What a weekend it was.
For just the second time in 23 years, the Eels made the Grand Final and I was there again. Just like I was in 2001 when we roared into the Grand Final as red-hot favourites.
This time we had scraped into the finals and pounded the top 3 sides to make the Grand Final, riding on a wing, prayer and history. We could have been the first team to win it from 8th spot.
Last week was amazing. We beat our arch-rivals, the Bulldogs, in front of 75,000 people. The crowd was deafening and it was the best Rugby League match I had ever been to. My son told me it had been the best day of his life. Nothing warms the heart more!
But this was the big one. The one that counts. We had reached the prelimiary final 5 times since 1986, but only made the Grand Final twice. We needed to make it count.
So, Dougall, Yellster, Ed and I took the nervous train trip to Homebush to drink, cheer and hopefully be merry.
We downed 4 at the Brewery before the game. I had never seen so many Parra jerseys in one place. It was a sea of blue and gold and the feeling of anxiety and excitement was palpable. I felt good and I felt confident. I had bets on for a 13+ victory. Perhaps ambitious, but that’s how I felt.
We stepped into the Stadium and saw the swarmof people around us. We had nice seats behind the goal posts but with a great view.
It was a game of 2 halves. The first, we had nothing to cheer about. Melbourne scored twice through some uncharacteristically weak defence. We didn’t have that spark. Hayne was very quiet. The crowd was nervous at half-time. I hardly even remember it.
The second was better. We lifted. Guru scored. Fui scored and we were happy.
All I could do was hope…maybe, we can come back…one last time.
It wasn’t to be. An uncontested bomb, a bullshit refereeing decision (fuck you Tony Archer), and a field goal later, and the Eels went down, 23-16. Melbourne win their 3rd premiership of the decade.
I was gutted to have lost again. It’s hard to lose a Grand Final after weeks of build-up. I can only imagine what it must feel like for the players.
But next year is a new decade, and a new chance for the Eels to start their domination. Tahu’s back. Poore and Shackleton are in. We will hopefully keep the core of the team. There’s no reason we can’t get there again.
I just wish I didn’t have to wait 12 months to do it again.