DURING his 30-year reign as Parramatta chief executive, former Test prop Dennis Fitzgerald ruffled many feathers among officialdom, fans and the club's former greats. But rarely in his time at the helm was the club in the parlous state it is today.
The harshest criticism of Fitzgerald was that he was autocratic, but at least everyone knew he was the man in charge. Finding that person at Eels headquarters today is tricky, and the Chris Sandow circus this past week is an indictment on that clumsy management.
Even though he was selected in the NRL team Sandow was always going to play park football, yet all week there was subterfuge. Even skipper Nathan Hindmarsh, one of the nicest blokes ever to play our game, was in on the cover up.
He appeared on The Footy Show last Thursday night and when asked about the rumours Sandow would not be playing, said the halfback had trained with the side, was in great spirits and would play against the Tigers. Then the very next day Hindmarsh was quoted as saying he backed the decision to dump the $550,000 a season No.7, and revealed Sandow was down on confidence.
If this bungled public relations exercise was a one-off, fans would understand, but the Eels have been jumping from one calamity to another on a few fronts in 2012.
Strangely, forwards Justin Horo and Shane Shackleton, who played 24 and 23 games respectively last season, have not been sighted in the top grade this year despite the woeful form of the Eels. And last season's player of the year, Fuifui Moimoi, is now coming off the bench and having little impact.
Sandow has been a massive disappointment, Jarryd Hayne is playing like a man who has no idea of his role in the team and Willie Tonga, who last year played for Queensland and Australia, also looks a lost soul. And paying a reported $1.7 million for two years to youngster Will Hopoate to re-start his 22-game NRL career in 2014 after a two-year Mormon mission has been another genuine head scratcher.
Not that long ago Parramatta was the envy of all rugby league clubs. Right now the Eels are something of a laughing stock.
Since Brian Smith departed mid-season in 2006 after a 10-year reign, the Eels have had four more coaches. On the back of stunning form from Hayne they won 10 from 11 to storm in to the 2009 grand final, but have subsequently won just 17 times from 55 starts.
And if all that isn't bad enough, fans now learn the Eels have been fined $80,000 for salary cap breaches. Dennis Fitzgerald, where are you?
RESULTS FROM ROUND 8 OF 2012 NRL SEASON
B Creagh 2, M Cooper, M Weyman, M Prior tries; J Soward 3, B Hornby goals.
A Guerra, A Minichiello, M Pearce, B Anasta tries; B Anasta 4 goals.
Crowd: 40,164 at Allianz Stadium.
W Chambers 3, D Nielsen 2, J O'Neill; C Smith 4 goals.
B Tupou 2, L Brown tries; J Maloney goal.
Crowd: 20,333 at AAMI Stadium.
SEA EAGLES 12
B Stewart, S Matai tries; J Lyon 2 goals.
B Barba, B Goodwin tries; B Goodwin goal.
Crowd: 24,743 at ANZ Stadium.
A Glenn 2, A McCullough, G Beale, J Hoffman tries; C Parker 3 goals.
D Peyroux try; S Prince goal.
Crowd: 30,083 at Suncorp Stadium.
G Inglis, I Luke, D Taylor tries; A Reynolds 4 goals.
A Graham 2, J Segeyaro tries; J Thurston 2 goals.
Crowd: 12,213 at ANZ Stadium.
J Williams 2, B Pomeroy, J Bukuya, J Morris, S Mills, J Robson, C Best; T Carney 6 goals.
J McCrone 2, J Dugan, R Robinson tries; J Croker 3 goals.
Crowd: Crowd: 12,227 at Canberra Stadium.
B Murdoch-Masila 2, L Fulton, B Ryan, C Lawrence tries; B Marshall 4, T Moltzen goals; B Marshall field goal.
M Ryan, W Tonga, K Sio, J Hayne, C Blair tries; L Burt 5 goals.
Crowd: 19,654 at Parramatta Stadium.