It’s been 39 years since the Eels broke their inaugural premiership drought in 1981.
Teams had come close before. In 1976 they fell to Manly, in 1977 they lost to St George in a grand final replay.
1981 marked 34 years without a Premiership for the proud club. After entering the NSWRL in 1947, Parramatta had struggled in their early years before the arrival of Ken Thornett made them regular finals contenders. With his brother Dick and the likes of Denis Fitzgerald and a young Bob O’Reilly, the Eels began to show what they could be.
With Ken Thornett’s departure the side struggled before rising once again in the late 1970s under the stewardship of Terry Fearnley. Under Fearnley the Eels would recruit the nucleus of their 1980s championship sides.
Ray Price was brought over from rugby union. Michael Cronin recruited from Gerringong. Ron Hilditch came into grade alongside the likes of Peter Sterling, Steve Ella, Brett Kenny and Eric Grothe Senior.
Those players gave the 1976 and 1977 seasons a fair crack and were led expertly by halfback John “Bomber” Peard.
But something was missing. A few bits and pieces weren’t quite there. They didn’t stack up.