The Cumberland Throw

The Review We Had to Have – Part 2

THE REVIEW WE HAD TO HAVE – PART 2

I stated in part one of ‘The Review We Had to Have’ that the well-educated Eels fan was unlikely to learn anything that they didn’t already know, particularly when it came to the strategic outcomes of the Football Department review.

Governance and Leadership, Recruitment and Retention, Player Roster Management and Salary Cap – these three subjects have been the major talking points for Eels fans alike since the Premiership dynasty of the 1980s.

Today we tackle the less glorious, yet equally important discussion points of Coaching and Support, Parramatta Junior League, High Performance, Player Wellbeing and Education, Medical Support and Facilities.

I referenced in part one (yes, you need to read it) the need for effective and solution focused questions to be posed to the respective review areas. For the sake of consistency, continuity and congruency, it’s only fair that those questions are posed to the remaining review areas. Those questions span the following three areas:

  • What happened?
    • A review of the results, on and off the field, with a cause-and-effect focus
    • Why we produced the results we have?
    • What could have been done differently – and when?
    • What we could have achieved had things been done differently?
  • Can we win again?
    • All things above considered, what will it take for us to win again?
    • Do we have the staff to take us forward in this situation? If/ if not, what changes need to be made?
    • Do we have the resources to take us forward? If/ if not, what resources need to be brought in?
  • How will we win again?
    • How will the club go about winning and achieving the above?
    • What will the club do in its day-to-day operations to win again?
    • What will the club do in short-term, medium-term and long-term plans to win again?
    • What is the best case-worst case scenario for the club?
    • If those results and expectations aren’t met, ‘what will be the process to redirect the course of the ship?’ and how will we ensure it’s ‘just a blip on the radar?’ Who will be held accountable to these results? And what will be the ramifications for achieving/not achieving results?

And again, we’re just scratching the surface here.

The Review: Eels players know there will be an expectation to improve

Coaching and Support (NRL, Intrust Super Cup and Junior Representative Program)

Rightly or wrongly, there is a general consensus amongst Eels fans that the club was under-resourced leading into the 2018 season – and when one considers the mid-season to late-season appointments of David Kidwell and Adrian Jimenez respectively – it’s hard to argue the case.

One of the challenges we’ve faced after the fallout of being embroiled in the 2016 salary cap scandal was the appointment of an administrator to the club. Now don’t get me wrong, the following is by no means a criticism of Max Donnelly. The fact of the matter is, he had a necessary job to complete, which required making some difficult and business-first decisions, which all serve a purpose – until a point.

I think there’s little coincidence between his decision to step down as Chairman of the Club, the undertaking of the Football Department review and the pressing need to ensure we have the right support systems in play from a coaching and personnel perspective.

It’s a challenging subject to address coaching and support, because we’re not just talking about the NRL team, we’re talking the Reserve Grade side and the whole of the Junior Pathways Program – that means having the right resources and personnel in place from under 14’s to the big boys we see running around in big stadiums and from the comfort of our living rooms – and addressing this depends largely on the Governance and Leadership model we undertake (see part one – yes, I really mean it).

It also has to factor in what happens with the Wenty agreement. Sixties has referenced this discussion point multiple times (here and here), as did I in part one (and you’d know from reading such, that we both strongly support the return of the Reserve Grade side to the Eels brand and control). If Wenty returns to the Eels, then we have a pretty open and shut case in terms of the hierarchical structure (and progression path) for coaching and support staff. However, if they don’t, what exactly happens?

Well, we should always return to the core mission of the Parramatta Eels Rugby League Football Club when it comes to deciphering the answer to said question – to create and maintain a sustainably successful football program that wins NRL premierships.

Any coaching and support decision should be done with this in mind – in fact, any club recruitment and staffing decision of any kind should be done with this in mind – it’s that critical.

If First Grade need a specialist trainer to join the ranks to help to provide them with a physical edge that can help win a premiership – we properly investigate and approve that option (so long as a worthwhile business case with accountability and projected outcomes are tied to it). If we require specialist coaches to work with the newly Eels aligned Reserve Grade team to ensure our reggies are prepared to immediately transition into First Grade should injury strike, we do what we can to make that option viable.

