The Cumberland Throw

BankWest Stadium – The New Home For My Eels Memories

Without question, I dedicate too much of my life to the Eels. 

I’m fairly certain I can blame my father for starting it. Going with him to Cumberland in the 1960s as a very young kid was ground zero. I don’t remember too much about specific matches, but there must have been something about that broken down old ground and the team that commenced this addiction.

Living nearby at Northmead meant I could walk to the ground. I didn’t have to cross Windsor Road, and because life seemed simpler and safer back then, my parents had no dramas with me walking to Cumberland on my own or with a friend. If I was broke and patient, waiting till half time in those days meant getting in for free as the exit gates would be opened. Then again, circa 72-74, there were a few games when people were more concerned about leaving than entering when the first half ended!

The Eels eventually became winners from that decrepit old venue. My brother and I watched the 1976 Grand Final parade along Church St and I still feel the chills when I think of Ray Higgs leading an Eels chant when his float stopped under the railway bridge.

We trekked with excitement to the SCG for consecutive Grand Finals and even the sting of defeat couldn’t diminish the pride. Something was building.

My first job was as a bar man at Parra Leagues in 1980. When a new stadium was proposed and designed, it seemed like we were entering a bold modern era for the club. It was an American style stadium with a capacity for fifty thousand people. Friends of Parramatta Park objected and the battle became long and protracted. We wore “Let’s Build Parramatta Stadium” t-shirts on our shifts at the club.

The Noller Pavillion in flames.

When Premiership glory came in 1981, we yelled ourselves hoarse on the SCG Hill, then made our way back to the Leagues Club for the celebrations. I “drank in” the winning feeling from inside the auditorium, while my brother watched the Cumberland Oval bonfire. The old girl was no more. Worse still, there was no replacement.

The Eels took up SCG frequent flyer membership and so did I during the years of nomadic existence, training at Granville and playing at Belmore. The moment that the Welcome Home banner was unveiled on the opening day of the new Parramatta Stadium in 1986 put tears in my eyes. The 36 to 6 victory over the Dragons put the cheer in my throat. That wonderful new venue played host to an average crowd of just on twenty thousand faithful that year and the Eels responded with another premiership.

Opening day of Parra Stadium

It seemed surreal when Paul McCartney performed at the stadium in 1993. The Beatles and the Eels were the colour of my childhood. If someone had told me I could watch the Fab Four at Cumberland Oval I would have laughed myself stupid. The gig was incredibly close to that vision coming true. Cumberland – Parra Stadium. Goodbye – Hello.

The final match at Parramatta Stadium in 2017 was personally bitter sweet. I was excited about the prospect of a new modern stadium and proud that I wrote a feature article for the official program. But saying goodbye to a place that was like a second home for around 30 years was not easy. We farewelled the ground in style with an emphatic victory over the Dragons. Hello – Goodbye.

Training at the Eels Wednesday Night Lights

Today I know that the Eels will be welcoming a long term new home. The superb BankWest Stadium was designed to serve the community for 50 years. I’m not being grim or alone when I say that such a life span will far exceed the time I have left! So as far as I’m concerned, this is now our only home.

I can’t guarantee that I’ll be as emotional today as I was back in 1986, but I’ll be there in my new season ticket seat. We can’t predict what the future holds for our beloved Eels, but I have the feeling that special times await. Again.

Eels forever!

Sixties

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Fletch
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Fletch

Well said mate.
I hope your old man is doing well and is able to share in the homecoming.

Steeleel
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Steeleel

Great post sixties & rekindles so many of my memories as well! – So looking forward to today & hoping for the appropriate result!!

The rev aka Snedden
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The rev aka Snedden

Good read my brother sixties. I like many other older eel fan’s understand the history behind our great ground. Being a 70’s Baby I was around to see the eels win 3 straight premierships🏆. I have to say thanks to my late mother n my father who I’ll be watching the football with today. As my old man is a dragon’s fan. They both had me the yr eels vs dragon’s grand final. My father informed me I had to go for the eels because they lost. If dragon’s lost then yours truly would be a dragon’s fan today. I… Read more »

Parra Pete
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Parra Pete

You made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up..Loved the atmosphere at Cumberland Oval….

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

I would have loved to be there today, my alternate hope was that it would be televised, especially free to air, I see Fox has it, but I am not financially able to sign up for that option, even the streaming service is not going on until 700pm tonight. A game that is said to be a 30000 sell out, and how many more would want to see it live, not all can get there maybe the pubs and clubs will be full, I guess the ABC radio call is my only option. This really could have been a huge… Read more »

Brindmarsh
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Brindmarsh

Colin, give Kayo a go – 14 day free trial. They’ll be showing it live, along with the one hour pre-game.

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Thanks Mate will give it a try

Steeleel
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Steeleel

Colin, you could try the free 14 day trial on Kayo? Just saying mate

Richard Cranium
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Richard Cranium

Today was the start of new memories to be formed. I could tell before kick off we were going to be in for a treat. The roar alone just for winning the toss told me the atmosphere was going to be electric. The respect shown through the welcome to country and the anthem was great. The crowd made Bankwest our own against a “home” team. It was really a fortress, a cauldron. And I didn’t see to many black and orange. Watching the on field performance was spectacular, especially being so close to the action. But Today, it was the… Read more »

Scott
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Scott

51 to 6 nothing more to say .

Parra Pete
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Parra Pete

How good is the Eels record at “opening new Stadiums” ??
Toppled St George in the opening of Parra Stadium; Rolled the Broncos at their first game at QE 2 Stadium in Brisbane, Rolled Newcastle Knights in the first game at Newcastle International Stadium, thrashed Wests Tigers at the opening of Bankwest Stadium
Walloped St George in the opening Rugby League game played at Olympic Stadium…..
Go you Eeeeeeeeels…

Milo
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Milo

I tried to reply earlier today mate but it didn’t seem to work. Great read and memories for you and the family. We also went in 76 during GF week and while i was 6 i can recall seeing them run through the street at some point. Was great to be there today with my old man, brother and his boy. Brought a tear to my eye when we saw the 86 crew on the field and it was special. We had to win. But the score was something of a shock to be honest. I guess when Farah went… Read more »

Kramerica
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Kramerica

Great article mate – you couldn’t have done better.
I’m still on a high after that fantastic day – I think you’re in the same section as me – jeez, how good are our tans gonna be after a few more day games!!
Cheers champion : )

Gazzamatta
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Gazzamatta

How fitting was it that returning towards the main entrance from visiting Priceys Statue with my young bloke and the obligatory “selfie” with same, I spied marching towards us no less than the great man himself.
“G’day Pricey” was my simple acknowledgement of a hero whos deeds personified all that I love about our great club. A “G’day mate” was his genuine response as he shook my hand and smiled.
51 to 6 was unimaginable. Shaking a heros hand on such a special day was icing on the cake.
What a day!