This weekend the NRL celebrates Heritage Round.
Apart from Women in League Round, Heritage Round is my favourite round of regular football during the year – and here’s why. Rugby League is the game I love. I was 8 years old when I first started taking an interest in the sport and since then it has developed into a true passion. Not only do I support the Parramatta Eels with every ounce of my being, but over the years I have become an NRL appreciator – I have favourite players on most teams and am able to truly recognise and appreciate the tremendous talent which the NRL boasts.
This weekend is all about celebrating the game we love, the history of our clubs and celebrating the fierce rivalries which continue to grow as our game continues to age.
I thought it might be timely in the wake of Heritage Round to share with all of you 3 of my favourite Parramatta Eels memories. I would love, at the end of this blog, for all of you to share some of your favourite memories with the other readers by leaving me a comment. We always love to hear from our fabulous readers.
Number 3 – Round 19, 2009 – Penrith Panthers v Parramatta Eels
This game was almost the start of Parramatta’s magic run to the Finals in 2009.
You could forgive most Parramatta fans for feeling dismal. After Penrith had scored 3 tries in 3 minutes. With 20 minutes of the game gone, Parramatta led 22-0, before striking back.
Then, came one heck of a miraculous comeback. We trailed at half time 22-12 and then came out ready to fight in the second half.
How we won that game, I’ll never know (although the answer is possible Jarryd Hayne). We showed heart, grit and determination and at the end of this game, there was a glimmer for most Eels fans that somehow, we would make the finals.
In that game we scored 30 straight points and took it home 34-28.
Number 2 – Round 26, 2012 – Parramatta Eels v St George Illawarra Dragons
While 2012 was a season I would rather forget for the Parramatta Eels and this was sort of a game I would rather forget (we lost 8-29), this game is a fond memory for me because it was the last time I ever watched Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt play football.
These two gentleman had been 2 of my favourite players for the Eels over their long careers. They epitomised everything that I loved about Parramatta – that we were and continue to be a team of genuinely nice guys and tremendous role models for the community.
The day that we lost both these players to retirement was very emotional for me. It was a wonderful atmosphere at this game, full of not just Eels fans, but NRL fans who wanted to wish these two all the best and thank them for their contribution to our game.
Apart from the result, it was a fitting farewell for two of the greats.
Number 1 – Grand Final Qualifier, 2009 – Parramatta Eels v Canterbury Bulldogs
This is my fondest memory of my Eels – the game that took us to the Grand Final in 2009.
I have nothing more to say other than this game was pure magic. It was one of the best atmosphere’s I have experienced at an NRL game and to defeat our arch rivals, the Bulldogs that night, made the victory even sweeter.
We had basically achieved the impossible, but our dream was shattered one week later by the Storm.
When I look back at that season, I feel nothing but tremendous fondness. I was so proud of my boys that season and the joy I felt as I watched them go from almost wooden spooners to runners up that year was immeasurable. I also look back and remember some players that I loved during that period, including Todd Lowrie, Kris Keating, Matt Keating, Kris Inu and Feleti Mateo who are no longer with my club.
So as we come to Heritage Round, I am thankful for the Parramatta Eels and the tremendous joy they bring me. Most of all, I am thankful for NRL, the greatest game of all.