Turning to the rugby league, nowadays known as the NRL, the burning question, as usual, is how many ways will the Parramatta Eels find to frustrate their supporters this year.
What have we done to deserve this?
Go back to 1971, they had a fine set of forwards and they met St George in the semis. The Saints took the game into extra time with a late try and then Billy Smith kicked the Dragons home with a field goal. The Saints went on to the grand final and lost to Souths, courtesy of a George Piggins rake-back in the play the ball, with Saints pressing the Souths line. Play the balls were contestable then, as were the scrums where there was a percentage in having a genuine ball-winning hooker.
In 1975 they started to look dangerous, an ex-Staints coach brough the winning mentality into the club and they finished equal fourth with two other teams. This meant a mid-week knockout to decide fourth place. Two of the three teams played on Tuesday, the winner to play the other team on Thursday. The Eels drew a short straw and played on Tuesday. They won, so they got to play on Thursday. They won again so they qualified to play Manly in the knockout semi on the weekend. They started well and had the better of the play but all-time great Bobby Fulton in the Manly colours turned the game around with a try against the run of play.
1976, Ray Price joined the club, into the grand final against Manly, led most of the day but lost out from two penalties for scrum infringements.
1977, Mick Cronin, the Crow, came to town and the team led the comp all season, inspired by Johnny "bomber" Peard. Tied the grand final with Saints, no result in extra time, creamed in the replay with strongarm tactics applied by the very young and strong Saints pack.
1978. Referee Hartley's year. Manly win, beating Parra in a midweek playoff after a draw on the weekend, and beating Cronulla in a grand final replay after a draw first up. Dodgy tackle counts and open season for elbows to the head from Manly forwards. Parra ran out of fullbacks and Peter Sterling made his debut at fullback in the midweek replay.
1979. Saints beat Parra in the last minute of the major semi. Price sent off in the preliminary final against Canterbury. Parra lose the game, Price exonerated at the tribunal. Saints beat Canterbury.
1980. Arthur Beetson joined the club, broke jaw and sat out the end of the season. Did not make finals.
1981. Jack Gibson coach. Newton revival under Warren "Wok" Ryan. Parra lucky in semi against Newtown, Billy Wilson missed easy shot for Parra to sneak in, desperate for a week off to rest injured star players. Easts set the pace for the season but Newtown knock them out, followed by Manly (literally) to back up against the Eels. Newtwon hit the front after half time with a soft try to Tommy Raudonikos, then Kenny bagged his second try and others show class for Parra to steam home.
1982. Manly look the goods for most of the season but fall over in the grand final, two in a row for the Eels.
1983. More of the same.
1984. A close run 6-4 loss to Ryan's Canterbury maulers in the grand final. Winning try scored while Ray Price temporarily out of the play.
1985. Outmuscled by Canterbury in the preliminary. Canterbury beat Saints 7-6.
1986. Cronin almost blinded in one eye in preseason injury. Parra have muscle up front and outplay Canterbury for most of grand final, cross the line twice for disallowed tries, Crow misses first two shots at goal. Parra survive Canterbury domination of last 15 minutes to win 4-2.
1987. Price and Cronin retire. The first of the wilderness years. Sterling and Ella still shining but wearing out. Recruits do not perform to expectation. Ten years later a count turns up 22 Parra juniors playing first grade with other clubs. Attempt to buy a team from Canterbury does not quite work.
2001. Brilliant young team get comnination, and a dream run without injuries and state of origin commitments. Favoured to win Grand Final but Newcastle play inspired first half to win despite spirited Parra revival. Everyone says the young eels only have to turn up next year to make the grand final again.
2002. Injuries and representative commitments kill the dream.
2003. Suspensions, injuries, slow start, a flick of form but too late. Put out of misery by Panthers in last game.
2004. If it was a fish you would throw it back.