The Cumberland Throw

Eels Team List Nostalgia – The Unheralded

It’s the bye week, and with the Eels only featuring in lower grade matches I’ve decided to take a sabbatical from the here and now and take a buggy ride down memory lane.

And what better way to do so than via a team list. Seriously, who doesn’t love a team list!

I’ve produced the odd list in my time, and I much prefer compiling one with a difference.

Therefore, I’ve decided to come up with a register of Eels players who’ve rarely received the accolades, but have added value (in my opinion) to Parra during their time in the Blue and Gold. I’ve called it “The Unheralded”.

The players below are from the 1970s to the current season, but there are qualifications:

1. No NSW or Australian representative honours.
2. No premiership title
3. Less than 100 first grade games with the Eels

This is not meant to be a “best of the rest” or “should have played rep footy” type of list. It’s really just a compilation of players that were personal favourites of mine, and maybe it might rekindle a few memories for some of you.

Here we go.

Parramatta Eels – The Unheralded 

Fullback: Phil Mann, 1973 – 1983 (55 games)

Mann in flight against the Dogs.

Phil Mann in full flight was a sight to behold. His nickname of “Spider” was well-deserved as his two metre plus frame rarely provided an easy target for a one on one tackle. The long legs were hard for legs tacklers to wrap their arms around, and his inspector gadget arms delivered a powerful fend. One of my favourite rugby league moments was provided by Phil – a length of the field try in reserve grade at Kogarah.

Having caught a failed Dragons penalty goal, Mann took off from the in-goal and down the left wing. After fending a number of defenders, he was confronted by Michael Sorridimi, who attempted to psyche him out by jumping up and down with his arm above his head, as if to say, look how tall you are.

He was also swatted away!

 

Wing: Brad Williams, 1981 – 1984 (24 games)

A bigger Williams takes on the defence.

Williams was a crowd favourite from the lower grades in the late 1970s, primarily because his thin frame of around 60kg (the “bionic matchstick”) seemed so unsuited to rugby league. His bearded visage provided the appearance of a mini-me version of Neville Glover.

Yet his first grade career seemed to take off as a considerably bulked up Williams became a different proposition for defenders. The Eels winger reached a level of notoriety by admitting in an interview that he was aided by a medically supervised course of steroids (then permissible). What wasn’t as well documented was his dedication to training in an effort to build up his physique. Still, Gibson was no fan of Williams going public and he ended up moving to the Raiders.

 

Centre: Ed Sulkowicz, 1974 – 1980 (68 games)

Sulkowicz in action at the SCG.

Ed Sulkowicz and his brother Ted were genuine club men – primarily playing lower grade football but producing quality footy whenever called upon for the top grade. Ed played quite a bit of first grade and possessed a vastly underrated sidestep (right foot from memory).

Back in those days there was no such thing as left centre or right centre. It was inside centre and outside centre. So a player with Sulkowicz’s pace and step outside the Crow made for an ideal pairing.

Sulkowicz was one of my favourite Eels players in the 1970s and I cheered myself hoarse when he scored what should have been the winning try in the 1977 grand final.

 

Centre: David Woods, 1989 – 96 (97 games)

Woods – untapped potential?

One of the most naturally gifted backs to play for the Eels, Woods unfortunately found a way to pile up injury upon injury.

Woods was an elusive runner, who could swerve at top pace. During the late 80s to mid 90s, he became one of the “go to” backs for Parra when attempting to spark their attack. He could have been anything in the 1980s golden era backline.

Were his injuries bad luck or poor training and poor injury management? Only Woods could answer that.

 

Wing: Lee Oudenryn, 1992 – 1995 (50 games)

Oudenryn takes on the Manly defence.

Leaping Lee had a cult following, and made a name for himself via his impressive pace. When the Eels played the touring Great Britain side in 1992, Oudenryn famously beat the man acclaimed as the fastest in rugby league, Martin Offiah, in a pre-game match race over 100 metres.

Despite claims of jumping the gun, Oudenryn was pulling away from Chariots over the last 15 metres.

