The Cumberland Throw

The Tip Sheet – Episode 5: Bernie Gurr, CEO (2017)

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Episode 5 of The Tip Sheet is here and it is our biggest one yet! In this installment the Cumberland Throw sit down with Parramatta Eels’ CEO Bernie Gurr in our most in-depth and exhaustive interview to date. Gurr and TCT begin by diving into the administrative side of the Eels but a slew of broader discussion points are covered in this mammoth sit-down chat.

Major topics that Sixties, Mitch and Chris throw the way of the Parramatta CEO include:

  • Parramatta’s pursuit for a major sponsor.
  • How the club has approached creating the 2018 jersey.
  • Steps taken to improve the game day experience for fans in 2017.
  • NRL scheduling and the problems there-in that face Sydney NRL clubs.
  • Can the NRL learn anything from the American sports market?
  • The future of our Northern Territory deal and the idea of taking home games to rural centres or interstate.
  • What lies in the future for the Old Salesyard training facility.
  • Brad Arthur
  • Should the NRL implement greater concessions for juniors?
  • Did the Eels over-achieve in 2017 and the impact of injuries on our 2017 campaign.
  • How the proposed football operations cap will impact the Eels and the NRL.


Bernie Gurr answers with the insight and poise that you would expect and provides a gripping look into the multi-faceted role that is the Chief Executive Officer of the Parramatta Eels. Gurr’s look into the wider Sydney NRL landscape is a truly fascinating listen in and of itself and it serves to highlight both the weaknesses and strengths of the crowded Sydney NRL market while also touching on its rich history.

It might take a while to digest it all given it is essentially a double episode of The Tip Sheet but we hope you thoroughly enjoy this installment.

As always we are hugely appreciative of the time given up by our interviewee – doubly so this time around given how many questions Bernie Gurr fielded.

If you liked this article, you might consider supporting The Cumberland Throw.

93 thoughts on “The Tip Sheet – Episode 5: Bernie Gurr, CEO (2017)

  1. Trouser Eel

    Great interview. As you’d expect with someone in such an important role, Bernie thinks deeply about where the club sits in the NRL and Western Sydney landscape. It was really telling to hear how he answered many of the questions. If I wasn’t already, I’d be ready to invest after hearing that interview.
    I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, the TCT team have connections in high places. It seems Bernie must also have connections – to get 3 of the big 4 TCT guys out for the one interview!

    1. mitch

      Ha one of your best. We were actually the four strong – Poor Forty couldn’t speak due to illness.

      We just thought it was great to get in a room with him, let alone him being so open and honest with our question, and for a full hour!

    2. sixties

      Thanks mate. Yes he got 4 of the 5 originals, but like everything with TCT it’s a team effort.
      DK, Clint, Colmac, Nathan and our friends of the Throw help make the site tick. Who knows, we might need to expand our team soon!

  2. Skippy Nonna

    Thanks TCT what a great interview, I think you blokes should be in the media , you definitely ask more pertinent questions.

    1. mitch

      I should add, huge credit to Sixties for culminating and organising all our questions, and for teeing up the interview in the first place. He’s a huge talent, that Sixties.

      I often think that we’re very fortunate to have such a diverse spread of talent across the four blokes (you would have heard Chris’ voice, but Forty was the silent party in the corner) who sat down with Bernie yesterday.

        1. sixties

          And our two suited up TCT boys brought some class. Should add that Forty’s technical work and post preambles have been tremendous in every Tip Sheet interview.

  3. The Crow

    Earlier in the year I email Bernie about something and got a detailed response then next day (a Sunday morning!). He’s alright with me. He has been a great addition to the club and his legacy will be an extremely strong and successful Parramatta Eels. Great interview. Well done!

    1. sixties

      Can I just second that Crow. From the moment he started at Parra, Bernie has made it his mission to give his time to the supporters. We’ve seen him everywhere from NRL matches, Junior rep trials and everything in between. It’s impressive stuff for a man whose workload extends far beyond just footy.

