We need to talk about the Eels

By now you would have heard the news. 

The Eels were found by the NRL to have breached the salary cap to the tune of over $3 million since 2013. The NRL has handed down a strong punishment: 
- immediate loss of 12 competition points
- $1 million fine
- cannot compete for points this year until they are under the salary cap, which means they will need to shed $570,000 of talent
- immediate de-registration of the Chairman, Deputy Chairman, CEO, Director and Head of Football. The latest news is that an injunction has been sought and granted with the Supreme Court. (Just what the club needs, more legal dramas)

There have been countless articles, comments, tweets and Facebook posts expressing outrage and disgust at the people responsible for this situation.
To their credit, the players and coach, who are seemingly innocent in all of this, have vowed to do everything they can to make the finals this year once the team is under the cap. A Twitter hashtag #12-15 has even been trending today, indicating that the Eels need to win at least 12 of their remaining 15 games to make the finals.

Despite the admirable push to 'fight back' (on the field, that is. I wouldn't call the legal injunctions admirable), it seems to me that what has been lost in the discourse is the effect this is having on you all, the fans.

As a long suffering Eels fan, I can attest to how heartbreaking it is to see the club that was wronged by salary cap cheats not so long ago (have we all forgotten about the Storm in 2009?), act in the very same cheating manner that we have for so long despised. 

The Eels don't cheat. We may acquire Wooden Spoons and be an embarrassment sometimes on the field, but we DO NOT CHEAT. Ever.

That kind of integrity and pride about the true spirit of our club is something that has been destroyed by the actions of a few incompetent and egotistical administrators. 

The Eels club has lost its innocence today. We now join the infamous ranks of the Bulldogs and Storm as 'cheating scum' (no doubt something we will hear levelled at our club, players and fans in years to come, and who can blame those that say it?).

Spare a thought for the fans. Like my good friend, a passionate fan of the Eels, ticketed member, always there for every home game, was even there for the shambolic AGM last night. Someone who lives and breathes the Eels and is always willing to chat about the Eels' performances, how good is our defence, can we succeed without Jarryd, and how about that Semi? Today when I spoke to her (yes, 'her'), she spoke so passionately about how the boys could definitely fight back and make the 8. Always looking on the bright side. And then the tears started to well in her eyes. And she almost broke. Almost.

I reckon I know why she almost broke down: those were not tears of disappointment. They were tears of anger. Anger that this club has been such a shambles for such a long time, and the fans, like my friend, deserve much better. Anger that as a fan you can pour countless hours and dollars into the club, buying tickets, merchandise and memberships, maybe even volunteering, only to be treated like fools by the very people entrusted to steer the ship.

Two steps forward, 12 steps back. This is the story of the Eels.

But there is hope. I see this as a turning point in the Eels' history. A chance for true reform in the administration and governance of the club.
Make no mistake: The Parramatta Eels club has had its 'ICAC moment'. The only thing left to do is to clean out the club and get some integrity and pride back into it. And maybe one day the stigma of being salary cap cheats will disappear.

Let's make the Parramatta Eels great again.

Listen to the Rugby League Republic podcast this week for more on the Eels' salary cap saga.
Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast via iTunes and leave a review.

Blue and Gold forever,
Dr T.