Unfortunately few scoring opportunities were up for grabs at the Eels during the early 90s, so Oudenryn’s raw speed rarely came to the fore.

 

Five eighth: Denis Moran, 1997 – 2000 (36 games)

Moran in his post Eels days.

Despite not being able to secure a permanent first grade spot, Moran’s versatility in covering the halves and dummy half positions made him a valuable player in Brian Smith’s Eels roster. He possessed good pace off the mark and his stocky frame was ideal for such dual roles.

A typical Moran performance saw him coming off the bench to score a try in the Eels demolition of the Roosters in the 2000 finals series. He was an opportunist, always placing himself in the play to take advantage of offloads or half breaks. With Brian Smith noted for turning over his roster, especially in the halves, it was no surprise to see Moran move on after that season, finishing his career in England.

 

Half: Chris Lawler, 1994 – 1998 (49 games)

Lawler – Did he get a decent shot?

Chris Lawler was one of the Eels better performers during the dark years before Brian Smith’s arrival. He was the top points scorer in the 1995 and 1996 seasons. The goal kicking half was also a genuine speedster, hence his achievement of also being top try scorer in both of those seasons.

The arrival of Smith, along with the recruitment of John Simon, saw Lawler fall out of favour. He would only make one top grade appearance during Smith’s tenure. Personally I had hoped that Smith would take Lawler to another level. Unfortunately he didn’t feature in his plans.

 

Lock: Kenny Edwards, 2013 – 2018 (70 games)

Kenny – a character and a talent.

One of the biggest “personality” players to ever pull on the Blue and Gold jersey, Edwards will probably be remembered as much for his antics as his skill. The hugs, the cramps, the off-field dramas, all seemed to garner as much attention as his ability to change the momentum of matches with his high energy plays.

For mine, Kenny’s understanding of defensive structures was one of his greatest strengths and was definitely a key component in Moses’ improved defence in 2017.

 

Second Row: Feleti Mateo, 2004 – 2010 (88 games)

Feleti could produce freakish offloads.

Personal disclosure – I really rated Feleti. An in-form Mateo in Eels colours – it was truly an extra dimension in attack. I know he was prone to errors, and his work rate wasn’t the highest, but when he was in the zone he was almost impossible to shut down. He had the pace, power and ball skills to play either in the forwards or the halves. Unfortunately, patience wasn’t always his friend and this led to far too much lost possession when looking to promote the footy.

The 2009 run is regularly attributed to Jarryd Hayne, which of course plays down the contributions of others. When Feleti was added to the Eels 2009 team that was already producing a new level of second phase footy, the meter hit the freak zone.

 

Second Row: Justin Morgan, 1994 – 1999 (83 games)

Morgan – a talented and versatile forward.

Morgan was an incumbent in the Eels pack prior to Brian Smith’s arrival in 1996, having debuted in 1994 at age 19.

His athletic frame – 6ft 3, 105kg – saw him playing both front row and back row positions, and increasingly a bench role under Smith’s coaching. His work rate and mobility in attack and defence made him a valuable member of a talented Eels pack.

Morgan was only 24 when he moved on from the Eels and he retired only three seasons later.

 

Prop: Bob Jay, 1972 – 1980 (55 games)

Bob Jay offloading in traffic.

Bob Jay was an example of the days of great club men during the semi-professional era of rugby league. His nine years with the club only yielded 55 top grade games, but he played with the Eels at a time when they dominated the club championship (1976 to 1982) with three strong grades.

A rugged prop, Jay was in the mould of the run hard, tackle harder front rower typical of the 1970s, with a pinch of ball skills thrown in. He was arguably in the best form of his career when a forearm from a Manly forward (deemed legal by Greg Hartley) broke his jaw during the 1978 finals series.

 

Hooker: Brad Drew, 2001 – 2002 (45 games)

Brad Drew on the burst.

Brad Drew only stayed for two seasons with the Eels but had an immediate impact through his key role in the Eels record breaking 2001 season.

Drew was a converted half, but his stocky frame made him the ideal dummy half. He possessed the skill set of most halves, and the pace to create line breaks with his darts from the ruck. He was also a dangerous proposition close to the line.

