I’m not sure about all of you, but the last two weeks have provided the wildest ride of this season. Given the roller coaster year we’ve had, that’s saying something.
As a supporter, the trip to Penrith Park was as unpleasant as I’ve ever had. I won’t go back over that, but I left vowing to never return.
The following week started poorly with the ticketing debacle, and got worse with the media running a three pronged attack on the Eels – nepotism, player division, coach under pressure for week 2 exit.
But fear not. Come Friday night, The CommBank Stadium was packed with Blue and Gold supporters and the atmosphere was incredibly positive long before kick off. The Eels delivered and the crowd were left deliriously happy.
Should an almighty victory from our team signal the end to the previous week’s media narrative. Not a chance!
So here we are. Time for my say.
Parra Moves The Needle
There are times when certain journos in the media infuriate me. It might involve a stance that appears to be deliberately provocative, but more often than not it’s a negative narrative created about the Eels.
Stepping back from any emotional reaction, I remind myself of one simple fact. Parramatta moves the needle. It’s a phrase former CEO Bernie Gurr uses about the Eels and it really speaks to the media’s focus on our club.
Any mention of the Eels will generate reads, listens, and views. This can include positive news, though like most media items, the more provocative it is, the more attention it will garner. Consequently, clickbait headlines might not even be reflective of the content.
Make no mistake, even without recent premiership success, the Eels are a powerhouse of Australian sport.
Outside of the broadcast ratings that Parra generates, and average home attendances of 20K, football membership has continued to grow significantly year upon year. Parra’s numbers for 2022 exceeded 34k. This placed the Eels second behind the Storm, a club that didn’t charge for memberships this season!
The point to be made is that as annoying as the stories can be, such focus comes with the territory.
We have to be honest. Our Eels have a history of providing fertile ground for harvesting critical takes. On reflection, wooden spoon years, coaches not finishing contracts, political in-fighting, and a salary cap scandal might all be in the rear view mirror, but at the time they were all worthy of the focus and the criticism levelled at Parra.
Case in point, Paul Kent. A few years ago I despised his constant attacks of our club. To be honest, his recent defence of Ricky Stuart was also quite unpalatable. But looking back on history, I can’t deny that he had every right to fire his shots, as tough as they were to hear.
As for other media identities, members of The Cumberland Throw have met and got to know a number of the journalists and commentators who cover the game. Some are actually Eels supporters, some aren’t. Regardless, there is a shared passion for rugby league and a desire for the game to be all it can be, and these identities are terrific people.
TCT is read by mainstream NRL media. That’s not unusual because there are times when NRL stories across all clubs have their genesis in supporter websites. TCT content or information has appeared in mainstream content, sometimes referenced, sometimes not. But because our goal is to provide holistic, informative coverage of the club, when we are the reference source it typically appears in positive stories.
However, all of this acceptance aside, there are occasions when we will take media content, or their genesis of it, to task.
So it would seem will others. I asked Spiro for his take during the news episode of The Tip Sheet. He works in the media, and I put him on the spot. Spiro didn’t sit on the fence. Let’s also give a shout out to Andy Raymond for his stance. He’s had a long career in the media, but he nailed it in his podcast.
Well done fellas.
When Having Power Is A Figment Of The Imagination
At the end of last season we saw headlines about a powerful lobby group looking to bring change at the Eels.
It was hilarious to read the stories around the reported goals of this group because constitutional change had made their claims impossible.
Parramatta Leagues Club members fought a protracted battle to achieve the important changes to effectively end the presence of factionalism at club election times.
That doesn’t mean that some of these individuals will accept the wishes of the voting members. They are still around and will agitate from the sideline.
But rest assured, there is no support and no power behind their actions.
The True Enemy
I don’t know who is behind any emails or communications to the media that put Parra in the headlines, but as BA said, you can put self interest down as the motivation behind it.
It’s exasperating when such people run to the media, knowing that receptive ears eager for Eels content will listen. But if politics is behind the most recent headlines, then anyone involved has crossed an almighty line.
I am furious with the media types who appear to delight in twisting the facts. However, if anyone who claims to support the Eels is responsible for trying to destabilise a united club during a finals campaign, then they are the ones who truly deserve our condemnation.
The Narrative That Will Never End
Travelling to CommBank Stadium last Friday, I was listening to Triple M’s pre-match discussion. Unsurprisingly, the major talking point was whether Brad Arthur would be retained as coach should the Eels lose.
Here’s the fact. I have never heard one word coming from the Eels about looking for alternatives to Brad Arthur. Stability has been the key to turning Parramatta around.
Furthermore, Arthur’s capacity for developing players has been instrumental in the Eels rebounding from being a club that got themselves into salary cap trouble paying for a roster that would never challenge for a title. The club’s executive recognise and value what he continues to deliver.
BA is contracted till the end of 2024 and the club is in their fourth consecutive finals series, now advancing to the grand final qualifier for the first time since 2009. It’s the height of absurdity that his immediate tenure would be in question.
And what about how Arthur has handled the media attacks of the last two weeks. Anyone doubting his capacity to remain calm and focussed under pressure should think again. He guided the Eels through the dramas of 2016 and his leadership in 2022 is even better.
Still, there are those in the supporter base who aren’t satisfied with stability or the current trajectory of the NRL team. Given how important Eels content is to the media, we probably have to simply laugh off the inevitable takes of the commentators.
Even if Parra win this week, there will be those peddling that the season is a failure unless a premiership is achieved. Of course, not winning for decades is frustrating but every step up the ladder gets the Eels closer to the ultimate goal. Every finals appearance keeps that window open. Then again, I reckon a title won’t stop some from demanding a change of coach.
It is the narrative that will never end.
Welcome To Eels Territory
How good were the Eels NRLW team in their victory over the Broncos last week.
The women had deserved better results in their previous matches, but they wouldn’t be denied in a clash which pushed the Broncos out of finals football for the first time in their history.
Yet the NRLW team must have felt they’d truly arrived as Eels when they had to deal with the awful social media comments prior to the game.
It was brilliant to see that they regarded the negativity as “receipts” that they’d hold on to and use as inspiration.
Talking of inspiring, what about the reaction of Kennedy Cherrington when she scored the try that wrapped up the victory. The passion and emotion was there for all to see.
Like the NRL fellas, the girls are one match away from a historic grand final appearance. Let’s do it!
Parramatta Leagues Club Live Site News
Like all of you, I’m disappointed that this preliminary final is being played so far away with little chance for the average Eels supporter to attend.
The good news is that we can all get together at Parramatta Leagues Club for a massive live event!
Activities kick off from 4pm with plenty of outdoor family fun beside Eels Lane. Like last week there’ll be free entertainment, rides, face painting and a jumping castle. You can bring your own chair or picnic rug to cheer on the Eels as you watch the match on the large outdoor screens.
The club will also be looking for the best dressed Eels fan and there’s a $100 club voucher to be won!
The Cumberland Throw will again be hosting festivities in Jacks Bar & Grill on the third floor. In addition to watching the broadcast on the screens, we’ll be presenting a pre-game and post-game podcast with special guests. We’ll be hitting the stage from 6:30pm.
Join us at The Home of the Eels as we watch Parra make history