Does anyone remember the preliminary final between the Bulldogs and the Eels in 2009? It probably had a better atmosphere than the grand final and for good reason.76,000+ attended the prelim between two fierce rivals in the Dogs and Eels. Since then, the Eels fall from grace has been catastrophic in every aspect. Player drain, mismanagement, front office battles and a coaching merry go round that has seen the word “stability” become a word foreign to the Eels establishments vernacular.
In a season where attendances have have been “sluggish”, nothing fills the seats like the Blue and Gold army. They are the termites of the NRL in the fact when they are winning, thousands pour from the woodwork. Surely Dave Smith would love nothing more to see the Eels firmly entrenched in the top four along with other western Sydney potential powerhouses in Penrith and traditional rival, the Bulldogs.
Pirtek Stadium aka Wanderland gets filled more by the A League than it does by the grounds long time tenants and the NRL and the Eels need to counter that. Is Brad Arthur the answer to bringing the Eels back relevance? He seems to have the right mentality for the job and may actually last more than a season in the role. Daniel Anderson is a smart operator and if he can bring success to the Eels like Phil Gould is building with the Panthers, then western Sydney will regain the mantle of being the NRL’s true heartland and will fight off the persistent challenge of the Wanderers and GWS Giants.
After a heartbreaking loss to the Sea Eagles last week, is there a reason to believe the Eels have turned the proverbial corner and have enough to climb out of the NRL’s cellar? Tough to say at this point but a win over the vastly improved Panthers may go a little way to awaken the sleeping giant and Church St mall will once again be awash with Blue and Gold from the toothless (and I mean this literally) fan base.
I say god bless the toothless brigade and let’s hope for a return to the glory days of the early 80’s!