When the Penrith Panthers ventured to Parramatta Stadium to face the Eels on Saturday night, no one was accusing the game of being a blockbuster.
While the Panthers are in rebuilding mode, their form over the last month or so has been pretty good. Still, this is a team that isn’t the most exciting side to watch. They grind out wins, and its working for them.
The Parramatta Eels meanwhile are a mess. They are anchored to the foot of the NRL ladder. They have told most of the players in their current squad they are not good enough and they are not wanted in 2014. They had dropped Chris Sandow, they were without injured star Jarryd Hayne….overall the Eels look to be in a fairly hopeless position right now.
Give the Eels credit though, they made a game of it. They pushed the Panthers all the way. While the Panthers ran out winners 17-10, it was a gutsy performance but an Eels side that’s season was a write off many weeks ago.
In today’s Daily Telegraph Phil Rothfield has used this game as a marker by which to measure Rugby League’s healthy in Western Sydney. He makes the point that the crowd of just 9,237 is a worrying sign for the NRL, and uses the incredible success of the Western Sydney Wanderers to take a dig at the NRL.
There is no doubt that the crowd was poor. You can’t get around that. For the contest that was on show though, I can’t really blame Parramatta Eels fans for staying away.
To use this game as an example of the strength of Rugby League in Western Sydney is absolutely ridiculous. We all know what the circumstances were on Saturday night. An afterthought of a game played during the buildup to State Of Origin, when crowds are lower anyway, was never doing to draw many through the gates.
On Wednesday night a sellout crowd will pack into ANZ Stadium to watch New South Wales take on Queensland. Why doesn’t “Buzz” use that game as his marker?
I have said for a long time that one of the biggest things that holds Rugby League back is mismanagement. Forget the salary cap, the thing that all struggling clubs have in common is that they are poorly run and usually possibly coached.
Rugby League fans know when their team is poorly managed. They know when a club is trying to sell them rubbish. When they happens, they stay away. People value their entertainment dollar and lets face it, the Parramatta Eels are not that entertaining right now.
It doesn’t mean people don’t care. It doesn’t mean that people don’t want their team to succeed. Parramatta Eels fans are desperate for their club to turn things around. I’m sure Eels fans don’t even need them to be world beaters, just as long as they are not hopeless easy beats, that would be enough for now!
Whether that turn around happens under Ricky Stuart or some other coach, it will eventually happen. Until then Rugby League will continue to be strong in Western Sydney.
So settle down Henny Penny, the sky isn’t falling just yet.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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