No end in sight for Parramatta’s pain
THE old saying tells us a week is a long time in rugby league.
A month may as well be a decade.
A month ago Parramatta was counted among the premiership contenders, a team that thrived on blood and bone and suffocating, relentless defence.
Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman were Origin contenders. A return to the finals last year was the harbinger of a new blue-and-gold age.
Now, after four straight losses capped by a 30-20 defeat to the Tigers, all of that feels like another life for the Eels.
Brad Arthur tortured himself after the losses to Manly and Cronulla, watching the tape over and over again in a bid to find answers. There looks to be no end in sight for his pain, not for this week at least.
Of course, the cavalry will arrive. Bevan French will return. Clint Gutherson, who they miss terribly, will help things when he gets back on the park.
But the pit in which the Eels are trapped grows deeper every week.
The Tigers looked more physical in almost every contest for the first 60 minutes of Saturday's game.
They embodied everything the Eels had last season, and everything the blue-and-golds can't quite put together.
But the last 20 minutes will give the team some hope. The Eels were the better team for much of the final quarter, playing with greater intent and clawing back three tries.
The effort is there, but the finer touch is lacking and the team's concentration waxes and wanes.
In a way, the rollicking final quarter makes the first hour all the more difficult to bear.
The Eels are still capable of playing strong, tough footy; they can still be the team they were last season.
Just because they can't find it all at once doesn't mean it's lost.
But they can't find it right now. Why, after three straight losses, did it take them 60 minutes to get going?
Why wouldn't they have that intensity, that clarity of purpose from the start?
The last time Parramatta began a season 0-4 was 2012. That year they spent every week of the season in the bottom two on the ladder before claiming the wooden spoon.
Eels fans are a resilient bunch by nature - given the depths of despair the club has hit in the three decades since their last title, they have no choice.
But unless Arthur can turn things around rapidly, this may be the greatest pain they have felt for some time.
After all, these days were supposed to be over. This was supposed to be a premiership season, or something close to it.
The long blue-and-gold wait was supposed to be near an end, but now it feels longer than ever before.