      1. Joe Briffa

        Again you all did an unbelievable job.No matter the game as you said Sixties we see him there and he spends time talking to us and answers almost all the questions asked of him and he never brushes us off. Keep up the good work boys and oh yeah come on forty get well soon, see you all soon boys.

  4. Achilles' Eel

    I find most administrators tedious. However Bernie is a different kettle of fish. He is a visionary and such a pleasure to listen to. It’s a shame that the NRL hasn’t made better use of his expertise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that he is with us and steering the Good Ship Parramatta back on course; but a healthy governing body is of benefit to all – ourselves included.

    1. mitch

      It certainly wasn’t a bombshell, Daily Mail-esque scandalous interview, but I’ve always found Bernie a very easy listen (particularly for an administrator!), and it was no different yesterday. Helps that he oozes interest in the game and players, too.

      1. Achilles' Eel

        I love those crazy, brash and charismatic bastards. They are very entertaining – provided they don’t seek to form cults. Yet the knowledgeable, too, are very entertaining and not just informative. They have helped to build the world – though some among them will obsess in running it to the ground. Our game can do with great thinkers. Perhaps Bernie can throw his hat into the ring.

    1. mitch

      Completely agree – Forty and Sixties did an equally brilliant job with the football staff.

      Credit too has got to go to each of the 5 blokes we’ve interviewed for giving up their time.

  5. Mitchy

    Thanks fellas; just had a tune in this wkend and v pleasing and Bernie speaks with such clarity and purpose. You actually come away learning something if that sounds right unlike some in the nrl who give lip service answers. Like Achilles said i am glad he’s with us but gee he’d have the nrl in good shape too if he was in charge.

  6. Matt

    Great interview guys.
    Very refreshing hearing from such a great leader..
    Did He happen to say if we are close to signing a major sponsor?

  7. John Eel

    I enjoyed the previous 4 interviews but this one topped it for me. His subject knowledge and understanding of what drives the business is outstanding. He is very tactical in his answers and very rarely does he not answer the question directly. The other thing that I like is that he couches his answers with background to enable us to understand where the answer is coming from.

    The TCT team did a great job with the questions and format. Hope there will be more of this to come. As always, keep up the good work

    1. mitch

      Thanks mate – like I’ve said above, it was a pleasure to sit down with him. Very honest and generous with his time.

      We’ll see what interview we’re able to line up next.

  8. Rowdy

    Great interview TCT. Gee, imagine what Steve Sharp could have learned if he’d had the benefit of a CEO like Bernie to help him unravel the commercial nightmare he inherited?

    All jokes aside, I am a great believer in divine intervention and fortuitous timing. Both of the above gentlemen have played important roles in getting us out of the position we were in and conversely into the position we are now in.

    A point Bernie has made often is that it will take some time to manage our way into the manifestation of the goals we have set to become the premier Australian Sporting Brand.

    In recent history this process didn’t start with Bernie or even with Max Donnelly who appointed him. It started with a groundswell of support for change, motivated by frustration with the incumbent factionalism that was killing our club. When everybody involved in our club that was no longer rusted on to a faction rose up, we got a Club Chairman in Steve Sharp who was pushed forward by the Emporer (to his own demise) and supported by enough of the opposing factions to be become his own man and in doing so he showed his love for Parra in steadfastly supporting BA another man whom he new was also “all about Parra”.

    From Sharp came BA, who was followed by Max who appointed Bernie.

    Go Parra, we are finally in good hands!

  9. Parramatta Tragic

    A great interview. Any news agency would be proud to produce an interview of that quality. No BS about Bernie. He has a clear idea of where we have been and where we are going. The club is in excellent hands with the current administration and coaching staff. Bernie seems to have all the priorities in the right order going forward and conducts himself in a quiet but confident manner, like all great leaders. I sniff a wonderful next ten years (and beyond) coming up for Parramatta and I like his ideas on the new jersey being linked to our history/heritage and Ken Thornett in particular. I also hope we have white shorts in 2018, not just as a throw back to our original kit but the two teams that have won more premierships than all other teams, Souths and St George, have won all their premierships wearing white shorts (time to get with the strength). Again, a fabulous interview and congratulations to everyone involved

    1. sixties

      Agree mate, and thanks for the kind words. The thing about Bernie is that he has the business/corporate acumen coupled with the footy knowledge and passion. Perfect combination for a club’s CEO.

