The Cumberland Throw

From The Stands – September 11, 2022: Supporters Deserve Better

Whether I’m sitting in the stands at Penrith, or squeezed onto the hill, I hate the experience.

There is nothing romantic or nostalgic about sub-standard facilities. It is unacceptable to have to queue for over ten minutes to use a toilet, and that’s one hour before kick off and well before the ground was full. All of this while being crowded and pushed by other fans battling long lines to pay $12 for a plate of chips.

But all of that pales in comparison to the experience of families who have to sit or stand on a muddy hill surrounded by heavily-intoxicated, abusive men and teenagers who are downing beer by the truckload.

League identities and power brokers should try sitting in amongst it (in rival gear) to realise how embarrassing and damaging it is to the game to stage matches in a venue like that.

As a supporter taking a child to the game, I should not be confronted by drunk and abusive Penrith fans. It is a terrible blight on our code.

I grew up in Western Sydney. I have family that live there and relatives that play football in the Penrith junior league, so this is not about the district. However, it is everything about what happens around that club, and about the decisions made by the NRL hierarchy.

The repeated off field indiscretions of Penrith players is followed by the same refusals to acknowledge that they’ve done anything wrong. Why wouldn’t a section of their supporter base have no regard for other people.

There is an absolute arrogance from some of the Panthers players both on and off the field, and the excuses for anti-social behaviour and lack of accountability from the Penrith organisation or NRL are staggering.

From a football perspective, the Panthers team possesses outstanding skill and talent. But I don’t admire who they are, nor do I feel any rivalry with them.

In contrast, the rivalry with the Eagles and Bulldogs is authentic. No matter the ladder or team composition, the need to win against them is at the core of our existence as supporters. I think a significant part of that rivalry is based on respect from the contest, on and off the field.

Personally, I have never experienced harassment at other venues for doing nothing more than wearing the colours of my team. Sure there is banter between supporters but it is almost always good natured.

At Penrith Park, the abuse of my family on Friday night (and in past visits) by some fans was unrelenting. It was direct and vile and aimed at anyone wearing rival colours. I cannot remember the last time I attended a game at Penrith and did not have some member of my family targeted for being there in Blue and Gold.

An example of the catering – an $8 cheese and tomato toastie!

On Friday night my niece and son were walking to get something to eat. They were yelled and sworn at by grown men, with some words I can’t repeat.

This abuse was directed at a child and teenage girl who were going to the canteen. These same men were not so brave when my husband and brothers fronted them about abusing their kids. But it shouldn’t get to that point.

The trouble was that the so-called security did nothing and let these men get more drinks. We are told to report anti-social behaviour at the game, but what was the point?  We watched as the same people continued to hurl abuse at Parra fans whose only crime was to walk past in their Eels gear. Security did nothing to stop it.

The chant heard and directed at Parra supporters at Penrith games is pretty common and not too clever. “We hate Parra, go the **** home.” The uncomfortable truth for Penrith is that their wider supporter base would not want to be associated with this core group of abusive supporters, but those in charge don’t seem willing to do anything about it.

My niece has lived in Penrith all of her life. She was succinct in expressing her thoughts regarding these fans. “They are feral.”

So no, they are not rivals as there is no respect.

I doubt that things will change under the current NRL leadership. The decision to not immediately suspend Taylan May for an off field assault sent a very clear signal to these particular Penrith fans who embrace anti-social behaviour. Peter V’landys even doubled down by declaring he made his decision for Panthers supporters!

The AFL’s very good TV deal this last week highlights my fear about the current NRL leadership. The same league leaders who have done and will do the TV deals in the future are the same people who think the majority of supporters actually condone “cowardly” and “reprehensible” assaults.

These NRL leaders think that supporters want and look forward to the match day experiences at places like Penrith. We don’t!

I heard all the reasons why the game had to be played at Penrith. Yes we do need to reward minor premiers, but as long as we have a draw that is not even with everyone playing each other home and away, the ladder position at the end will always be unreliable and somewhat questionable.

The damp and muddy Penrith hill over an hour before kick off. Reminder, this is 2022.

One reason for playing home finals which gets discussed all the time is a stadium like Accor is not good with smaller crowds.

I am extremely confident that at least 30 000 Parra fans would turn up to a finals game at a larger venue. If the Panthers are not confident in matching those numbers to draw an attendance of 50-60k, in an era in which their team is consistently at the top of the table, maybe they need to ask why.

Consider this alternative to having matches staged at sub standard venues in Cronulla and Penrith that attracted a grand total of just over 30,000 people.