Typical of the Smith era, this talented dummy half was only retained for a brief period (see also Aaron Raper) as the coach looked to use utility players in this specialist position.

 

Prop: Peter Johnston 1989 – 1991, 1996 – 1997 (69 games)

.

Johnston – without his headgear.

If ever a prop forward clearly defined his personal style, it was Peter Johnston. The kamikaze front rower had two stints with the Eels, punctuated by time at Souths and the Steelers.

Wearing his trademark headgear, Johnston often earned the ire from opposing fans for a tackling style that they argued had him leading dangerously with his head.

There was little doubt that Johnston only knew one way to play – fearlessly. He was undoubtedly an Eels hitman, and when you have a player that makes the opposition nervous, that’s a good thing!

Over to you.

Feel free to add your memories about the players on my list and/or add a list of your own.

Eels forever!

Sixties

Credit to Slip, News Limited, Getty Images and a raft of internet sources for these images.

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slip
Guest

Nice article sixties. Just on Chris Lawler, a player that was quality and could kick goals from the sideline, but was in reserve grade. You mentioned the arrival of coach Brian Smith and Lawler falling out of favour, but he was too good for the lower grades. Many Parra fans at the time were disgusted with Brian Smith, having a quality player not in the top grade. I wonder why? Maybe we’ll never know!! I will always feel that Lawler was hard done by.

MAX
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MAX

Andrew Fitzhenry, was another talented young bloke that Smithy didn’t really take to. I understand that he was a pretty talented cricketer too!

Greg
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Greg

Great topic.
The late Chad Robbo was one of my favourites. Unfashionable but just got stuck in and gave his best to whatever job the team needed. Also Jeff Robson …. Should never have cast him aside for Sandow.

slip
Guest

Here is an article from my website on Brad Williams By Charles Christian May 6, 1982 Parramatta’s bearded winger Brad Williams used a course of the highly controversial drug group, anabolic steroids, to build himself up for first-grade football. The drug, backed by an intensive weights program and controlled diet, built Williams up by an astonishing 3 stone (20kg), from 10 stone (64k) to 13 stone 3lb (84kg). Williams this week revealed he had used the steroids. Williams took the drug under strict medical supervision in a six-week period in the 1980-81 summer. “I can’t see any harm in letting… Read more »

June Barton
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June Barton

That’s a pretty good teamlist but I would have Mark Laurie in there somewhere.

Shelley
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Shelley

I would have Ian Hindmarsh on the list. Great work rate and brilliant defender. I remember when he left and went to the Raiders we all realised just how much he did to cover up some other lazier defenders.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Good read sixties. After a devastating 3 weeks with the passing of my mother n helping my family mourn I’ve decided to make TCT my place to ease my pain. On behalf of my father , wife & family we wish to thank everyone on TCT for there support in our time of grieve. On to footy. I liked chris lawler I remember a game vs Canberra n John lomas was sent off after the 1st hit up. He (lomax) took out Adam Ritson high shot. We ending up winning 50/10 n I heard Ray (Rabbits) warren say what a… Read more »

Snedden aka the rev
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Snedden aka the rev

My post above sixties

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Disappointed that P Kent has NOT made this list. In all seriousness D Woods was a super player plagued by injury; Peter Johnston a fav of mine during parra bad time of the 90’s. He damaged I Roberts at Manly one day and Roberts went off hurt.

colin hussey
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colin hussey

I have to say I had the privilege to see everyone of those players in action on more than one occasion. I remember Bob Jay running out in the mid week cup which was early in the season or actually pre season at the old Sports ground with my late mother, the first match they played in the new strip. Bob had put on weight and in the new strip was hard to recognise, and my mum after gasping with the strip made the comment who is that big player, I had to look twice and check the program. Trouble… Read more »

MAX
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MAX

Did anyone ever rate Matty Goodwin, I loved the way he played, stood and off loaded, always a robust tough player, but you never really hear anyone rate him!

Milo
Guest
Milo

Loved Matt Godowin- played above his weight v often.

