NRL 2020: Nathan Hindmarsh opens up on the Eels worrying record against Melbourne Storm
Nathan Hindmarsh owns dozens of them.
Like that time Scotty Hill swatted him away to score.
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“Oh, massive fend,” Hindy laughs of the old Storm No.6. “Right into my chest”.
Right on fulltime, too.
And for a try that gave Melbourne the game.
Just as the Storm rallied so famously against Hindmarsh and his Parramatta Eels in the 1999 grand final qualifier.
Down 16-6 at halftime. Up by two at the finish.
Within a week, Melbourne also winning themselves a premiership.
“Which isn’t to say we would’ve gone all the way too,” Hindmarsh says.
“But yeah, that one was a bitter pill to swallow.”
Same deal in 2007, when the Storm won a second grand final qualifier against the Eels.
While in 2009, well, that year they waited until the decider.
Which was heartbreaking, sure.
Yet still, it continued.
A run of outs so bad, Hindy couldn’t even punch Storm No.9 Nathan Friend in the head.
“Tried, but missed,” he laughs. “And did all the ligaments in my wrist”.
Truly, the bloke could rattle on like this for hours.
Which makes for tough listening.
Yet given his standing as Parramatta’s most capped player ever, who better than Hindmarsh to walk us through one of the most worrying hoodoos in Australian sport?
Put simply, Parramatta lose more often to Melbourne than any other team in the NRL.
Which is no small thing considering, against arch rivals Manly, the Eels win at just 38 per cent.
Or in Brisbane clashes, 41 per cent.
But against Melbourne?
It’s a case of Parramatta Jesus wept.
With those number crunchers inside the Fox Sports Laboratory revealing the Eels have lost 23 of 36 contests against Storm, for a stunning failure rate of 64 per cent.
“And so many,” says Hindmarsh, “coming at the season’s pointy end.”
Which brings us now to Thursday Night Football.
With Parramatta, currently third on the NRL ladder, once again facing that purple voodoo doll positioned two competition points higher.
Which is why this contest, it matters.
Not only for Parramatta’s hopes of staying within reach of the minor premiership.
Or proving that despite being upset by St George Illawarra last start, and scraping home against Canterbury and Cronulla before that, this outfit remains every inch the Real Deal Holyfield when it comes to this year’s title race.
No, this match for the Eels, it’s all about Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead.
Or something like that.
For if not now against Storm, when?
Especially with Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy using phrases like “M*A*S*H Unit” for a side whose injury count includes Cameron Smith, Cameron Munster, Dale Finucane, Paul Momirovski, Max King, Suliasi Vunivalu, Tui Kamikamica, Klinger, Radar and Hawkeye Pierce.
Elsewhere, halfback Jahrome Hughes is battling to overcome a groin injury while prop Jesse Bromwich will also miss the match through suspension.
So to lose this one?
Um, not great.
Again, just ask Hindmarsh.
A fella who knows, intimately, the impact such hoodoos can have.
Take that ‘09 decider he doesn’t want to remember.
A year where Melbourne not only cheated the salary cap in staggering numbers, but effectively rorted Hindy of that elusive NRL premiership ring.
Worse, it remains a night defining the Storm’s hold over Parramatta.
Even in a year where the Eels morphed into that runaway juggernaut which — led by mercurial No.1 Jarryd Hayne — won 10 of 11 games on the way to creating what remains the greatest ever push to an NRL grand final.
“And right throughout the playoffs I was totally confident in every game,” Hindmarsh recalls.
“There wasn’t one side where I thought ‘oh, this is going to be tough’.”
But then, they reached the decider.
“And I felt a change,” Hindmarsh concedes. “A change in the way we approached the game and a change in the way we played it.”
“I don’t want to speak on behalf of anyone else,” he says. “But personally, yes.
“Even after going through the finals beating everyone – St George Illawarra, Gold Coast, the Bulldogs — it was suddenly a case of ‘oh, s**t we’ve got Melbourne’.
“I know I tightened up a bit.”
“I just can’t remember beating them too often,” he says honestly.
“It’s funny, too, because whenever we played Melbourne throughout those years, they were usually good contests.
“And between the two teams, I actually think we developed a decent rivalry.
“But so often, they seemed to get us.
“As a side, Melbourne never got flustered.
“Even when their backs were against the wall, when all these things would be going against them, they never got rattled.
“Instead they stayed calm, took opportunities when they came.
“They were always tough contests, too. Games with plenty of spite.”
Care to elaborate?
“I remember them ripping the pec off Nathan Cayless in a semi-final,” Hindmarsh says.
“That didn’t sit too well with us.
“Billy Slater, too, he would mouth off at you, rub your face in the ground and then piss off back to fullback
“(Laughs) He was a real p***k for it.
“So we’d often go out of our way to get Billy. And sometimes you got him, sometimes you didn’t.”
Yet if trying to collar Billy the Kid was somewhat punishing, you have to reckon nothing hurt Hindy more than that ‘09 loss.
Especially given the Eels were beaten by an outfit with salary cap rorts so staggering, the NRL would eventually strip them of not one title, but two.
Indeed, if rugby league were run like, say, the Olympics, Parramatta would not only have been crowned champions by now, but Hindmarsh would have that NRL jewellery equivalent of a gold medal.
Which would maybe help a little, right?
“Nah, you can’t win a grand final like that,” the now Fox League regular concedes.
“Has to be won on the day.
“The camaraderie you build throughout a season, the things you work towards, it’s all for the moment.
“That’s what you want.
“It isn’t about having a grand final win next to your name. It’s all about having that moment as the final siren sounds.
“That would have to be the greatest moment in the world I reckon.”
So no problems with those Storm teams having premiership reunions?
“I know in the record books it’s been taken from them,” Hindmarsh says.
“But they won that day.
“Won all the games they had to that year.
“And, yeah, that may have been because they were over the salary cap. But those players still had to play well when it mattered – and they did.”
Which for Hindmarsh, continued what would eventually be 15 years of Storm heartache.
But you want to know a secret?
Against Melbourne, this old Eels favourite has still come out on top.
“Yeah, Bonnie’s from Melbourne,” Hindmarsh says, referencing his wife and mother to the couple’s four children, Archie, Buster, Rowdie and Dodge.
“She wasn’t down there long I don’t think. Moved north fairly early on.
“But yes, when it comes to Melbourne you can definitely say I’ve got one over them.”
Originally published as ‘Oh s***, we’ve got Melbourne’: Inside Storm’s hold over Eels