The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – Wenty And The Parra Pathways

Firstly the good news.

The Parramatta Eels Junior Representative and Player Development program is currently on a much better path than it was in previous seasons. There is still work to be done, but from a player perspective we are about to land on the crest of a wave of young talent infiltrating the NRL squad, and this will transform how the Parramatta Football program is perceived.

This may be difficult for those unfamiliar with the young talent to see just yet. Unless you get to Junior Reps or to Wenty to watch the Jersey Flegg team go around, the players are just names with hearsay attached to them. However, the years of recruitment and development of younger stars via Anthony Field and Matt Desira was always going to take at least 5-7 years to start bearing fruit.

Haze Dunster – a solid debut for Wenty last weekend.

Just this last weekend we witnessed graduates from the Eels Development program – Brown, Dunster, and Kaufusi – take the field for Wenty. This would obviously be good news, but there was a down side – they were wearing a black and white jersey.

It is imperative that Eels field their own ISP team, for whilst the joint venture with Wenty continues, it will remain an anchor for the Eels. I’ve written about this before, but there are further limitations coming from this partnership which were highlighted on the weekend.

Brown and Dunster made their debut in a team containing nine, that’s correct nine, Wenty contracted players. Apart from saving money on such contracts, it is pointless fielding rising young Parramatta players alongside older park footballers when they are only one step away from the NRL.

With all due respect to these Magpie players, a future NRL deal is not likely. Why would the Eels field players from its Top 30 squad, let alone it’s younger stars, alongside park footballers? The answer is a resounding, they shouldn’t!

The alternative?

The current structure of the pathways system sees age restricted football end at the under 20s Jersey Flegg Cup. For the Parramatta Eels, the next step is the Wenty ISP team. Besides the ludicrous scenario of the Parramatta pathway suddenly veering to a different club and jersey (see my earlier post on this topic), the only players progressing to this level for the Eels are generally those on, or about to be awarded, an NRL Rookie contract.

This must change, and it can change if Parramatta takes complete control of its ISP team, and therefore total control of its pathways. Besides taking such control, there are a couple of decisions that I’d like the Eels to make in relation to this.

Keeping Young Players on Second Tier Parramatta Contracts

Not every graduate of the Flegg team will have demonstrated their football potential by age 20. This will be true of a number of the current team, especially the forwards. This team boasts a very strong pack of forwards, most of whom might not be offered a Rookie contract. A couple might be lost to other clubs, but the club has a genuine opportunity to keep many of them on Parramatta second tier deals.

There should be minimal losses of talented 20 year old forwards when they can be kept on financially prudent deals playing for a Parramatta ISP team.

Kaufusi – Rookie contract or Top 30?

Furthermore, there is far more to gain from an additional couple of years contracting such players. It’s advantageous to have players in our Top 30 playing alongside and teaching younger players like this rather than having them taking the field with older players who have either no background with the Eels or no potential to progress.

It’s a reality that you can’t keep everyone. It’s also a reality that clubs sometimes make mistakes with whom they keep. But it is possible to minimise any errors. As Parramatta look to identify their Rookie Contracts for next year, they can buy themselves crucial extra time by keeping selected 20 year olds on second tier deals. This keeps the young player in the system whilst continuing to develop and assess their skills.

Taking a Punt On Youth

There’s little doubt that Brad Arthur will be giving young players important Top 30 spots in 2019. If pushed, I’m sure that the Football Department would have liked to include players such as Reed Mahoney, Jaeman Salmon and Ray Stone at some stage in this year’s list. It’s very difficult to predict how a player will develop throughout the season and unfortunately everyone has to work within a flawed  NRL system.

Dylan Brown in action last year.

Besides the obvious players moving from Rookie contracts to Top 30 deals next year, I’d encourage the Eels to bypass the Rookie contracts for a couple of young stars and move them directly to an NRL deal. If the club is already considering a Rookie contract for players such as Dylan Brown or Oregon Kaufusi, they should contemplate placing them straight into the Top squad.

There is a twofold benefit for such a decision.

Besides avoiding any potential regrets about not being able to blood a player during the season next year, direct promotion of a couple of young players to the Top 30 would open up Rookie contract opportunities for others who would otherwise miss out. I have little doubt that a couple of the players potentially targetted for a Rookie deal could easily handle a spot at the lower end of the NRL squad.

Used in conjunction with astute recruitment and a youth second tier contract policy, it would have the potential to revamp our pathways. Investment in youth at the bottom end of the top squad is much better future planning than filling the spots with too many “depth” players.

 

I have confidence that there will be positives to come from the current review, with decisions likely to relate to the Eels pathways. I’ll continue to advocate for an end to our joint venture with Wenty, and the retention of Flegg graduates via an Eels ISP team. Such decisions need to be made sooner rather than later.

Let’s make it happen.

Eels forever!

