300 in the Blue & Gold for Hindmarsh
Nathan “Hindy” Hindmarsh will join an elite list of Rugby League greats this Saturday when the 41-time Test star and Eels captain dons the blue and gold Parramatta jersey for the 300th time.
Already having broken the record for most First Grade games played with the Eels, when Hindmarsh lines up with Parra against the Panthers at Centrebet Stadium on Saturday night, he will become just the seventh player in history to see out a triple century at the one club and the 16th to reach the milestone in the NRL.
“It is a proud moment,” Hindmarsh said.
“I guess your first goal is to play one game and then a couple of seasons but to make 300 is a proud milestone and to do it at one club is even more special.”
Brisbane Broncos soon-to-retire skipper Darren Lockyer holds the record for most games with the one club on 345.
With player loyalty seemingly a thing of Rugby League’s bygone era, the current NRL salary cap making it tough for competitors to see out an entire career with the one outfit, Hindmarsh has made himself indispensable to the Eels over the past 14 years.
Having only once briefly considered a move a couple of years ago, Hindmarsh said he has never really been tempted to leave the Eels.
“It’s pretty much always blue and gold for me,” he said.
“Until a couple of years ago I’d only had the one offer.
“Parramatta gave me the opportunity.
“They’re a great club with great tradition and their supporters are awesome, so I really didn’t need to go anywhere else.”
Despite being admittedly proud to have played for the one club for so long, Hindmarsh also said he didn’t begrudge the modern NRL where teams are under constant salary cup pressure and players are often forced to ‘chase the dollar’ and switch clubs.
“Rugby League doesn’t last forever,” he said.
“You have to make hay while the sun shines.
“If that means chasing money to go to another club, I’m all for it.
“You’ll see players chop and change all the time.”
Debuting for Parra back in 1998, the now 31-year-old Hindmarsh has racked up a stack of impressive NRL stats, including the lesser-talked about 58 tries the warhorse has scored over the years.
His first ever game in the NRL was against Adelaide in Parkes, and the legend has come a long way since the nervous young lad that stepped out in the black boots back them.
“I was nervous as hell,” Hindmarsh said when reminiscing about his NRL debut.
“I can’t remember much about the game but all I can remember was I was nervous because I took someone’s spot in the team.
“It was a toss-up between me and Dallas Weston and Brian Smith gave me a crack and my first thought was ‘I hope Dallas is not upset with me.’”
Hindmarsh also has a mountain of NRL records to his name including holding the equal world record with Shaun Fensom for the most tackles in a single Rugby League game, Hindy making an incredible 75 tackles in Round 23 of the 2007 NRL season against the Melbourne Storm.
Having settled into more of a defensive role for Parramatta in recent seasons, Hindmarsh is thought to be the first League player in history to chalk up 10,000 tackles.
He is also no stranger from the Rugby League Test arena having represented Australia 23 times, lined up for the New South Wales Blues 17 times and stared in the 2008 Country Origin Test.
There is a vast amount of respect for Hindmarsh throughout the NRL community, so much so that Penrith back-rower Luke Lewis tips the Penrith fans on Saturday night to give Hindy a standing ovation for his milestone match.
“I think it’s a great achievement for Hindy,” Lewis said.
“I’m sure he’d like to bring up 300 games at Parramatta, but I think people here will give him a standing ovation the way he has played them.
“Hopefully the crowd turns out to support us, we get the win and Hindy walks off having played well.”
Saturday’s NRL Round 19 local derby is a must-win for both the Eels and the Panthers.
With just eight matches left to play out in the regular NRL Telstra Premiership season, it is becoming an arm-wrestle to sneak into the Top 8 and progress onto the semis.
There is a huge points-buffer between the top five teams on the NRL Ladder and the remaining 11 clubs fighting for their spot in the finals.
Melbourne Storm are leading the way on 30 points followed by the Sea Eagles (28), Dragons (27), Cowboys (26) and Broncos (26).
There is then a big drop with the Warriors and Knights equal on 20.
The Eels, after a disappointing season that has produced just five wins, are 13th on the ladder with 15 points.
Penrith are right on the border, sitting eighth on the table with 18 points, but followed closely by the Wests Tigers, Sharks and Bulldogs who are all tied on 18 also.
Hindmarsh, who said he is likely to play on for another season or two, concedes that with the Eels last Premiership win being way back in 1986 he does fear he may miss out on celebrating a Grand Final win with his club.
He has twice played in the defeated NRL Grand Final team, the Eels runners-up to Newcastle Knights in 2001 and the controversial 2009 Premiership loss to the Melbourne Storm.
“I know I’m running out of time,” Hindmarsh said.
“I think we’re building a really good side at Parramatta.
“Steve (Kearney – Coach) has done a good job, we’ve done a good job of recruiting, so if it doesn’t happen this year we’ll have a nice strong side going into 2012.
“Every win will help lift us, and with wins you get confidence.
“That’s why this week is an important game for us, and if we can go back to back we’ll lift again.”