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Eels to end long wait for new NRL home

Parramatta winger Blake Ferguson will need a painkilling injection if he plays in their NRL match against the Wests Tigers at Bankwest Stadium.

Eels to end long wait for new NRL home

Parramatta winger Blake Ferguson will need a painkilling injection if he plays in their NRL match against the Wests Tigers at Bankwest Stadium.

BLAKE FERGUSON of the Roosters in action during the round seven NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Sydney Roosters at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, Australia.
BLAKE FERGUSON of the Roosters in action during the round seven NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Sydney Roosters at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, Australia. Picture:Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images

It has been 966 days since Parramatta have played at their own home in the NRL.

There was cause for optimism early on in their displacement, when they made the finals the first year they became temporary tenants in Homebush.


But then came the dark times and the wooden spoon last year.

"Yeah, it has been a long wait," Eels coach Brad Arthur said on Sunday.

At first glance, it might've been worth it.

Their reconstructed home ground will open its doors for the first time to a sellout crowd of 30,000 when Parramatta host the Wests Tigers on Monday.

The $330 million Bankwest Stadium boasts the steepest grandstands in the country but that doesn't mean Arthur expects everything to fall into place for his men.

Parramatta had won three of their opening four games this season before laying a 19-0 loss at Canberra last week to muzzle Arthur's mood.

Despite the sense of occasion surrounding the club this week, Arthur is aware of what might spoil the party.

"It's nice to have our own stadium and a ground that we can call home. So that's great, moving forward," he said.

"But it's just not going to happen for us either.

"We've got to turn up with the right attitude and we've got to make sure that we can maximise any advantage that we might get playing at the stadium."

The Eels will have had three training sessions in their new digs before game day, including an open night session in front of fans that attracted about 5000 people.

"It's all unknown at the moment until we get there tomorrow," Arthur said.

"It has been a while since the boys have had to play in front of 30,000 people and be nice and close to the action."

Arthur is hoping Blake Ferguson is fit enough to play after the star winger broke his nose and suffered a rib injury last week. He will need a painkiller to play.

"He's going alright. We'll see how he gets through today and we'll see what happens for him tomorrow," Arthur said of Ferguson.

"He hasn't done much (training). It's a pain tolerance injury.

"You can't make it any worse, but it's what it is."

Arthur has opted to play inexperienced duo Ray Stone and Oregon Kaufusi over David Gower and Kane Evans against an unchanged Tigers line-up.

STATS THAT MATTER

* All but one of the six Easter Monday clashes between Parramatta and West Tigers have been decided by 10 points or less.

* The biggest crowd the Eels have played in front of at Parramatta was 27,243 in Round 24, 1986 when they drew 12-all with South Sydney.

* The last time they played in front of a crowd in excess of 25,000 in Parramatta was in 1997 (25,114 v North Sydney) and the last game with more than 20,000 was in 2009 (20,237 v Penrith).

AAP


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