The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – Decree Nisi For Eels And Wenty

Farewell to the 2018 season.

Calling it disappointing would be akin to describing Charlie Manson as a troubled soul.

However, the potential for a silver lining should not be ignored. The diabolical results of this year have brought about the Football Club Review. Such a review, and the associated raft of changes/improvements, may not have eventuated from an average or mildly successful season. One recommendation that must be at the forefront of the changes is the divorce of the Eels and the Magpies.

Over the last couple of months I’ve campaigned for an end to the Eels ISP venture with the Wenty Magpies. Without throwing any stones at the Magpies, I’ve maintained that it’s imperative for Parramatta to field a stand alone ISP team. The last few rounds of the competition have only reinforced my stance.

In previous posts, see here and here, I’ve highlighted issues such as pathways and opportunities, player support and mentoring, and importantly developing a culture of Parramatta aspirational players. Undoubtedly these critical issues will have been addressed in the much discussed review (see Clint’s post).

In this post I will address the impact of the venture on the clubs in the Parramatta District Junior Rugby League and the advantages to be gained from an Eels ISP team.


When you have a powerful junior club such as Wentworthville aligned with the Eels, there is the perception that playing with this club is the pathway to grade football. It matters not whether this perception impacts the parents of the very young, or the parents of the talented teen (even the player himself), the fact remains that it is not conducive to a healthy and balanced junior league.

The perception might impact a large number of talented kids or just a handful. Regardless, this thought should not exist.

Ideally kids will play for their local club. The reality is that the older a player gets, the more likely that “recruitment” to stronger teams will occur. But whether it’s perception or reality, the management within the senior club must do everything in its power to minimise the weak getting weaker and the strong getting stronger.

This is the role that the Eels must take so that their own junior league flourishes and remains the lifeblood of the club.

A Better Model For PDJRL Clubs

As the senior club, the Parramatta Eels can establish a true junior feeder club system.

The Eels Harold Matts, SG Ball, Jersey Flegg and ISP teams should play in Eels jerseys and without any exclusive affiliation with a lone junior club such as Wentworthville.

Players from all junior clubs can continue to have the opportunity to be selected for junior representative footy, and do so without the perception that playing for a particular club is the avenue to selection.

The local clubs which field senior teams in competitions such as Sydney Shield and Ron Massey Cup can become true feeder teams, similar to the arrangement that exists between the Broncos and the Queensland Intrust Super Cup teams. Like that competition, players outside the NRL Top 30 that are not required for ISP or Flegg (this would likely be second tier players or extended the Flegg squad) could be allocated to the Sydney Shield and Ron Massey Cup teams across the PDJRL clubs.

The outcome of this is that these clubs are strengthened by the injection of graded players, and players at these clubs can see a pathway via their own club to the Eels.

The Hills Bulls, Cabramatta, Wenty, Guildford and Mounties are all Parramatta JDRL clubs with teams in these competitions. Mounties have an ISP relationship with Canberra but their juniors are still Parramatta juniors. No other Sydney NRL club has so many local clubs participating in these senior competitions.

It is a unique opportunity.

Venue Solution

Without doubt, the review will identify the need for a Centre of Excellence.

Players leaving the ETC demountables.

As the current ETC at Old Saleyards sits on Crown land, the development of that site is likely to be problematical. Any COE will need greater space than what is currently available in Parramatta.

In the long term, land would need to be found in other locations, probably in north-western Sydney. The plan could incorporate a match venue suitable for lower grade and junior representative football. For that to occur, you would need a professionally laid playing surface, fencing, a small stand with dressing rooms, along with spectator toilets and amenities. Such a smaller venue would probably require 12 months to develop.

In its completed state, a Centre of Excellence at that same site would need at least another three playing fields as well as a COE structure. That eventuality is probably 4-5 years in the making.

In the interim, any cessation of the Wenty venture would require an immediate change of venue for both ISP and Jersey Flegg.

Forget the new stadium. Hell will freeze over before three grades become a regular feature.

I’d hope that we’ll see curtain raisers instead of the dead atmosphere before stand alone NRL matches, but that discussion is best left for a different post.

Therefore, a venue has to be found.

It’s not ideal, but grounds such as Lidcombe, Belmore or St Mary’s could be explored for a single season. Cabramatta, the current Junior Representative venue, could come under consideration, as could school sites such as the Kings School, Parramatta. Ultimately more informed alternatives could be suggested by decision makers at the Eels, but they are not without viable options.

It would only be for one season, so this should not be a stumbling block to the ISP decision.

