincided with the first year of Parramatta Stadium way back in 1986. The touring English team were humbled by Parra in 1992, whilst in 2001 a rampant Eels set point scoring records on their way to a minor premiership.
No matter the decade that our families connected with the Eels and this ground, we have our treasured recollections.
For current Eels coach, Brad Arthur, the family connections to this place are special.
Back on April 12, 1947, three generations of the Arthur family were among the 6000 to watch Parramatta play their first game against Newtown. Brad’s father, Ted, was only a baby. He was taken to the match by his parents, Lindsay and Joyce. Along with the young family was Brad’s great grandfather, Noel. The Eels lost by 34 to 12 that day, but it would be the start of over 70 years of the family supporting the Eels.
Fast forward to March 16, 1986 and the first game at the new Parramatta Stadium. As the Eels hammered the Dragons 36 to 6, three generations of the Arthur family were once again among the thousands cheering the team on. A young Brad was there with his father Ted and his grandmother Joyce. So passionate were they about the Eels, that Joyce held executive positions on the supporters club committee whilst Ted was involved as an assistant coach and selector for Eels junior representative teams.
When Parramatta Stadium hosted its final NRL clash between the Eels and the Dragons on August 29, 2016, it was another three generation event for the Arthur family. Ted and his wife Carol, were in attendance as the Brad Arthur coached Eels defeated the Dragons, 30 to 18. Brad’s wife Michelle and daughter Charlotte also proudly watched on as the Arthur boys, Matthew and Jake, fulfilled their ballboy duties on that night.
On Easter Monday, 2019, the Arthur family, along with thirty thousand Eels supporters, will be there to welcome our Eels home. There will be other families in the stands with generations of support and their own family history to tell. It’s what happens when your club has based itself at the same venue for nearly three-quarters of a century.
Cumberland Oval, Parramatta Stadium or the superb new BankWest Stadium – no matter the name, the Parramatta Eels call this place home.
We always have.
It’s where our heart is.