Imagine a Super Saturday finals edition to celebrate league and promote it. Four games could be staged at Accor Stadium, 2NRLW games and two NRL finals games involving three Sydney clubs in Penrith, Parra and the Sharks.

One entry price gets you four big games. The crowd would far exceed the combined attendance from Friday and Saturday night, and the opportunity for promotion to potential commercial partners would be far greater.

Instead the power brokers in suits who run our game tell us, all while they sit in the corporate boxes, to go sit in the mud, or stand on the hill surrounded shoulder to shoulder by drunk and intoxicated men and enjoy the “wonderful” match day experience. And while you’re at it, watch your child get abused by certain drunk fans as they line up to pay $12 for chips or a Dagwood Dog.

I am embarrassed for our great game that our leaders genuinely think this is good for the code.

Finally, on the match itself, Parra lost to Penrith because the Panthers played better, executed better and they are a fantastic team. Simple as that. There are no sour grapes about defeat.

The Eels must play to win. Our errors were far too costly and we didn’t have a positive mindset in attack. Parra footy means offloading and creating second phase play. It is the secret to our success in games.

There is no hiding from the fact that Parra needs to lift this coming week. The second chances are over.


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28 thoughts on “From The Stands – September 11, 2022: Supporters Deserve Better

  1. Lynbeth

    Reading your article, makes me feel so very sad for the game we all love. There isn’t one of our supporters I’m sure, who enjoy loosing a game, especially ones that are so important to us, but reading what all of you who were there had to endure, especially the children , also makes me angry. There is no question that Penrith are a good team, but their disrespect for the opposition team disgusts me. Watching them laughing in a players face I found disgusting. They are good, but they are disrespectful and arrogant, and I have to say whoever they are opposing I will be cheering for in the future.
    Go Parra

  2. Big Derek

    Thanks Shelley, your description unfortunately has been the norm over the past 6/7 years at Penrith, the drinking amazes me and that leads to the abuse that is far removed from any other ground.

    Does anyone think that the NRL would actually look at the numerous comments and contact those who experienced it Friday night, personally I didn’t go for the reasons you have outlined.

    Annesley and PVL have made a habit of spinning anything and everything , so expect nothing. Your other comments on the payment for broadcast rights is another massive issue.league ratings dominate the the other codes, let’s see if that translates to a bargaining position under PVL.

    Back to your experience , is it any wonder that Penrith fans feel privileged with recent decisions, yes Cleary got suspended, but there is a reason that most fans recognise the Penrith attitude as smug.

  3. HamSammich

    I’ve been to every regular NRL ground bar the new Townsville stadium and New Zealand. I was verbally abused by the nanna knights as an 8 year old, spat on by bulldogs fans as a teenager and told to kill myself by tigers fans at Leichhardt as an adult. Penrith is the only ground I refuse to attend outside of trial matches. Their fans are arrogant, ignorant, and vile. I’ve seen them hurl abuse at children wearing Eels jerseys and when they’re in large groups they gather the bravado to go after anyone over the age of 16. They’re weak gutted dogs, the lot of them.

    As I said before the game it is a shame that the match was relegated to penrith park. It has so far been the best finals match of the series until Moses went off with a concussion. If it was at Homebush you would’ve had an almighty atmosphere with 55-60k fans there. Hopefully the NRL reviews their stadium policy and updates it so that matches are played at the appropriate stadium for the occasion.

    A question I have is why haven’t penrith released their membership numbers for the year? You’d think that after 3 years of extraordinary results on the field that their membership would be something to spruik about, instead its shrouded in secrecy. Surely their membership hasn’t fallen? They truly are a small club and don’t deserve a brand new stadium, they deserve to wallow in the filth of their current shack.

  4. Voodoorock

    I went, and have been to many games at Penrith and never copped abuse, I’ve been to over 500 games and been an eels member for 34 years, have I seen and heard abuse at eels games, yep for sure. It’s not only Penrith, every club including parra has it’s fair share of dickheads. So let’s not proclaim we are perfect either when every club is far from it when it comes to supporter,bases

    1. Anonymous

      I don’t think anyone is claiming that Voodoo. I’m glad you haven’t experienced that abuse. No club is exempt – see Ham’s reply. And this site has called out Eels fans for poor behaviour multiple times. But Friday night was not pleasant at all nor has any of my recent visits.

    2. Shelley

      While my experience at Penrith is different to your one, I absolutely agree that there are bad elements in all supporter bases in fact I called out our own supporters earlier in the year who made the match day experience terrible for fans at CommBank. We have that element in our fan base as well.