A Final Word On The Big Picture

After three dedicated posts, it’s prudent to consider an overview of what can be delivered by a Parramatta ISP side.

* Culture

Every step of the pathway process, from under 14s development squads to NRL will be in Parramatta colours. There will be no confusion about Wentworthville being a stop along the way. Rather, players will identify as Eels and will be Parramatta aspirational.

* Pathways and Opportunities

There will be a distinct pathway to the NRL with the Eels that will provide opportunities for Eels junior clubs to become partners in the process. Players who graduate from Jersey Flegg Cup without immediately securing a Parramatta NRL contract can remain within the Eels system via second tier deals or aligning with a local club. Parramatta junior clubs are strengthened via this arrangement.

* Support and Mentoring

Oregon Kaufusi – a 2018 Wenty ISP success story.

Players in the Parramatta ISP team will be provided with continuity of Eels coaching systems and mentoring by senior staff and NRL players. This is critical in that last step before they become or establish themselves as NRL players.

The development of coaches and support staff is just as critical. An Eels ISP team can provide the opportunity for their staff to come under the NRL umbrella and receive development under the tutelage of the NRL coaches and the high performance department.

* Recruitment and Roster

All players would be recruited and contracted by the Eels, be they from the Top 30, second tier or Flegg players.

Second tier contracts could be offered to young Flegg graduates who don’t immediately earn an NRL contract, but are considered worthwhile to keep in the Eels system. They might also be offered to older NRL players unlikely to be selected for the top squad, but valuable for mentoring young players transitioning to senior footy.

Places would be made available for exposing current Flegg players to senior football. This year has seen younger players gain experience in ISP late in the season and a similar process could be adopted moving forward.

Ultimately all team selections would be made in consultation with NRL coaches.

When the decisions are purely football related, and not short term financial considerations, there is very little that supports the continued marriage between Parramatta and Wentworthville. It’s a marriage of inconvenience that’s been in place for 11 years. After the initial title in 2008, this venture has delivered little in the way of competition success or player development.

It’s time to end this dysfunctional union and move towards a better model.

Eels forever!


Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Colin Hussey

Sixties, a good post in the continuing dream, which I sincerely hope to see come to fruition and the sooner the better

Colin Hussey

That will be a huge positive when we consider this season, thanks mate.

Jimmy Corbo

Nice article and we live in a hope. You sound like a man that has some good mail, I hope you are on the money.

Jimmy Corbo

Does time/comp regulations allow for us to have a team up and running for 2019 or are we aiming for a 2020 start?


I think the junior development at the club has been pretty terrible since Brian Smith\fitzy left. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Smith or Fitzgerald by the time they both left what with the no premiership etc but gee those days were sweet in comparison to the last decade. With the board changing and multiple coaches hard to blame one coach or board but all have been equally unsuccessful since and seem to have added to the decline. Is the famed review going to look at junior pathways ? I think as you mentioned I want the pathway for juniors… Read more »


I know that story that i gave it is hard to gauge what the truths are as it was on face value from the opposition coach with no specifics i.e. club they came from etc. I do wonder if your solution of having a separate entity for ISP will fix any real or perceived idea of favoritism to i guess potentially larger junior clubs I think overall it seems like something is wrong with our junior development and has been for a long time we did have a seemingly endless supply of juniors coming through in the Brian smith era… Read more »


I agree completely 60s. Someone will probably deny this but Cabramatta, another powerhouse parra junior club is now aligning itself with the Bulldogs. The list of Cabra juniors to play for the eels is long. Another pathway issue is the favourtism that Bas junior club Rouse Hill receive in Parra junior teams. We have the best juniors but the worst pathways. Im not from either club but have seen the damage firsthand.


Was interested how you came to this conclusion of being bias Kevin so thought I’d have a look at the the trials for the Harold Matthews and SG Ball squads playing next week and from what I can see the distribution looks like this. SG Ball Rouse Hill – 17 Wenty – 23 Guildford – 11 Cabra – 15 Mounties – 6 Canley Vale – 7 Kellyville – 3 Parra City – 1 Outside – 8 Harold Matthews Rouse Hill – 2 Wenty – 19 Guildford – 2 Cabra – 16 Mounties – 15 Canley Vale – 6 Parra City… Read more »

Phil Mann

The issue of facilities is interesting when comparisons are made with comparable AFL sides. My perception is that we are miles behind. For example Essendon has two training fields adjacent to each other. One is identical dimensions to the MCG, the other is identical to Etihad Stadium both are first class (minus the grandstands).

