Parramatta fan favourite Maika Sivo has been given free reign with Eels coach Brad Arthur telling his star winger: “Don’t just stay there waiting for the ball — go and find it.”
Parramatta diehard David Bell couldn’t believe his luck when Maika Sivo’s uncle knocked on the front door of his Central Coast home.
Support worker Saki Veitogavi arrived for his first day with Bell two weeks ago and immediately spotted an Eels tattoo on the 54-year-old’s head.
“We got talking, he’s a Parra supporter, too, then he told me he’s Sivo’s uncle and I freaked, and we just clicked,” Bell said.
The pair quickly bonded over their love for Parramatta and Veitogavi learnt just how much the club meant to his new friend.
Bell has decorated his house with Eels paraphernalia – from framed signed photographs to Eels stationary and bed linen – and never misses a game.
Whatever life throws at Bell – and he’s been thrown a lot – if Parramatta gets up, he’s a happy man.
“I’ve got an amputation to my right leg, my intestines are sitting between the inner wall and outer wall of my stomach, I’ve got a massive surgical hernia, I’ve got lung problems, circulation problems, blood clots in my leg, a disease around my spine,” Bell said.
“And there’s the mental health side of it, when you’re so sick, it drags you down, the only things that keep me going is my daughter, Crystal, and Parramatta.”
Moved by Bell’s story, Veitogavi phoned up the Eels to ask if they had two spare tickets to Friday night’s clash against the Cowboys at Bankwest Stadium.
The club was more than happy to help.
Bell burst into tears when he was told he’d be attending the game.
“I can’t believe this is happening, I love my Eels, I’ve been following them since I was four-years-old,” Bell said.
“I want to see them win a grand final before I die, because I’m really sick, they deserve to win a grand final, those boys have had it tough for a long time.”
When things get tough, Bell draws inspiration from his favourite Eel – Sivo.
“He had it rough, he came from a small village, now he’s made his people and family proud,” Bell said.
“He’s unreal, when he does over for a try, I start laughing and going off my nut, he just runs straight over the top of them sometimes.”
Veitogavi said his family is immensely proud of what Sivo has achieved in the NRL so far and that he can’t wait to watch his nephew in action on Friday night.
“Maika, I am so proud of him for his achievement, his dedication, for what he is doing for the family. becoming the player he is,” Veitogavi said.
“That chiefly warrior instinct that Maika has, it encourages Dave through whatever pain and suffering that he’s going through.”
Even as a kid, Veitogavi said Sivo was quiet and tough.
“I remember one day we were watching him play, and you know when you hit the floor, instead of a normal kid crying, he didn’t cry. He just hit the floor and kept on going” Veitogavi said.
On Friday night, the support worker will drive Bell almost 200km from The Entrance to Bankwest Stadium, to cheer on Parramatta with his new friend.
“Hearing Dave talk about the Eels, in this trade you care for people, you have to go the extra mile to show them much love” Veitogavi said.
Sivo the ball magnet
Parramatta fan favourite Maika Sivo has been given free reign to thrill on Friday night with Eels coach Brad Arthur telling his star winger: “Don’t just stay there waiting for the ball — go and find it.”
Arthur’s urging comes as Sivo prepares to light up Bankwest Stadium as tens of thousands of NSW rugby league fans are permitted back inside NRL stadiums this weekend after a 110-day COVID ban.
While ground capacities are set at 25 per cent, the fans, atmosphere and roar are finally coming back to rugby league.
Eels fans have promised to kick start the now famous ‘Sivo, Sivo’ chant when the Fijian flyer first touches the ball during Friday’s night match against North Queensland. Parramatta has an extraordinary record at Bankwest, winning 13 of 16 games.
Around 7000 to 7500 fans are expected to attend the match to watch their table-topping side, led by crowd pleaser Sivo, who has scored 15 tries in 16 games, the most of any player at Bankwest Stadium.
Few will forget Sivo’s round six try when he trampled over Sydney Rooster superstar James Tedesco.
“Maika is hard to handle so we need to get the ball in his hands. If the ball doesn’t come his way, he’s got to go and find it. He has to put himself in the game,” Arthur said.
“If they don’t kick to his side of the field, go over the other side of the field and get it. Don’t just stay there waiting for the ball to come to you. Go and find it and help the forwards, especially out of the back field.
“Then, when we can, we will try and put him in a position to finish off a movement at the back-end of a shift. We will try and find ways to bring him into the game.
“‘Jenko’ (centre Michael Jennings) is really good for him because he talks to Maika all the time about finding ways to go and get the ball. That will also come with more experience.
“I’m sure he feeds off it (Sivo chant) and it gives him that extra bit of confidence and a boost. I’m sure it helps. And he will get better. He’s a really good learner and a quick learner.
“The fans like him because he runs hard and he’s a threat every time he gets the ball. He’s hard to handle with the ball and the fans get off the back of that.”
It will be the first time Parramatta has played without injured halfback Mitch Moses since round 16, 2018. He had played 41 straight games.
Moses has actually played 71 of the past 73 games for Parramatta dating back to round 11, since 2017. Of those 71 games, Parramatta has won 37 and lost 34.