      The difference at Penrith is the actual facilities give life to drunken mob mentality and the security in certain parts is non existent. The amount of teenage boys and girls drinking at the venue was alarming.
      At ticketed seated only stadium thirty mates cannot come together, bring in an esky and drink like it is a 21st birthday unless they buy the tickets all together at the one time so they can sit together. I would even suggest that more trouble happens in GA areas, the area that I sit in at CommBank because it enables people to sit in big groups. Add the tensions of a finals game, the overcrowding and excessive drinking and you have the tinderbox that was Penrith Park on Friday night.

      The hill is one thing but my niece who is almost an adult was first abused at Penrith as a 8 year old when she went to the toilet and happened to walk past one of the members bays I think they call it ‘the den’ or at least they once did. She was yelled at, pointed at and told by grown men ‘ we hate Parra, take off that jersey’. She was 8.
      We reported it on the day, nothing happened, my brother rang the club afterwards as at the time he was a coach in the Penrith junior league, had two sons playing in the junior league and was also a member of the leagues club, he was told they would look into it. We heard nothing back. Yet every time we attend a game there we see it happening not exclusively in that bay, but you walk past that bay in a Parra jersey or Parra gear at your own peril. That should not be acceptable.

      Penrith know it happens and they turn a blind eye.

      I know the vast majority of Penrith fans are great people. I have many many friends who live in the area and they are wonderful, caring people who are passionate but respectful supporters. My brothers are still involved in the Penrith junior league.

      The response to my article from some is the problem. Oh it happens at every venue, get over it.I am sure it does but when it happens at your venue it is your responsibility.

      If they don’t address it there is going to be an explosion between rival fans at a home game in Penrith soon and with the way they packed people in it could get very ugly.

      1. Anonymous

        And we’ve got fans abusing kids as well, my point stands every club has dickhead supporters, as for facilities well we all know where we are going, it’s a judgement call if it’s a fit environment to being kids. I know I wouldn’t be bringing my kids to the hill as I know the environment, my mum got king hit by a cam at a knights game, I was in platinum seats on Friday night and there was still a fight. People will get drunk , and be gronks no matter what the facilities are like. I don’t condone the violence 100% but based on the response on here and on twitter by now we all know we aren’t a perfect club either and can’t proclaim we are, that’s my main point

  5. Kevin

    Geez Karen, settle down. You went to a suburban ground knowing there are grass hills after a few days of rain? You didn’t think they’d be dry did you? Surely not! You whinge about the price and quality of food, clearly you have never had the pathetic attempt at a burger at Bankwest. $14 for a burger that would be lucky to pass as beef. Did you expect Penrith to take their home game to your home ground? Again, surely not!

    1. Shelley

      Your response makes my point in the article beautifully. Thank you!

      True I can buy a burger, that is not very good at CommBank, I can also buy a pie for $5. I actually did not say the location that I sat in. I decided not to sit on the hill as from past experience I knew what it would be like as we normally sit there. We were lucky enough to get seated tickets, as we are members, but friends were not so lucky and one venture onto the hill to say high was enough.

      If you think it is perfectly fine to play a finals game in a billion dollar sport at a ground like that then so be it.

      If the Penrith club is so great and powerful play the game at ACCOR not CommBank. Surely such a great team, with such powerful, loyal, invested and passionate supporters would travel 30 minutes up the road to ensure that all off their large supporter base could get tickets and sit in a seat and surely such a successful team and big supporter base would outnumber Parra supporters? They would create the atmosphere to spur on their team. Surely?

      Unless of course they realised that a club that has won nothing for 36 years and a fan base that has bad experiences in finals would significantly out number them.

      Keep playing finals at Penrith by all means and this ‘Karen’ will keep calling out the terrible experience that was had by many rivals. Or of course you could grow your fan base by giving a larger group access to a wonderful match day experience and make those supporters want to become members or of course you can always go and sit in the mud surrounded by intoxicated men. Your choice because it is your club and thankfully not this ‘Karen’s’ one.

  6. BDon

    Tks Shelley, I get your vibe! My wife wouldn’t take our young kids to the hill area of any ground after our picnic blanket for us 4 and a mate of my son became the ring for an ugly brawl at Lidcombe
    in the early 80’s. The only way this will improve is if the clubs educate their fans and crack down on bad behaviour and intoxication…exactly how you do all that is another challenge. Better facilities and seating options, including club specific areas would help. Just a sidebar,back in the 60’s Blacktown to Penrith, was part of Parramatta District. Even then, the A Grade games with our outer western cousins were like street fights, there was just a bitter attitude drifting around, they always felt shunned by the PDJRL and pushed for the breakaway (which given the population growth was not unreasonable).