Sixties

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MAX
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MAX

Well said Sixties, the position that you are taking is something close to my heart, I firmly believe the relationship between Wenty and Parra is not what it should be and that Parramatta need to fully commit to the ISP, in the form of their players wearing the Blue and Gold. It is funny I was talking to a guy that was promoted mid season last year from the NYC to Wenty, I spoke to him at length following the game, he said that he enjoyed the speed of the game, however everything else felt like he had been demoted… Read more »

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Sixties. This issue is something that I hope the eels club is looking seriously at. The current setup is simply not working for the eels and what Max says above actually makes the whole setup a disaster waiting to happen sometime in the not too distant future.. If one looks wider, I heard the chooks have broken their connection with Wyong, which makes sense really as in the end what’s Wyong to the Sydney Eastern Suburbs and visa versa. I posted on the other site some of my further thinking on this topic, and for me the whole issue needs… Read more »

HamSammich
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HamSammich

Couldn’t agree more that Parra needs it’s own ISP team. And after watching Dylan Brown play yesterday I believe he needs to be Top 30. Great display from an 18 year old on debut, with the numbers to back it up.

Parramatta Tragic
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Parramatta Tragic

The league had the perfect pathway system with under 23’s, reserve grade (ISP) then first grade. Why was this dismantled when it worked so well? RL is currently in free fall and every club should field 3 teams as part of the contract to be in the NRL. I seem to recall it was Denis Fitzgerald who lobbied to get rid of the three teams as a money saving idea? The game will be dead in 20 years unless it gets a drastic enema. 3 grades are the way to go

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

PT, I would imagine that part of the problem, and no small part either is that the NRL sees themselves as the primary controller of the game of RL in Australia, and wants control in all ways over it at that standard. While some fixtures they probably mainly endorse are SOO and what other sort of rep matches that are run by the NSWRL and QRL. There are no longer any rep matches that are NRL or NSWRL controlled, the dumping of the annual City Country games ended that era, leaving the country areas open very much to soccer and… Read more »

Milo
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Milo

Some good points Col and PT. We have seen the NRL erode many traditions of our game and for me many have been to the detriment of the game. I will not rant too much on here. This post by Sixties is superb and is totally common sense, and it would only better the brand of Parra and also allow juniors a more suitable way into the op 30 and rookies too. NRL have also made a farce of testimonials imo is a joke. Thurston got one and he had not even played 300 games but was allowed to have… Read more »

Longfin Eel
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Longfin Eel

Great points Sixties, and I wholeheartedly agree that Parra needs to have a system that keeps these young players within our grasp and develops them so they are ready for NRL when/if called upon. Do you think part of the problem is that we don’t have an U23s anymore? If Jersey Flegg kept these players for a few more years would this give them the opportunity to develop more to aspire to a top 30 contract and bypassing Wenty altogether? That way we can have top 30 players in Flegg rather than Wenty (which should be regarded as Reserve Grade,… Read more »

James
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James

Great article. It makes sense to give pride to being a 1st grader in waiting in the blue and gold. Our Wenty players so often seem to fade into the background. Could they be the parramatta/ Wentworthville eels and play in blue and gold and out of the new stadium most hone games rather than Ringrose Park. I wonder if the powers that be have thought along your wavelength sixties. It still doesn’t make sense having our administrators as people who arnt really blue and gold men.

John Eel
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John Eel

Sixties keep up the great advocacy this is what good supporters do and you make us all proud. As I have posted on here before I had never considered the alliance between the Eels and Wenty and what value it brings to the Eels. But as you have demonstrated on here there is so much to be gained by going alone with an Eels ISP team. Further your idea regarding using younger up and coming players as the backups in ISP makes so much sense. There will be Journeyman still at the club but the number can be reduced to… Read more »

Michael Formosa
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Michael Formosa

Great read, It’s an area that we need to get right.
My personal top 5 biggest over hyped Junior flops at Parra

1. Jacob Loko
2. John Folau
3. Kelepi Tanginoa
4. Fabian Goodall
5. Halauafu Lavaka

Still can’t believe none of these made it anywhere. (Tho good to see Kelepi getting a little run over at Manly)

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Good points made. It would be a capital crime if young players that attracted some fanfare with their recruitment into the Eels Junior System became lost to the Eels , even more so ifcit was because these young players didn’t feel a sense of identity with Parramatta because their pathway was wearing the black and white of Wenty. All the talk of Parramatta signing players like Rugby Union wiz kid Blaise Barnes, Greg Ingles’s cousin (sorry his name escapes me) who , it was reported has every inch of talent Inglis has, and even Steve Dresler, an exciting forward prospect… Read more »

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Anon, good post and agree

Michael Formosa
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Michael Formosa

I heard Blaise Barnes has gone (or is going next year) back to Rugby. If so another Lee Mossop. We brought him busted, paid to fix him up then they go back where they came from. It’s really poor not to do proper medical checks before committing to a player.

BDon
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BDon

Sixties, what are the economics of running our own ISP/Reserve grade set up? I’m assuming Wenty contribute to costs, which seems to be a reason we went down the J/V path. We are in the red as it stands now and it looks like costs will rise via bumping up Football Dept spending. I’m not sure we ve shaken off past calamities as yet, but I reckon this is something worth finding the money for.