Rowdy
Guest
Rowdy

Fullback Gary Dowling, Fast and elusive, A real try scorer who could hit a hole.
Wing

Rowdy
Guest
Rowdy

ullback Gary Dowling, Fast and elusive, A real try scorer who could hit a hole. Wing Owen Stephens, big strong and fast. I think he came from rah rah. Centre Stu Kelly, it’s a shame he was forced out by somebody or just but he could beat a bloke on the outside by standing them up or a swerve, quicker than he looked because he seemed to glide (never played for NSW ‘cos he was a canetoad Centre who qualifies maybe? Ron Graham, The Doodler” played like Greame whathesname for Penrith and Illawarra. The Penguin. Ronny was big and robust.… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

One of my favorites was a cronulla player who joined us and could of been anything if it was not for a bad injury in his 11th game for us. His name was Adam Ritzon. With his signature being chased after by the majority of ARL clubs Ritson eventually agreed to sign for the Parramatta Eels for the start of the 1996 season. Adam was placed into the Eels starting line-up with immediate effect and after playing just eleven games for his new club struck tragedy in a fixture against the Canberra Raiders. Just two minutes into the game he… Read more »

MAX
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MAX

Sixtie,

A name alludes me. however was a recruit from Souths that played half and hooker, I think he got penalized for touching the ref against saints in what was a very close game, he may have been a Trindall but not sure (Moran keeps coming to mind but I know it wasn’t).

parrathruandthru
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parrathruandthru
Phil Mann
Guest
Phil Mann

Pretty Fair Team Sixties. As you will have worked out Big Phil was a favourite of mine, but not everyone. When at his best, he could raise as much noise at Cumberland as Grothe Kenny Sterling Cronin or Price. Equally he could generate groans

Phil Mann
Guest
Phil Mann

Does Mick Pattison qualify? Was selected for NSW SOO but never played. Played 53 games for Parra, 32 for the rabbits and 43 for Illawarra, Given he’s a Guildford boy I’d have him at 6.

Rowdy
Guest
Rowdy

G’day Phil, I thought little Mick, did both his shoulders in the same SOO match. Or was that little someone else?
Yeah I loved Patto too.

Phil Mann
Guest
Phil Mann

Hi Rowdy, I followed Patto closely as we played together at school (well he played and I made up the numbers). He is possibly still the only ever player selected to play SOO (run on) and never got to play. Infection or something. Was replaced the morning of the game by a little known midget Terry Lamb.

BDon
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BDon

Around 1979 the U23s had Sterling, Pattison, Ella, Grothe, Neil Hunt murdering opponents. Brett Kenny was playing in the centres in Reserves but gravitated to five eighth, so as they all moved to top grade Pattison wasn’t really able to stabilise a position. He was a good footballer. I can’t remember whether it was Fearnley or Gibson era, both loved the no frills forwards, but a bloke named Cliff Connor covered for injuries in the top grade a few times. He looked a bit like Ray Price, taller but thinner, 13 stone would have seen him out. Like Price, he… Read more »

Parramatta Tragic
Guest
Parramatta Tragic

Mark Levy
John Vincent
John Moran
Olaf Prattl or Mal McMartin
Dave Cotter
Ted Sulkowicz
Terry Reynolds
Greg Heddles
Greg Owens
John Baker
Tony Charlton
Kevin Webb
Peter Peters

parrathruandthru
Guest
parrathruandthru

Here’s a team list for you. Guys who played only 1 or 2 games under Jack Gibson 1. Gary Phillips 2. Geoff Green 3. Will Harris 4. Steve Halliwell 5. Paul Younane 6. Digby Murray 7. Brad Garrett 8. Gary Howell 9. Bruce Grimaldi 10. Steve Stonham 11. Robert Cowie 12. Wayne Morrow 13. Warren McDonnell 14. Michael Lans 15. Greg Henry 16. Peter Fitzwalter 17. John Bilbija 80’s numbering system used. This team would have given a good show against anyone 81 – 83. Could be a few names some of the more mature members might have forgotten. There… Read more »