Parramatta fans have paid tribute to Nathan Peats for his selfless departure which has paved the way for the club to begin its difficult march towards the NRL top eight.
Just a day after Peats accepted a contract with Gold Coast, allowing the club to get under the salary cap, the blue and gold faithful rose to their feet as one to show their appreciation during their round 10 clash with South Sydney on Friday night.
The sold out Pirtek Stadium crowd stopped in the ninth minute – to signify the No.9 Peats has worn for the previous two-and-a-half seasons – for a minute-long round of applause.
With Peats’ deal and the retirement of Anthony Watmough due to injury opening the door for the embattled club to start playing for points again, emotions were running high in Sydney’s west for their first game since the salary cap crisis hit.
“It was a selfless act to be moved on and it’s something they won’t forget,” Eels great Peter Sterling said of Peats during his Nine Network commentary.
While the crowd united to praise Peats, with many banners in the stands paying tribute to him, there was a strong undercurrent of anger directed at the five Eels officials facing deregistration over the saga.
One sign which featured a cartoon of a man extending his middle finger read: “Hey, 5 muppets. From everyone here tonight.”
In a show of solidarity, several hundred Eels fans marched down Victoria Road from Prince Alfred Square to the ground.
Waving flags and brandishing placards, many called for the three board members, chief executive John Boulous and football director Daniel Anderson to stand down.
“What they have done is wrong and they should stand down,” said fan Simon Grujoski.