Parramatta entered the competition in 1947.
It took 34 years for them to lift their first Premiership in 1981.
Three more titles quickly followed but Saturday night’s defeat to the South Sydney Rabbittohs ensured that the wait for a fifth Premiership would extend into a 35th season.
Here are five innovations that Parramatta (or any team) can adopt to guarantee that their Premiership drought doesn’t extend to a 36th year.
But first a disclaimer. I have never played or coached the game at the top level. Or any level. I have though sat through 34 years of disappointment and heartbreak.
1. Put on a push at every scrum
There is very little consensus in the rugby league community, in fact it is a sport that appears to thrive on discord, but few would disagree that the scrum, as it currently stands is an embarrassing joke.
Parents would be justified in guiding their kids toward the rugby union-field rather than have their loved ones participate in this huddled farce.
When a scrum is packed these days, heads are down only to hide their faces in shame. In a game that prides itself on its physicality, the scrum is a confusing outlier.
Now, if opposition packs approach a scrum knowing that 130 kilos of Junior Paulo will be bearing down on them, teams will be forced to adopt new tactics. The scrum will transform from being a set piece to take players out of the game into a genuine battle again.
If the game’s administrators want more attacking space on the field, then make the field bigger or reduce the number of players. In the meantime, Parramatta must bring back the push. At every single scrum.
They may not win more ball against the feed, but they will be doing the game a Junior Paulo-sized favour.
2. Kick short from every restart
From restarts, teams pump the ball down to the oppositions in goal area. A smaller player is entrusted to make the catch and offload to a hard-running forward who usually gets thumped on or around the ten metre line.
Parramatta must adopt the short kick off at every 50-metre restart. They should kick high and aim to have the ball come down around the oppositions 30-35 metre mark.
Currently, short kick-offs are a 50-50 proposition (not based on any actual statistics but it does feel that way). By practising both the kick and the kick reception, and by stacking the landing area with the right sized players, that made up percentage of 50 per cent could rise to as high as a 70 per cent success rate.
The downside, which is only a 30 per cent chance of occurring, is that the opposition start their set on their own 35 metre line, an advantage of only 25 metres over the usual kick-off with zero chance of getting the ball back.
3. Kick for touch at drop outs
The usual goal-line dropout has evolved in length since Parramatta’s last premiership, but it is an evolution that has advanced in the wrong direction.
Goal-line dropouts today can sometimes go 60 metres, with the player returning the ball tackled around the opposition’s 40 metre mark.
The only variation at the moment is when a team is behind on the scoreboard and with the minutes winding down the goal-line drop out is the short, high kick to a wing. Both approaches are wrong. Parramatta should be punching every goal-line dropout low and hard looking to cut the sideline wherever it is unguarded by an opposing player but somewhere around the 20 to 30 metre line.
Our ears have grown numb at the sounds of commentators describing how unpredictable the bounce of the rugby league ball can be, Parramatta should be using that to their advantage.
Worst case scenario the ball is trapped and fell upon somewhere around the 20-metre line, a difference of only 20 metres to the current state of play with a much-improved chance of getting the ball back.
It’s not an easy kick to perfect but that is what off seasons are for.
4. Aim for one offload in every set
Nothing creates running metres and forward momentum like an offload. In Saturday’s night match the Eels had 30 completed sets of six and only 12 offloads. That is nowhere enough.
They should be aiming for one offload in every set of six, targeting a game stat of between 30 and 40 offloads. This aggressive offload policy will also change how defences attempt to tackle which may lead to more players committing to the tackle, creating more holes in the defensive line, or more focus on securing the ball which may lead to more tackle busts.
5. Go wide early
How often do you see a side pick up a ball on their own goal-line then get hammered by an aggressive defence, running one off the ruck for five tackles and kicking from inside their own 20 metre line?
There is a dangerous misconception in rugby league coaching circles that making more than one pass inside your own 20 metres is more difficult than making the same passes on your opposition’s 20 metre line.
It is not. The difficulty is the same. It is exactly the same.
It is passing a ball and catching a ball. I concede that the potential impact of dropping a ball on your own 20 metres is greater, but the risk of dropping it is not.
However, the upside is so much greater. There is always so much more space out wide, easy metres waiting to be gobbled up by eager legs. Go wide, Parramatta, and go wide early!
Will any of it actually work? I am not sure, but not much has in the last 34 years.
Oh and one more thing. When you get a penalty right in front, punch it over the black dot for Parramatta Jesus’ sake.