What value do you place on home matches and home ground support?
From the Stands I see having a true home as crucial to a team’s success and therefore, this week, I’m making a call for our fans to get out and support our boys in the next few games at home. Getting behind our boys makes a difference.
Here’s a simple fact right now. At the end of round 10 we are in the Top 8 and one win away from equal 4th.
That doesn’t mean that we should be blind to the obvious flaws in our team at the moment – most notably the track being worn right down our middle third for the last 3-4 weeks. The Eels have a team being re-shaped because it needs to be. There are a large number of unsigned players for a reason.
But we need to sit back down and take a breath.
Here’s our options as fans.
We can sit passively on our lounge room couches, lapping up the media spin about the Eels inability to win away from home. We can be demotivated and stay on those couches this Thursday night. Or we can get off our backsides and make it difficult for the Panthers to win at our home, BankWest Stadium.
I normally don’t write on stats, but the narrative being spun by the media about Parra having this unique and fatal problem of not being able to win away from home is very misleading. Virtually every team faces a challenge away from home.
The stats prove it.
In nine home and away rounds this season (I left out the Magic Round as there was no true home matches) there have been 72 games. In those games, only 30 have been won by the away team. Of those 30 games, 13 have been won by the Roosters, Storm and Rabbitohs combined. Those three clubs are the elite teams of this season and therefore the yardstick.
Here’s the clincher. That means a total of 17 away games have been won by the other 13 teams.
The Eels have won 2 away games. They’ve also won a “home” game against the Sharks at ANZ Stadium.
This puts Parramatta on par with the following clubs who have also won two away clashes: Dragons, Knights, Raiders, Bulldogs, Manly.
Faring worse are these clubs who’ve only managed a single away win: Wests Tigers, Sharks, Warriors, Penrith, Cowboys.
Two NRL clubs north of the border are yet to win an away game – the Titans and the Broncos.
So the truth for virtually every team is that success begins at home grounds.
It could be argued that the Eels have had a tough home and away draw. In the opening ten rounds of this season the Eels have only played two games at our home, Bankwest Stadium. Consider that. Only two true home matches, yet we have three wins away from that venue.
If I had said to you at the start of the year that we play Melbourne, Canberra, Cowboys, Knights, Penrith away as well as Sharks, Dogs and Roosters at ANZ in the first ten rounds, without our most important forward in all but one of those games, would you have accepted 5/10? I know I would.
The Eels are coming off a wooden spoon season and have only beaten one current top 8 team, the Tigers, this year. Our four other clashes against Top 8 teams have been away from BankWest Stadium. This record is probably a fair indication of a team looking to climb back from last year’s disaster, but given that we’ve only played two true home games, we haven’t had the opportunity to take on any other top 8 team on our home ground. It’s also unfair to compare such records against other teams this early in the season. The Top 8 fluctuates throughout a season, so it’s best left for post season analysis.
Nonetheless, sitting at a 50% win rate with only 2 real home games after 10 rounds is better than I expected. I think this team has the ability to get much better as the year progresses, especially when some key players get back on the field.
We cannot change the past we can only move forward. We have 8 games left at BankWest, including a notional home game for the Tigers. We only leave Sydney 3 times for the remainder of the season, one trip to Suncorp, one to the Gold Coast and our home trip to Darwin.
We may not like some aspects of our team at the moment, but we are in the contest and with some reinforcements such as the two Browns due to return from injury, the team will strengthen.
Here’s where we, the fans, can make a difference. Playing at home won’t win a competition, but the support that fans provide can help to get the team across the line in half of a season’s games, and that goes a long way towards finals qualification.
We need to create energy, we need to push the boys on. We get the opportunity to cheer and call for the crucial penalty or favourable referee decision. They are all the benefits to playing at home and as the stats above show, it makes a difference.
Therefore my family will do what I am suggesting we all do. We don’t normally go to Thursday night games in Sydney with a 3 hour commute each way, but we will this week.
The next two weeks are crucial for our Eels. We have the opportunity to go seven wins from twelve at the half way point. That sets our season up really well. Both matches are very winnable games. A Panthers team down on confidence and unity and a Rabbits team minus State of Origin players puts the advantage in the Eels court. Hopefully Mr Fittler does us a favour and picks the inform Cody Walker.
But it won’t be as easy as it appears on paper.
The Panthers always get up for this local rivalry (even more so after a barrage of criticism) and a 5 day turn for the Eels is not ideal. But our support can be the impetus. The boys need to run out to a roar.
My family and I will be in the stands cheering them onto the field and I hope to see many Parra fans joining us and doing their bit to help lift our boys.
Let’s be an active part in beginning our success from our home base. Let’s be a factor in our victory.