    2. mitch

      Thanks mate. This feels like this should sound more ridiculous, but I wouldn’t trade him or BA for any other person in their respective positions, anywhere in the world.

    3. Mitchy

      Well said PT; I’m a traditionalist like Bernie and to me the style of gurnsey would be superb. Others who don’t like it well its all about opinions.
      When Bernie spoke he rattled off so well the items involved in the club and his knowledge and business smarts shines through more than many….makes you v happy considering where we were in the past and I mean going back to the era before Spags etc……

  10. Adam

    Congratulations TCT on a great interview. Bernie’s insight and wisdom, coupled with his rugby league knowledge is plainly evident. Im so glad he’s at the helm.

    Boys, thank you for the interviews this year. Your passion for this great club makes me proud to be an Eel. Well done boys for everything.

  11. Clint

    Gents, what a fantastic interview! Congrats on organising and putting this together! Moreover, what tremendous insight this gives to the wider Eels supporter base about the inner workings of our club and the man at the helm.

    I think the biggest point Bernie shared was on what he believes to be our core business (and the arms that play the biggest role in achieving the outcomes of our core business). The fact that he was able to communicate this so clearly and go into depth on why he believes this is the case, is evident of a man who not only knows the assignment of being Eels CEO, but someone who is invested in doing as such. In short – the Eels club is in the best hands it could possibly be in at the moment.

    As someone who has worked for many, many years in the Australian sporting industry and has a Sports Management degree, it is incredibly refreshing to hear a CEO speak to the nature of the Australian sports market and rugby league market (particularly in Sydney) with the level and depth of knowledge that we expect to hear at an executive level, but seldom do in a public realm.

    A large part of the reason why Eels supporters have been disenfranchised with the running of their club over the last decade or so (and rugby league as a sport in general) has had to do with what they feel is a lack of transparency – a non communication of macro and micro level objectives to the wider supporter base. Educating supporters of clubs (and rugby league and sport in general in Australia) on the economic, governance, political (and geopolitical) challenges the club and sport face does one very important thing – it creates context – and that’s what supporters want. They don’t expect a seat at the round table, just to understand why leaders come to a certain decision on any given point of discussion and to understand the options available when coming to any given decision.

    There are limitations that exist in any sporting market, but I, like I’m sure many Eels supporters, feel that with Bernie Gurr as our CEO, we have a man heavily invested in the outcomes of our club and rugby league and he does so while navigating the minefield that is the National Rugby League set up (and Australian sporting market). He has communicated that in every interview he has given to date and done so again here. The man beams congruency and it’s because he’s open, honest and creates context while educating the supporters about things they otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of. Kudos to my fellow TCT members for creating this opportunity for our supporters to hear Bernie’s insights and kudos to Bernie for being so open and being the leader the Parramatta Eels needs. We are moving places Eels fans.

      1. sixties

        I think what we just had there was a bit of a preview of something Clint is working on. Many thanks for the comprehensive reply and analysis of the communication that Bernie has provided for Eels fans.

    1. mitch

      ha, there’s still a place in my heart for rumour forums. he was great to interview, told us beforehand that nothing was off limits.

    2. sixties

      Hi Macca, it’s because we don’t compete with forums that a site like TCT can share the Eels social media market with forums. Really appreciate your support.

  12. Trapped in the 1970's

    Thanks lads for your efforts in putting that interview together, it was pure quality.

    How reassuring it is to have such an articulate well credentialed businessman at the helm such as Bernie. It goes without saying that the club has to be financially secure to be successful on the field and vice versa for that matter and to achieve both is no easy feat, but the way he explains where the club is at and the path ahead which is being approached in an ordered and professional manner was outstanding.

    It was interesting to note how many times he mentioned the Broncos as an exception to the other 15 clubs and I can’t but wonder whether his thoughts on making TPA’s apart of the salary cap and publishing players salaries might be an attempt to dilute some of their advantage.