Whilst the dimension of field are not an issue for Parramatta in the NRL, the commitment to providing the best facilities and better than our competitors is at issue.


Great report again and thank you; some balance and informed comment is terrific to read. It all seems to be a no-brainer; and we only hope the club / directors have some wheels in motion. Bring on the off season and perhaps some strategic player signings, coupled with some juniors coming into the nrl training squad.

Michael Formosa

I’m pretty sure it’s done already. Wenty are gooooooone. Which is the first step of cleaning up this mess we are in.

Matthew B

Great article and well written.
I’ve never been a fan of having our players playing in and for a different club and colours.
Return to the old days of when you could turn up and watch parra players playing reserves in eels colours. Support the club who the players are signed with.
Put the eels club first and have the jnrs n co have dreams of playing for the eels n not a feeder club.


Sixties im affraid this makes far to much sense for our club


The thought you’ve put into your arguments are quite inspiring to say the least. The hope that they will be picked up during the review with the respect they are due is another thing altogether. Our great hope there is the unaligned independence of the reviewers. IMO there is absolutely no reason not to take your own assessment of the impact that power of identity will have upon all people who call themselves Parra fans, from aspiring youngsters and their parents to us old died in the wool stalwarts! Sixties, the way you’ve dissected the detrimental factors of being aligned… Read more »

Colin Hussey

A short opinion I knew some wenty players and one lived a couple of doors away from me in the 70’s nice block and fair player, did his knee and career playing for wenty on their paddock of the time which had thick kikuyu grass and heavy runners in part, (typical of many old fields really terrible when compared to today) his sprigs got caught in a runner and snapped his knee ligaments, beyond playable repair. Anyway as I was an eels supporter, he often commented about how the Wenty club were always considered the junior club of little relevance,… Read more »

The Captain

You had me at “Farewell to the 2018 season”. The lack of a CoE really is a conundrum. Given all that’s happened out at Penrith since 2015 it’s quite unbelievable that we’ve been so slow to respond. Culture has been a pervasive problem for our club, and whilst the fanbase has an abundance of culture and pride, it hasn’t seemed to foster in the team setup as much. We need to turn young recruits and future talent into fans first and players second. We need the same pride that comes with a Baggy Green or a NSW SoO jersey so… Read more »


Surely this is a no-brainer for the club & would be one of the first things picked up in the review. I’ve never understood the reasoning behind it apart from saving a few bucks. I was listening to Gus Gould earlier in the year talk about this very topic. He told a story of when he signed Billy Kikau from the Cowboys. One of Billy’s main gripes was he was playing QLD cup for one of the cowboys 3 feeder clubs & he didn’t feel like he was part of the cowboys set-up. He had different coloured training gear, coaches… Read more »

Longfin Eel

Just a couple of thoughts: With the price of land (and also availability) a major issue in North West Sydney, finding a suitable place to build a COE could be very problematic. It might be better for the club to align with the council (Parramatta or Hills) to use a council ground but build better facilities that can be used by the community in some way. Hills do this with some sports clubs able to build (and own) their own club house on council land. One option could be to use SOPAC – there are existing facilities, but they probably… Read more »

John Eel

Further to what Phil Mann was saying about AFL COE’s, the West Coast Eagles have committed $60 Mil to theirs which dwarfs anything seen in the NRL. They also have 2 fields with one replicating the new Perth Stadium and the other the MCG.

I wonder how effective this is given that the dimensions would be the same but the wind effect which is important in AFL would be different. Maybe it is a bit of show.

I don’t think that anyone does it as good as the Americans. That is where you can learn something.

John Eel

This is what we should be learning from. Make it pay instead of being a drain on the club.


Thanks Sixties. Let’s hope your logic is seen by those who will make the decisions. Keep up the good work/fight.


Sorry….re – posting because I put my post in the wrong place : Interesting………Souths have just declared their intention to contest the ISP cup as South Sydney and I’m sure identity and a genuine outline of pathways are their reasons for so doing as well. Our integrity as a club has some holes at the moment and sorting these out is not helped by our involvement with another club albeit one with a long history in the district. While I have full knowledge that nothing stays the same and neither should it, I loved the days of watching three grades…….I… Read more »

Parramatta Tragic

A quality article sixties and a quality thread that follows. Is there an opportunity to make public submissions to the review? If so, this would make a fine addition. We have a quality board in place and these issues are hopefully being closely looked at. When you see a great idea, one of the features is you thinking “this is so good why isn’t this being done already?” and your article has this quality. Will the NRL have to approve such a restructure or is this purely a Parra decision? The politics of envy will come into it unless it… Read more »

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x