The point I’m trying to demonstrate is that nothing should be off the table when it comes to the betterment of our club – and having the right coaching and support mechanisms in play are an essential component of that.

Given our reactive appointments across the 2018 season, one would like to think that this is a message that’s starting to transpire across the club. You can’t expect to continue to compete with skeleton staff and as I referenced in Governance and Leadership in part one – one of the greatest challenges the Eels coaching staff have faced is managing multiple roles in addition to their coaching.

In recent times positions within the Physical Performance unit of the club have become available, which is indicative of a changing mindset across this particular spectrum. One can only encourage it further, so long as it’s aiding the core focus of our business – to create and maintain a sustain-ably successful football program that wins NRL premierships.

What the Football Department review needs to produce from a Coaching and Support perspective?

  • A well-resourced Eels coaching and support department that transpires from First Grade down to the Talent Squads: The appointment of the Head of Football will be critical in establishing this, particularly when we speak beyond the realms of First Grade. Having a senior figure within the club who specifically oversees the areas beyond the NRL team will only aid the opportunity for the First Grade coaching staff to do their job to the best of their ability. Additionally, the appointment of any staff deemed necessary for the advancement of our core business focus should be considered on the condition of appropriate business cases.
  • Accountability to performance outcomes for support provided: Should certain personnel be appointed or roles made available following the review, it has to be done with the view of keeping them accountable to outcomes and results. There’s no two-ways about it, support staff aren’t cheap – especially if they’re the best going around. Salaries and wages are always one of the, if not the, biggest expenses of a business. That money doesn’t just appear because we’ve conducted a review – it has to come from somewhere. The only way to justify big expenditure is to produce big results. Finals appearances means extra money from commercial streams (membership/ticket sales, merchandise sales, sponsorship et al), even more if we’re making and winning Grand Finals. This has to be a multi-faceted, interdependent business strategy that supports each link in the chain, but also held to account if results are sub-par.
  • A culture of support for the players: Players need the resources to be competitive. Part of that comes from personnel and coaching staff, the other from facilities (which I’ll detail later). Failing the provision of one or both, we can’t achieve our core business outcome – to create and maintain a sustainably successful football program that wins NRL premierships.
  • A culture of support for the staff: Like the players, the coaches need the resources necessary to achieve their core business – and they deserve preferential staffing treatment in their quest to do so. If something is likely to give us a competitive edge on the field, it needs to be considered no matter how minute.

Hard Year: Brad Arthur endured a tough 2018

Parramatta District Junior League

With just over 6,000 registered players in the Parramatta District Junior Rugby League competition, the PDJRL continues to be one of the best breeding grounds for rugby league players – one only has to look to the on-field success of our Elite Junior Pathways Programs teams to pay homage to the quality that exists within our own nursery.

So why the need to call this to attention in the review? Well for anyone who has been involved in Parramatta District Junior League over the last decade or two, you’d be well aware of some of the limitations that exist within its current set up.

Much like the Coaching and Support team, there are limited resources performing a multitude of roles and being over-extended, while concurrently a number of ‘super junior clubs’ have emerged, who have drained the talent from smaller clubs within the junior district.

Now the latter isn’t necessarily a problem, if you view it from the perspective that stronger players are playing together and forming combinations that they carry with them into the Pathways programs, but it is a problem when you consider they’re used to playing against a number of weaker clubs and teams within the junior competition and are not preparing as battle-hardened players who’ve had to work themselves to victory against similarly capable opposition teams. It’s a catch-22 of sorts, but it warrants discussion, for a strong junior league system and administration will be the crux of the development of a sustainable football program. The higher the quality of players and competition we can generate in our own backyard, the easier it becomes for us to make recruitment and retention decisions without having to over-extend ourselves or compromise our salary cap position at NRL level.

In essence, this speaks to the need I identified in part one – which was the need to establish ourselves as a development club – and the stronger our junior league competition is, the easier it will be to do this.

To be frank, there’s no need for a massive overhaul in the way we go about things from a junior league perspective, just the allocation of some additional resources who provide more transparent and regular communication (both digital and face-to-face) with the junior league clubs and the establishment of a structure that’s focused on the retention of junior players within the respective competitions – that’s part of how you cultivate a culture of wanting to play for this club and players having pride in the Eels jersey.

