If there was a fanbase in the NRL that has more false dawns and empty promises than the one that follows the Parramatta Eels, I’d be genuinely surprised.
2017 was supposed to be the year it finally clicked for the Eels under Brad Arthur. They had a stellar backline headlined by Clint Gutherson and try-scoring freak Semi Radradra, they had capable halves in Corey Norman and, after a mid-season switch from the Wests Tigers Mitchell Moses and their forward pack was solid if nothing overly spectacular.
Having finished the regular season in the top four, a shock semi-final exit at the hands of eventual Grand Finalists North Queensland felt more like a slight bump, a delay in the grand return of a behemoth of the 1980s than anything particularly crushing.
The once great franchise which boasted Peter Sterling, Brett Kenny, Mick Cronin, Eric Grothe and dozens more would enter 2018 with the highest of spirits and with sights set on ending a historic run without premiership success dating back to 1986.
A wheel-less wagon
Just two weeks later and the wheels look to have fallen off the Parramatta Eels bandwagon. Head coach Brad Arthur casts a stuttering figure holding grimly to a steering wheel as the walls around him collapse and give way, joining the wheels on the side of the M4.
A first-up loss to the Penrith Panthers hurt, especially given the Eels led 14-0 at one stage across the 80 minutes, but a round two loss to the Manly Sea Eagles in which they copped a half-century of points and were held scoreless by a mid-table side has many questioning the credentials of Parramatta.
That Parramatta’s reserve grade side, the Wentworthville Magpies fell to their Sea Eagle counterparts 46-0 earlier in the day only added to the frustration and sense of utter desolation for the travelling supporters as they made their way back west.
Accusations that players gave up on the contest as the Sea Eagles rained points are hard to argue against. At times it genuinely felt like the Eels were content to go through the motions and get out of Brookvale Oval as soon as possible.
Sterlo fires up
Speaking on the Channel Nine post-game show, club legend Peter Sterling was scathing in his assessment of his former club.
“I think I was in a side that got beat 64-12 so I’m not going to sit here and preach,” Sterling said.
“The worst thing that you can accuse of a team and players is that they didn’t have a go. Now that’s the quote from Brad Arthur after the game that they did not have a go.
“That’s the biggest concern and for me, it’s a continuation of what we saw in the second 40 minutes against Penrith where I didn’t see a lot of fight.
“Now when things are going against you, you’ve got to dig in. I’m watching this game and I’m thinking even at 12-0 or 18-0 they’ll come back, they’ll come back.”
As the record books will attest, the Eels never came back. They never looked like they would.
It’s fair to note that it is just the second week of the competition, and that things can improve dramatically and this poor start will be washed away quickly, but with the side sitting near or at the bottom of many of the key statistics, things don’t bode well for the blue and golds.
Will the Eels bounce back with a win in round three or have they been so bad they could find themselves winless still?
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