I have come to the conclusion that queenslanders and wests magpie supporters have one thing in common, the passion for their associated teams. And to make it even more bizarre for me is yes i am a magpies supporter but actually follow the EELS in the NRL. How did this come about you ask ?? Growing up in country NSW my father was an AFL player and followed Collingwood, league in my household growing up was in dribs and drabs on the television as we mostly sat in front of the box on a Saturday arvo watching the then VFL game of the week. I started to get into league at around 7-8 years old and because my dad was a Collingwood supporter as mentioned before so i would look for a namesake & colours in the rugby league code and found the wests magpies. I found my rugby league team and followed the game more intensely since my decision. Over time and during my formative years my heart started to gravitate towards the parramatta eels as i fell in love with the grace and skills of the backline of sterling,Kenny,ella,grothe Cronin etc. From that moment i adopted the eels as my team but still had a soft spot for mighty magpies being my first choice, they say you never forget your first love i could use that analogy in this situation. Around this time i first started to play the game around 10 years old. I cared no longer for AFL (which incidently i never played but fully understood), or soccer which i had played up until that point, rugby league called out to me and i responded with “ I’m coming “ .
When the magpies and Balmain formed the joint venture i had some mixed feelings, yes both teams need to do it in order to survive thanks to super league but felt it was an odd marriage especially with the great geographical divide at the time, yet wests originally being from ashfield was close to Balmain so it made sense in theory from a historical standpoint. Also designing a jumper wouldn’t be that difficult also with both teams sharing black as their colour so no expecting a jumper like jesus’s technicolour dreamcoat. I always saw Balmain as the “ bad boys” of rugby league and had that aura of dislike about them during the 80’s like what Manly has to this day. With players like roach,hardwick,hemsley,elias etc it you could easily see why, they were players you love to hate, wayne pearce & scot gale were notably the exception !!
Even though i follow the eels i have no connection or patriotism towards Wentworthville parramatta’ reserve grade side in NSW cup, i have no connection or patriotism towards West Tigers in NRL as to me they are a “ company ” & moreso a “brand” than a football club ,that is why the eels & bulldogs wanted it so badly at one point in time,even balmain flirted with commercialism naming themselves sydney tigers for a brief period and basing themselves at parramatta. Anyway i follow the magpies because deep down are sentimental to me and are worth fighting for but politics and money seem to ruin everything . Yes crowds and the exposure of the maggies have dropped over they ears but its hard when you have been relegated to what is really “ Park Football” when the rug has been pulled from under your feet now that main gameday fixtures rarely include an open age reserve grade games as a lead up.
During my childhood in the mid 80s when i started to follow the eels my sister ironically started to follow the Balmain tigers , to this day she still follows the wests tigers, i thought she would have come to her senses by now :)