This week, Mary Kaye looks forward to Round 19 where the Eels take on the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Friday 17 July. You can catch up on Mary Kaye's blogs at Ladies who League here
The first year I remember supporting the Parramatta Eels was 1998. I was 8 years old and whilst I didn't know what a knock on was, I knew that by season end I had fallen in love with a team (and Clinton Schifcofske).
That year ended in heartbreak - most of you will remember the game I am referring to. I now call it Black Saturday. We were leading the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs 18-2 with 10 minutes to go in the Grand Final qualifier. I thought we were home. I was wrong. Somehow we managed to lose that game and with Daryl Halligan's conversion from the sideline, my heart broke. What a baptism into the life of being an NRL fan!
Since then, I have felt nothing but a fierce sense of rivalry every time my boys don the jersey and lace up their boots to play the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs. I have never forgiven them for that game and I have never celebrated more when we beat the Bulldogs in the Grand Final Qualifier in 2009. That game still holds some of my fondest NRL memories.
This Friday night we celebrate the rivalry born out of these games and countless others during Heritage Round. Whilst the rivalry for me only began in 1998, I joined the collection of Parramatta supporters that considered the rivalry between our club and the Bulldogs one of the most historic in our game.
While the Bulldogs are now a club I have tremendous respect for (thanks to people like Raelene Castle and Josh Reynolds), I want nothing more than to see our boys win on Friday night.
We are about to enter the most important part of the season. We are on route to finals football and whilst the Eels still sit just outside the top 8, we're still in it with a fighting chance. That means it's crunch time and what better place to start our finals campaign than against the Bulldogs.
The bye could not have come at a better time for our club. Following a win against the Wests Tigers (our third in a row) and the confirmation that Kieran Foran will be joining us from 2016 onwards, the bye will have given the boys to regroup and focus on the challenge ahead.
And what a challenge ahead it is. The Bulldogs, led by Josh Reynolds, Moses Mbye and Aidan Tolman have been playing great football. Men like Corey Norman, Semi Radradra and Anthony Watmough need to step up on Friday night and I have no doubt that they will.
I would love to see a Blue and Gold stadium this Friday night. Let's make sure that our boys know we are behind them and help the Bulldogs find their way back to Belmore.
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the club on the re-signing of 7 players this week. It is a tremendous sign for the future and I was personally very happy to see David Gower commit to the club for a further year.
I'm looking forward to seeing a blue and gold stadium this Friday - even all the way from here in Cyprus.