What the Football Department review needs to produce from a Junior League perspective?

  • More Junior League Administrative Support: Anyone who has had a relationship with the Parramatta Junior District Rugby League would know that there have been limitations within the staffing of this program. You’d also be aware that a lot of these people are very hard-working volunteers who work full-time hours for the love of the game and the club – simply incredible! As sport and rugby league continues to evolve into the era of professionalism, so too does the need for the junior competitions to provide professional support to those senior teams and competitions. Finances may be a limitation when it comes to providing additional administrative support to junior rugby league, but since when has money ever been a hurdle to people becoming involved? More and more students are graduating with Sport Management degrees each and every year, just itching for a way to get involved. What better way to engage our local community and fans of the club than to provide them a season internship as a representative and point of communication to a junior league club? The students/graduates get their foot in the door, the club gains additional resources who can work in conjunction with the junior league staff and game development staff, they can use it as an internship program and leverage it as part of a strategic partnership with a university like UWS (which offers Sport Management as a specialised commerce degree) and they create goodwill in the community by giving people an opportunity to get involved in professional rugby league – everybody wins.
  • A structure that prevents junior ‘super clubs’: A few clubs have established themselves as ‘super clubs’ within the Parramatta District Rugby League. One only needs to look at teams such as Cabramatta, Guildford, Hills District, Mounties, Rouse Hill and Wentworthville to see where all the talent within the junior rugby league competition lies. They also only need look that far to see which of these clubs are fielding the largest number of teams. The strength of the junior league competition lies in the competition remaining a competition. Growth and retention of teams and players in rugby league is important, the clubs that reside within the Greater Hills District are a testament to that, but this shouldn’t happen to the detriment of other junior clubs. More has to be done to engage the teams and clubs fielding weaker and less teams, otherwise the competition will risk becoming exclusive to the big clubs and the Eels will lose the foothold and traction across certain areas of our junior district. Other junior leagues and clubs will prey on the opportunity to tap into our junior base, inviting them into their junior league competitions and forming strategic partnerships with them, just as the Raiders did with Mounties. Our juniors are ours, and this is not something we should allow to happen.
  • More Junior League Coaching Support: Nothing cultivates the desire to want to play for the Eels more than having club coaches come down, observe your training and games, and actually run training sessions with you. When an SG Ball or Harold Matts Coach or Assistant Coach comes down in their Eels gear to run training sessions with you, you’re provided with a sense of belonging, that you can make it if you work hard enough, that you’re being watched – and if there’s anything you want to do more as a young kid playing sport, being watched by representatives from the big club, it’s impress them. One of the quickest and easiest ways to cultivate a culture where young kids aspire to be Eels players is to have them already being coached by the people involved within the organisation. If a Division One 14-year old kid has the Harold Matthews Head Coach come down and run a training drill or session with their junior team a couple of times a year, it sends a very clear message – you’re being watched and if you impress, you too can become an Eel. It creates a hunger and desire within kids. The chance to represent their local community, to don the Eels colours – this is the culture we should be cultivating throughout the junior league. A physical presence within the junior clubs is how we cultivate this culture and it doesn’t necessarily have to be with NRL players – coaches, officials, they can all play their role – the Eels after all are a community asset, it’s time to remind our immediate community how much of an asset they are to us.

Super Clubs: The PDRL has see the emergence of some super clubs. Questions have to be asked whether this is in the best interest of the junior competitions and the Eels junior community or not?

High Performance

The general connotation of high performance within rugby league circles generally extends to the Strength and Conditioning Coach of the NRL team, and while this position plays a pivotal role within the High-Performance unit, it’s not the only one that exists. High performance in rugby league transcend through the grades, helping prepare athletes for the physical rigours of a 7-month NRL competition plus finals (if you qualify).

There are a multitude of jobs that contribute to high performance, ranging from things like strength and conditioning, to program management, to sports science to analysts and so on – all of it done with the view of managing and quantifying training and playing performance, so strategies can be undertaken to manage the performance and recovery of both the team and individual players.

