Eels' colours fly in enemy territory

For Canterbury fans, it is the ultimate indignity. Seeing the Parramatta flag flying atop the flagpole at Belmore Oval.

"It's somewhat career limiting," said Bulldogs chief executive Raelene Castle.

It is a sight they will need to get used to over the next week after the Eels pipped them in the race to the 15,000 membership mark.

The two clubs are attempting to increase their membership base and are engaged in a race to the 20,000 mark.

The blue and golds have surged ahead and, in doing so, have won a friendly bet, which has resulted in their colours being draped in enemy territory.

It is the clubs' way of engaging fans and working towards the NRL's objective of securing 400,000 members by 2017.

"We do need to do these things to push the membership message," Castle said.

"You're always looking at something to get the fans excited rather than just sending them yet another brochure or price discount. It's allowed us to come at it from a marketing perspective."

There have been lean times on the field but the Eels will accept any victory gratefully, particularly against one of their fiercest rivals.

"It's a nice win," Eels chief executive Scott Seward said. "If you ask a Canterbury supporter, they want to beat Parramatta and Parramatta want to beat Canterbury.

"Doesn't matter if we're coming first or last. We play them in a few weeks' time and it's nice to get one up on them. It shows it doesn't just come down to the 17 players on the field, it's also about the fan base."

Seward hopes the Eels will be pushing the 40,000 member mark by 2017, a total that would exceed the capacity of Pirtek Stadium.

"We will need some more seats in the stadium," Seward said.

"It's also making sure the balance is right between game day and non-game day. You don't have to go to 12 home games to be a member. You could go to two or three – or you don't have to go at all.

"You can be a member in Brisbane, we've got 200 members in the Territory. You don't have to make that commitment to go but still belong."

South Sydney remain the frontrunner for membership of Sydney clubs but both the Eels and Bulldogs hope to be challenging them in future seasons.

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