    1. Shelley

      I agree wholeheartedly.
      The problem is the NRL leaders and media commentators who praise tribalism at suburban grounds sit in corporate or commentary boxes, receive reserved parking and don’t have to use the facilities used by drunk idiots.
      The NRL need to remember the fans own the game, not them.

  7. John Eel

    Grass covered hills are an invention of the 60’s. That was 60 years ago. They should be nowhere to be seen in this current age of the Billion dollar game.

    Valandys needs to ensure that for all finals matches starting next year that the NRL chooses the stadiums for all matches.

    Matches should be played at all seat stadiums (no hills) with a minimum capacity of 20,000 seats.

    Furthermore all clubs should be advised by the NRL that moving forward all NRL games will be played at finals standard stadiums from 2027. This will give every NRL club five years to find an appropriate stadium.

  8. Salty Pete

    Hi Shelley, I always enjoy your insightful articles but I am not sure you can draw a connection between the Panthers players attitude on the field and the facilities. I too was at the game and lined up with my 91 year old Dad for 15 mins to use the toilet at half time. As with Shark Park, if local grounds are not up to par, those games should go to a facility that is. Absolutely agree. As for the Players, Cleary told them two years ago, they had to be more Storm-like on the field, strong, arrogant and unbending. This mindset won them a premiership and may well win them another. There’s one in every crowd no doubt but this is not fed by the players. There is always going to be those numbskulls in the crowd but getting rid of Hills at modern stadiums does seem to dilute them.

    1. Shelley

      I take your point and I think I worded it wrong. In the past my brothers have reported poor behaviour to Penrith post game when my young neice was verbally abused walking past a Panthers members bay going to the toilet. By the way they both have kids who play in the junior district and also have at times coached. After the match to the Penrith club they pointed out the bay and even described the man who did it and was told they would look into it. Nothing happened, no reply and the next game we attended at Penrith the same man and his mates were doing the same thing. That was 10 years ago.

      In my eyes that club turns a blind eye to bad behaviour on and off the field. When May was introduced on Friday his cheer was loud, only ones louder was when the Cleary’s got introduced. That says a lot in my eyes, considering that team has outstanding players and role models in Yeo and Fisher Harris.

      1. Salty Pete

        I think fan behaviour is a massive problem across all clubs not just at games but also social media which is why the Cumberland Throw is the only supporter site I read. To be fair, I don’t think Parra would have stood down Sivo for example if the NRL failed to like they did with May. On the positive, the inclusion of the women’s game and all the great female journalists has eroded the power base of those hoon fans who really only survive in male dominated settings. Unfortunately they still exist.

  9. Pete

    Shelley, Well done to brave the conditions behind enemy lines. It’s always harder with a loss than a win.. Panthers were too strong. We committed ridiculous errors. We held our own in first half….But,
    Is it just me but Luai knocked the ball on for the Panthers first try. I only saw a wide shot and that’s what it looked like. No scrutiny on it by the officials or tv coverage. It wouldn’t have changed the result but would have stopped their unfettered momentum. The commentary were too busy gushing over the pathers to bother looking at it.
    The other issue was May being allowed to play being given the green light by the NRL. Leniu and He thought they could commit foul play and get away with it. Leniu’s tackle was probably worse but he stayed on the field?
    The referee putting the whistle away and allowing offside slower play the balls. This is why we are seeing so many HIA.
    Let’s have a decent 10m and fair play the balls.
    No more second chances.
    Go Eels!!

    1. BDon

      No you’re not solo Pete, I already posted on the Luaui ball pick up after he had deftly contributed to Waqa dropping that first bomb. The side on shot was only shown once, then 3 or 4 times from another angle where you couldn’t see if his fingers touched the ball. He reaches down to collect the ball but doesn’t take it on the first attempt, it goes forward but you don’t know if it bounces forward or he touches it. It was well worth a second look and i was surprised it wasn’t scrutinised.

  10. Paul

    I love how other fans from other teams think their fans are angels every single club in the comp has fans who are wankers it’s just the facts. I have been to Parra games and the amount of abuse from your fans was just as bad if not worse. It’s league it happens learn to live with it. The simple facts are people don’t like winners I was on the hill at Penrith like I always am every time they played and I had a great time cheering and having a good time with some Parra fans I had never met in my life. So just because you had a bad experience doesn’t make a whole supporter base wankers it just makes those fans you met idiots it’s that simple.