Some questions have been asked of our High-Performance team this year, particularly when one considers our first two-games of the season. A lot of these questions and criticisms from fans were, rightly or wrongly, targeted at Lachlan Wilmot, the Head of Athletic Performance for the club – citing that we were physically unprepared for the season and that he should be held directly accountable.

Anyone who has worked in Sports Science or Strength and Conditioning would know that such criticism was way off the mark. There are so many variables that contribute to the physical preparation of a human (consider your own health and what you do/don’t know about it here), let alone those of professional athletes. It takes a truckload of specialist knowledge to provide and manage the physical preparation of multitude of athletes – and it’s not as simple as saying “do more weights, less running” or vice versa.

Our physical performance this year, particularly in the earlier parts of the season was let down by one major component – our discipline. Hands up if you’ve played rugby league before? Hands up if you’ve played a game of rugby league before where you’ve had 45% or less possession? Hands up if you’ve player a game of rugby league before where you’ve had 60% possession or more? Now of those who have been involved in both, tell me, which is the easier game to play from a physical and performance perspective? The second game, right? Our biggest problem from a physical capacity was that we were penalising ourselves out of games, forcing ourselves to rack up big, ultra-fatiguing tackle counts in the middle of Sahara-like temperatures – of course our physical performance was going to be affected!

Now, this isn’t the only reason that we struggled physically (especially early in the year). As cited in the coaching and support sub-section, we have been down on personnel in 2018. The appointment of Adrian Jimenez, a highly experienced rugby league trainer, provided some much-needed extra hands and a fresh perspective for our high performance and coaching units. It’s a tough transition coming from a sport like Aussie rules to rugby league, and doing that while being down some staff in the Performance Unit wouldn’t have been easy – the addition of an extra set of hands in Jimenez saw our physical performance improve in the back end of 2018 and with two roles within this department having recently gone to market, it’s an area that the Eels will be better resourced in across multiple grades for 2019 – but this only works under the proviso that they address their discipline first and foremost.

What the Football Department review needs to produce from a Physical Performance perspective?

  • The provision of more physical performance resources: The addition of Adrian Jimenez and the two positions that were recently advertised for the Physical Performance unit shows that the club is prepared to invest in the results and preparation of their teams – which is something that aligns very well with our core business focus – but resources don’t just extend to personnel or staffing support measures, they extend to facilities as well – having the necessary tools and equipment to perform the job most effectively and efficiently. I’ll detail this more in the facilities sub-section.
  • Discipline that supports our performance program and a program that supports our discipline: I referenced above that discipline was our biggest hurdle to physical performance in 2018, but it would be remiss to suggest that there aren’t modifications we can make to our program to better support ourselves when we find ourselves in these positions during a game. The nature of rugby league and the NRL means that rules are constantly changing, as are the interpretations of those rules. Those who adapt quickest succeed, while those who don’t fall behind. In 2018 we were the slowest to adapt and it was the major contributor to our low-possession, highly penalised 2018 season. As such one could argue the need to train for more high-pressure game-intensity type situations, where we have to defend a multitude of sets. To start 2016, this was a strong point of our game and it’s something we need to re-create both physically and mentally. The rationale of ill-discipline can be conveniently leaned on in 2018, but it’s not something that will or should be accepted in 2019.

Physical Performance: Questions were asked of the Eels pre-season following a losing start to season 2018

Player Wellbeing and Education

Player Wellbeing and Education is one of the most rewarding areas of rugby league in which to work. To work in this area of rugby league, you have to be a very empathetic, knowledgeable and emotionally intelligent individual, capable of providing emotional support, as well as solution-focused outcomes to support players through their times of trouble by providing appropriate resources, as well as helping the players develop an identity beyond the football field that supports them prepare and transition into society once their career comes to an end.

When one looks at the achievements of the likes of Daniel Alvaro and David Gower in education realm, it’s hard not to be impressed. Here are two hard-working clubmen, working hard to ensure they have a life after footy. They’re a testament to a system that will support them, so long as they put in the hard work (which they both have). The approach the NRL has taken from a whole-of-game perspective, as well as our own club, to ensure that rugby league has more tertiary graduates with career options beyond rugby league is something to be commended and applauded.

