Before their inception in 1947, Parramatta Eels officials were told about a halfback prospect by the name of Keith Holman at the RAAF base at Schofields. But for whatever reason, Parramatta didn’t chase him. History has a funny way of coming full circle. So it was little wonder the Eels snapped up Chris Sandow as fast as they did last year.
The suddenness of the once mighty Eels in signing Sandow shows how desperate the club is to return to the halcyon days of the 1980’s. The people of Parramatta have waited long enough and Sandow’s arrival could be a sign of a brighter future for the once mighty blue and gold army.
1981 saw Parramatta win their first premiership. 1986 saw them win their last. It may have only been a six year period, but the fans wouldn’t give those seasons up for nothing. They were so good and so entertaining, that it kills their fans and the new generations who haven’t seen the success they once had.
It was no surprise that a young man came onto the scene at the time and carved his place in history along with others like Brett Kenny, Steve Ella and Eric Grothe. Peter Sterling cut his own legacy for Parramatta and made the Parramatta number seven jumper famous in Australian sporting folklore.
Nobody is saying Chris Sandow is Peter Sterling. But it is the idea of Sandow that gives Parramatta hope. The chance to grab the proverbial brass ring and make Sydney’s West golden once more.
With trailblazers like Jarryd Hayne and Willie Tonga outside him, the sky is the limit for the young halfback. With an experienced forward pack in front of him, only Sandow himself knows what he can achieve.
Veteran backrower Ben Smith has high hopes for his team and Sandow in 2012.
“His smarts and his quickness around the ruck means Haynesy (Hayne) can just step back and chime in when he needs to. He doesn’t have to have his hands on the ball two or three times a set” Smith said late last year.
“Jarryd almost had a target on his head every time he had the ball, and it’s hard for one player to carry all that expectation for the whole team.”
History shows that Parramatta’s highest highs have been levelled by their lowest lows. There has never really been a middle ground for the Eels. They are either quite simply the best, or very bad.
Their struggle for greatness through the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s was only halted by one of the great dynasties Australian rugby league has seen. With Sterling’s retirement came the dark ages that crippled the club prior to his rise.
An endless list of halfbacks have come and gone at Parramatta Stadium since Sterling.
Men like Stu Galbraith, Gary Freeman, David Penna, Dennis Moran, Ben Kusto, Brad Drew, Jason Taylor, Andrew McFadden, Adam Dykes, James Webster, Paul Green, John Morris, Shayne Dunley, Michael Witt, Tim Smith, Jeremy Smith, Brett Finch, Blake Green, Daniel Mortimer and Jeff Robson have all tried and failed.
Parramatta’s search for their new Sterling has taken them far and wide and more than twenty years. He may not be Sterling and he may not bring them a premiership. But Chris Sandow is the closest thing they’ve had to a quality playmaker in a very long time.
Only time will tell if Sandow joins Sterling in the rich history of the Parramatta Eels or join the ever growing line of men that have tried.
This article was first published @ footysocial.com.au