HANDS OFF OUR TURF!
By Matt Logue, Tony Adams & Greg Prichard
On the same weekend that the GWS Giants drew a paltry 5,830 fans to Homebush and were pumped by 135 points, the Eels, Panthers and Bulldogs gave league's western Sydney heartland a huge shot in the arm.
The Giants have failed to win a game in 2013 and are floundering. In stark contrast, Parramatta and Penrith produced stunning upsets over highly-fancied rivals, while Canterbury made it three on the trot with an incredible comeback against the Warriors.
With A-League fairytale team Western Sydney Wanderers and the cashed-up Giants doing all they can to win over youngsters, rugby league's western frontier has been under siege.
But with headline acts Jarryd Hayne and Ben Barba on fire for their respective sides and Penrith's 'Chocolate Soldiers' taking down the premiers, the NRL issued a stern 'hands off our turf' to the rival codes.
The Eels' fiery 19-18 upset win over Brisbane was the perfect start for newly-appointed Parramatta chairman Steve Sharp, who sees the A-League minor premiers as a potential ally rather than a threat.
"Why would I fear the Wanderers?" Sharp says.
"We can use them to our advantage. They work the summer and we work the winter months.
"It's all about the Parramatta district and I'm sure we can co-exist without any problems at all."
Eels legend Nathan Hindmarsh was an enthusiastic spectator at both the Parramatta and Penrith wins.
"They say that when the west is going well, rugby league is going well and it's great to see the west fighting back after such a poor start to the year," Hindmarsh says.
"The Eels are hitting form and the crowd at Penrith went off – the atmosphere was great."
Bulldogs skipper Michael Ennis is fully aware the NRL must not take its eye off the ball in western Sydney.
"It is footy heartland and a growth area, and it is our backyard," Ennis says.
"The fans have done it tough and it's good to be able to give them a lift."
Read the full article in RLW this week.
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