Similarly, the way in which they bring attention to wellbeing initiatives is also something to be acknowledged. As a community-based game, rugby league has always had a high involvement with charitable causes and supporting those in need. As far as greater society is concerned, there are always plenty of people in rugby league doing their part to support wellbeing initiatives.

However, wellbeing and goodwill doesn’t just extend from the club to the wider community, it exists within the clubs with its players and staff too. Now given this involves confidential subject matter, none of which any fan should be privy to, it’s not going to warrant discussion, but it is something that should be reiterated to all and sundry, knowing that supportive mechanisms are in place, should they need to make use of them.

What the Football Department review needs to produce from a Player Wellbeing and Education perspective?

  • More of the same: The efforts of guys like Daniel Alvaro and David Gower are noteworthy and it’d be great to have, hear and engage with more of these feel good stories. These are the type of things we should be promoting ad nauseum and leveraging to create a development club identity – we don’t just develop players, we develop and cultivate great people.

Polar Express: Daniel Alvaro is one of the feel-good stories coming out of Player Education

Medical Support

Medical Support in rugby league refers to the systems in place used to help our players, across all grades, facilitate recovery from any injuries they may experience. As we all know, rugby league is an intense, gladiatorial sport – and injuries are just part and parcel of the game. Whether you experience a minor bruising and are managing the week-to-week knocks or go through the process of recovering from an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury, like Captain Clint Gutherson has over the last year, players require all the necessary medical support to help get them game ready.

For anyone who has experienced any medium-long term injury (one that requires 2-months or longer recovery), you will know the challenges our players experience. Any serious leg, spinal or pec injury requires months of rehabilitation just to get fit. Now as an athlete, this isn’t necessarily the challenging part – it’s frustrating as hell, because you just want to be back playing – no the most challenging part is the mental component. It’s easy to become isolated from the group when recovering from a serious injury, because you become separated from them. Your training loads and preparation change, you feel like you’re not a part of the team anymore and you begin to ask questions of yourself, as existentialism takes over.

The work our Medical Support team do is nothing short of sensational. The boys who are injured are well supported in their physical recovery, while the coaching staff are very mindful of those feeling separated from the group – ensuring that they’re not forgotten, even though they’re injured. One only needs to sight the comments from Clint Gutherson or Jaeman Salmon during their respective off-season recoveries from major injuries to know how good a job we do here.

However, like most things in rugby league, it is under-resourced. Ideally, as we move forward (and this is under the proviso that we will be able to generate revenue to support such resources), the club will be able to double or even triple its medical support resources, to ensure a whole-club approach is extended to our teams (again, tying into the development club push).

As stated earlier, injuries are part and parcel of rugby league, but our commitment to our core purpose must be all-encompassing. The quick-fix to strengthen our First Grade team is via focused recruitment and retention decisions. The sustainable fix to strengthen our First Grade team is through the allocation of resources that creates NRL ready players within our junior ranks. One of the ways of doing this is through our Physical Performance and Medical Support units being allocated the resources that allows us to have 18, 19 and 20-year-old players ready for the rigours of NRL after they graduate through our Pathways Programs.

What the Football Department review needs to produce from a Medical Support perspective?

  • Either the allocation of or a plan to allocate more Medical Support Resources: There’s a limited pot of money available in football clubs, so tough decisions have to be made when it comes to the allocation of resources and expenditure. Our club specialist physiotherapists have often relied on the support of external companies to help meet the injury and recovery demands of the senior squads. Simply put, there is just too many players for the in-house physios to manage on their own. More club hired resources need to be provided into this area for our senior squads. They needn’t all be full-time, in fact they probably shouldn’t be, but we need to consider viable and cost-effective options to ensure our players are getting additional medical support. Much like my suggestion within the Junior League subsection, when it comes to our Pathways Programs, there needs to be (if there hasn’t already been) an established allocation of resources to our junior representative teams. The easiest and most cost-effective way to do this is to engage a university who have qualified physiotherapists who need to get their practice hours up – it’s a win-win that will provide the physiotherapists with experience, it will give them a foot in the door of the industry (as well as progression and mentor opportunities from the senior club staff), the junior teams get supported with greater resources and we engage our greater community in the process – another win-win.