    1. Shelley

      Paul I take your point and I am genuinely sorry that it has been taken as me saying that all Panthers or Penrith people are like this. They are not and if my wording indicates that I am sorry.

      I have close family who live in Penrith, play in the district and even attend the odd Non Parra game at Penrith. They went to the Penrith Melbourne game this year. It was interesting to note their different experience. At the Penrith Melbourne game they had no problem and had no team colours on. They could not believe how different their experience was on Friday. My family has experienced this before at the stadium, complained at the game and after via a phone call with nothing happening, so yes it is frustrating.

      I know all fan bases have fans like this, in fact I called out my clubs fans earlier this year for abuse and making a horrible experience at CommBank, this included abusing players and fans alike. My club has fans like this as well. There was an entire post I wrote about my own club.

      I simply refuse to accept that kids or even adults being yelled at or spoken rudely to by strangers for simply wearing the opposition colours is okay.

      I also don’t think a finals game should be played at a stadium like that but I also accept the argument against this as it is not your fault that money has not been provided to upgrade the stadium as yet. I know this is only my opinion on the venue and others will disagree and love it.

  11. Anonymous

    Hi shelley
    I drove down from Lake Macquarie to go to the Penrith game. My experience of the crowd was of loud mouthed people but not unexpected. The puddles of water in the grandstand were a little bit of a shock. Toilet lines were fine for me and my daughter. (we weren’t in the Parra areas)
    Waqa Blakes performance saddened me greatly. Why is it we always carry and Ian Heron style of player.
    If we proceed this week and the game is at Accor stadium I will not be going-if it is in Sydney at the new SFS, I’ll be there with bells on. I hope one day that a terrorists blows the Homebush Stadium up (whilst empty) – It sucks.
    That stadium along with super league is the absolute reason that rugby league still struggles to compete with AFL.. I wish they would hang the person who designed it from his heels so we can all throw rotten eggs at him for eternity. Following that ,wheel out Peter Fitzsimons in stocks so we can also hurl rotten fruit and vegetables at him for his one man labour party crusade and stance on sydney stadium.
    The excitement created by firstly Comm Bank Stadium and now the new SFS proves that the money spent on these Stadia delivers in providing a world class experience for the hard working tax paying class of people in NSW.
    This week will test the resolve of our first grade side . They’ll need to prove to us all that they are capable of greater things.
    Ill be at commbank encouraging them.
    Let the ball sing boys.
    Luke Winley

  12. Spencer

    The Penriff Pamfers fans don’t have anything else going for them . A demographic that’s looked down on… this is their chance to exert some perceived edge ( not superiority) based on their football team.

    1. Shelley

      I don’t agree with this.

      There is a part of their fan base that needs to be called out just as there is a part of our fan base I and others called out this season with behaviour in the stands at CommBank.

    2. Salty Pete

      Spencer, that is a pretty insulting comment, and I don’t think it has any basis in reality, and certainly was not Shelley’s point.

  13. Milo

    Some fair points Shelley, i have not been to Penrith since a trial back in 2012/ 13? I have not paid for food for years and years and this also goes back to Parra when we had the old stadium.
    I often went to Subway pre-game anywhere and you get what you pay for.
    As for the fans, thats not good but i would say C’bury have to be upon there too as one of the worse…and its the element we saw years ago with the flares etc.
    Quite simply don’t pay for the food. As for the fans well it says a bit when the club / coach is as arrogant as they are.
    The NRL are also a soft touch and have been for yrs.

  14. Shaun

    Shelley, I’m sorry that you had that experience and correlates to one of the TCT blokes also having to sit next to a really bad supporter at the game. I still remember a game at Parra in the late 90s where everyone was glad Parra lost as the we were worried what the opposition supporters would do. Then again I stood on the hill at Leichhardt earlier this year with Tigers supporters and the banter flowed freely but was always good natured (though one Tigers supporter laid into Reed with an invective filled tirade that ended up being comical more than it was offensive).

    But I am aware that Parra has its won group of fans that can be pretty nasty. But y’know this ties into the whole suburban ground issue. The NRL is lead by intellectual midgets.

  15. Anonymous

    Well written Shelley , totally agree 45mins to get a drink and chips , it’s a sad day when it’s the position of the team dictates the penalty of the player not what they have done
    nsw cup was not much better playing elimination final at 5pm with half the lights out on a sub standard ground and facilities, not televised as NSW cup games don’t matter , no wonder the fans are pissed paying high ticket prices for just one game when it could be done as a gala day for young fans with all the lower grade teams playing . It’s not rocket science but while a few fat cats in suits are in charge we haven’t got a hope of that happening

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