    I loved hearing that future jerseys will have some heritage link and for me the blue and hooped version (with white shorts as with Tragic) was the best strip in my opinion.

    Also the way he spoke about Semi was so professional. No hysteria about who he’d be replaced with, whether he’d come back….just thanks for his excellent service as a player while acknowledging and reinforcing Semi’s own affection for the club.

    I also liked the way he spoke about not having a major sponsor. Seriously who would have wanted to be associated with the basket case eels of 2016 in 2017. But that all changes with a solid management team, success on the field and the other KPI’s he mentioned so no need to panic at all.

    To think that this has all happened in a year or so is amazing.

    Thanks again to the TCT team for providing the conduit to hear from key personnel that ordinary run of the mill supporters wouldn’t normally have access to.


    1. mitch

      thanks for your support mate. there’s been plenty of hard work put in to get it to the point where the CEO felt comfortable enough to sit down with us.

      it was a terrific experience, and we’re really happy with the product.

      still, there’s plenty more to come.

    2. sixties

      Cheers Trapped. I’m very pleased with Bernie’s embrace of what the club needs to do to be relevant in the modern sports/entertainment market, as well as the importance he places on honouring our football traditions.

  13. Kramerica

    Great interview – I don’t really know what to say because you fellas covered absolutely everything. The 50 odd minutes felt like 10 !!
    Thanks for all your efforts lads – it’s really appreciated by the fans.
    Feel The Bern 🙂

    1. sixties

      Thanks for taking the time to comment K Man. As Mitch said in an earlier response, we were free to question Bernie on any topic. Transparency!

  14. Manginina

    I have learned so much from these interviews conducted by TCT – I really knew so very

    little of the workings of the club – and I have supported the Eels for decades. The Club

    is in very competent and safe hands. Wow, how good is Bernie!

    Thanks TCT, I am also stoked with you all.

    1. sixties

      Thanks mate. Getting comments from fans like yourself, saying that the interviews are informative, really validates what we’re trying to do. We certainly are in good hands at many levels of the club.

  15. Chris

    Bernie came prepared with pages of notes. He takes every opportunity to communicate with the fans very seriously. I don’t think we have ever been in better hands right across leadership positions at the Eels.

    Personally, what I like the most is how Bernie and BA are instilling the same leadership qualities and football brand all the way from the 14’s development squad to the first team. Love that every player in the system knows how we play and what is required.

    Thanks everyone for your comments and support of TCT.

  16. Always a eel

    Grents well done , as you said mitch you both have great heads for radio ,kepp up the great work

  17. Sam

    I have to say thanks again guys, that was an incredibly informative and encouraging interview.

    I appreciate BG seems to have good knowledge of both macro & micro economics in the field of sports and entertainment. Pretty impressive sounding guy.

    2 things troubled me; market saturation for sponsorship – we “remain confident” but not concrete yet.

    The other; BG clearly knows there’s TPA rorts going on around the nrl but can’t do anything about it. I wish every ceo was as honest.

    Whos the TCT guy with the high youngish voice? Sounded like a young man amongst men! No offence!

    Interview maybe a player next or Todd Greenberg – but if u interview Toddy be prepared to ask some more pointed questions and for the subsequent dramatic walk out.

    Happy for parra though, wow what a great listen. Thank you all!

    1. sixties

      Thanks Sam – Well it’s not this old bloke that has a young sounding voice.
      The impressive thing about the club, and those coaching and administering, is the honesty.
      I look at the sponsorship this way.
      Parra has some market damage from 2016, but in the meantime it’s re-established it’s reputation on the field, whilst strengthening its role as a good community member. With the growth in Western Sydney, and Parra’s depth of support, I have confidence that a major sponsor will be found.

      1. John Eel

        Sixties your voice reminds me of a fellow I used to work with. The 2 voices are so alike it spooks me when I hear your voice.

