Canterbury-Bankstown and Parramatta, both from the heartland of Western Sydney, both make up the folklore of rugby league, but both are still bitter rivals.
This Sunday, the Bulldogs play host to the Eels at ANZ Stadium, renewing one of the great rivalries in rugby league.
Less than 20 km separates the district of Canterbury-Bankstown and Parramatta, many Bulldogs supporters living in Parramatta and a large number of Eels supporters residing in and around Canterbury-Bankstown. Supporters from both sides share similar cultural backgrounds and are often best mates.
However, the bitter distaste for their cross-city rivals has allowed the Bulldogs and Eels faithful to continue their fight for West Sydney supremacy.
“The boys and the club itself are pretty pumped for the game, it’s always a good game between the two clubs. There’s a bit of history going back there, so it should be a good game and a big crowd turning up,” said Dogs centre Tim Lafai.
The Bulldogs first grade squad has a large number of Parramatta juniors that represent them, including Tim Lafai, Trent Hodkinson, Krisnan Inu, David Klemmer and Tony Williams.
Inu and Williams have also both played at the top level for their junior club, Inu made 78 appearances for the Eels between 2007 and 2010 while Williams played 11 matches for them in 2008.
In the interesting cases of best mates Reni Maitua and Willie Tonga, both players debuted for the Bulldogs against Parramatta in Round 1, 2004.
Maitua eventually made 53 appearances for the Eels between 2011 and 2013 and then returned to Belmore this year. Tonga on the other hand debuted for Parramatta back in 2002 before joining the Dogs in 2004 and winning a premiership alongside Maitua. Tonga then re-joined Parramatta in 2012.
Through history, the Eels and Bulldogs have shared a strong rivalry. This was mainly highlighted in the mid 1980s before being re-invented in the late 2000s.
Parramatta even called Belmore Sports Ground home while their stadium was being renovated. Between 1982 and 1985, the Bulldogs allowed their rivals to use their field as their home ground.
Canterbury defeated Parramatta in the major semi-final of 1984 (16-8), and then they met again in the Grand Final where the Dogs won 6-4 to take their 4th title.
Trying to defend their title as Premiers, the Bulldogs finished 3rd in the regular season of 1985. They turned it around in the finals to take their 5th title, beating St George 7-6 in the Grand Final.
The next year, both sides were back again for the 1986 Grand Final. After back-to-back titles in 84 and 85, Parra finally grabbed one with a 4-2 victory over the blue and white.
In 2009, both the Eels and Bulldogs enjoyed successful years following the Dally M Medal winning form of Jarryd Hayne and the new look Dogs side with Michael Ennis, Josh Morris, Frank Prtichard and Ben Hannant. The two sides had good regular season match-ups before they played a Preliminary Final in front of 74,549 fans at ANZ Stadium. The Eels won 22-12 before losing the Grand Final to Melbourne Storm.
Canterbury players are aware of what this game means to rugby league fans in the Western Suburbs, and believes his side has a lot to play for.
“They had a bit of a competition at the start of the year with the members drive. They got us there so hopefully we can get them on the field. It’s going to be a tough one so should be good,” said Bulldogs winger Mitch Brown.
Both clubs embarked on a Membership Race at the start of this year. The first club to reach 20,000 members had to raise the flag of the winning club at their respective club headquarters.
Parramatta were lucky winners this year, reaching 20,000 before the Bulldogs and so the Eels flag flew high at Belmore Sports Ground for a week much to the delight of Parra fans in the area.