        He is a Victorian and an Essendon supporter so unlikely you are related

  18. Gianni

    Absolutely fantastic Sterlo was on the money that’s for sure.Never have I seen our great club in better hands we will go from strength to strength over the next few years hopefully culminating in a premiership.
    A big Thankyou for all your work to all the Cumberland Throw guys you have taken it to a whole new level and I’m sure this is much appreciated by all the true Eels fans.

  19. Sam

    Not at all a jibe or a negative thought – just had the idea you guys were abit older is all.

    Great interview. Thank you all very much.

  20. Stacey

    Great interview boys. Bernie Gurr was born to run our club and I can finally say we are in safe hands fir our future

  21. Freddy Chalhoub

    Amazing interview. Honestly it blew me away to learn so much about not only the club but the game as a whole right from the bottom up. You would never get some much insight and knowledge of the game from Todd Greenberg nor would you get the honesty that Bernie Gurr demonstrated.

    Good to see the club is in the hands of a man of Bernie’s stature. I’m almost certain that the club is heading in the direction of a premiership. I’ve always been a believer, and I’ve been an nrl fan for as long as I can remember and I’m 42 yrs old now, that to win a premiership and to have a good quality team it’s starts from the top, down to your players.

    Go parra

    1. sixties

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Freddy. Bernie is an impressive bloke, and importantly, the decision makers at the club are all on the same page.
      I too have great confidence about our future.

  22. JonBoy

    Well done boys… I note you are being quoted on today! Even the big guns are turning to TCT for their stories now!

    1. sixties

      Thanks mate. We have a number of quality journos that follow our site and Chris Kennedy has done an outstanding job in summarising the topics covered in our interview.

    2. mitch

      a couple of really good journos have been very good to us. as Sixties said, Chris Kennedy is very good bloke (and well worth a read anytime he writes something)

  23. Jase Worthy

    I’ve supported The Eels for about 37 years yet only came across this site tonight. Great site. Thank you.

    What a great interview. I love listening to Burnie. He’s very intelligent, knows his business well and has been great for Parra. I love the changes and direction our club have taken. It feels great to have thst genuine belief and spark back. It’s great to be in the position we are after a lot of hard work. There have been a lot of tough times. It’s been hard being an Eels fan at times but a true fan never gives up. It’s a great feeling to feel that weight lift and see the bright light thats always been there for Parra. It’s exciting times. The future is eelectric. Greatest club in the world!

  24. Jase Worthy

    I should add that BA is the best coach we have had in many years. Hope he never leaves. Great for our club.

    1. sixties

      Welcome to TCT Jase. Please take some time to catch up with our posts and especially our Tip Sheet series.
      Like you, we are massive fans of BA and Bernie is an ultra-impressive administrator.
      It’s has been tough at times over the last 30 years, but the future is bright.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment Jase. Make sure you tell your Eels mates to have a listen.

  25. Josh

    Great interview guys, thanks for posting this.

    Kinda wish you asked Bernie about Ronnie Palmer. I find it curious that he’s left. He’s one of the best trainers in the game, big shame he’s gone.

    1. Grunta

      Hi Josh, I’m only guessing here but I reckon we may have learnt his strategies and tactics re training, self improvement and motivation etc and have let him go? No doubt that as a club we would have gotten a lot out of Ronnie’s tenure with us and our trainers can continue that on in the future? I’m also guessing that Ronnie being in the upper echelon or even at the top of his game, that he wouldn’t be on chicken feed so to speak when it comes to price?
      As I stated, I’m only guessing mate and I’m hoping that this is so.

      1. sixties

        Thanks for replying Josh and Grunta. You will have noticed that Lachlan Wilmot has taken on the senior role of Head of Athletic Performance. That job was advertised some time back. Moving forward, I would imagine that there will be some multi-tasking across roles for a couple of people as this new role would surely involve both overseeing the program in addition to hands on responsibilities.
        I think there is a link between Cleary and Palmer. Hence the move.
        To be fair, there were many more questions that we had for Bernie but we culled those before arriving at our final list – we couldn’t expect him to answer two hours worth of questions!!! The departure of the head trainer wasn’t really a priority.

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