Medical Support: Resources should be allocated beyond the senior teams, as well as to support the senior teams

Facilities

Our facilities have been a contentious point of discussion amongst our supporter base for many years now, spanning topics such as our stadium, our administrative offices and a centre of excellence – let’s have a look at all three briefly.

  • Stadium: 2019 will mark the opening of the new Western Sydney Stadium – and what a facility it’s set to be Eels fans! The steepest grandstands in the country will have every fan on top of the action, much improved amenities to that of the old Parramatta Stadium, integrated technology that will allow for fan engagement opportunities – and it’s all coming to our doorstep. Thanks to the collective efforts of the Eels and the Wanderers crowds over the years, the NSW Government agreed to build this wonderful facility and we will now have a place to call home, after two years ‘on the road’. A home ground advantage is nothing to be frowned upon and come 2019 the Eels will finally have theirs in one of the best stadiums in the country. This is a giant tick for us as a club, now we just have to fill the thing out and be the 18th man our team needs!
  • Administrative Offices: Following the installation of the Leagues Club carpark, the old administration offices at 2 Eels Place were knocked down and relocated just outside the Parramatta CBD, while the football department staff operates out of demountables at Old Salesyard. On the surface this isn’t necessarily a problem, sometimes separation between the two is a good thing. However, it does little to foster a culture of community within the club. One of the best ways the Football Department can respect and appreciate the money and resources they already have, is to have the ability through proximity to converse and liaise with the people within the club who generate the revenue. Does the Physio know the person in membership who generated 50% of the club’s season ticket sales? Does the Assistant Coach converse with the person who secured the principle partner? How well do the players know the merchandise team? These might not seem like critical relationships to have, but they are. Fostering an internal community across the administrative and football practices of the club will only help performance moving forward. How much more likely are you to do something for a friend than a stranger? How much more likely are you to reciprocate an act of service towards someone who looked out for you first? Having these two work areas within physical proximity of each other is only going to help the club cause – we look out for each other and we support each other towards our common goal. How this is done however, probably ties into the third point below.
  • Centre of Excellence/Training Facilities: A Centre of Excellence has become somewhat of a buzzword in rugby league circles over the last decade. For the uninitiated, this simply refers to high class training facilities. I referenced in part one (you still haven’t read it yet?) the need for this to be built and that it should be a strategic priority for our club moving forward, but how exactly can this be done? Where can it be done? What do we need? I think all within the club and supporters external of the club can agree that we just need better facilities, particularly as we move back towards a development club identity. Again, that sense of fostering a community is paramount to our survival, as is the need to have facilities that allow us to keep up with our competitors and regularly challenge for NRL premierships. But these facilities don’t come cheap. Given we were under administration and the club was trying to reel back some of the losses experienced from the 2016 salary cap scandal, we were poorly positioned to take advantage of the NSW Government’s $50 million commitment to rugby league centres of excellence. So where does that leave us, exactly? Well there’s really only two options, both of which will require us to generate some revenue. We partner with a local council who will fund a majority of the facility, but only do so on the proviso that it’s a open to the local community within that municipality or we completely self-fund. At the risk of this becoming bigger than Ben-Hur (it’s worth its own individual post), I’ll summate that both options are expensive and will require us to find an appropriate site to do so. Open land within Parramatta and the greater Parramatta Junior Rugby League District is at a premium. The CBD landscape within Parramatta is quickly evolving and the only real option we have within our immediate backyard is to see if something can still be made of the Salesyard agreement, originally proposed under the Seward administration. Failing that, we don’t really have an option within Parramatta. So where else can we go? The Hills District. Given the growth of our junior teams and registrations within this area, the fact that 40% of the population in the area identifies as an Eels supporter in some capacity (Neilson Sports study, 2012) and that they are the most affluent people within our supporter base, setting up a home within the garden shire could be a feasible option. Presently there is more green space available here than in any other area of our district and the soon to open North-West metro is going to make the area more accessible to the rest of Sydney than ever. Throw into the mix the growing profiles of Norwest Business Park and even Marsden Business Park, and the club won’t be short of potential commercial support within the area either – setting up shop here could really allow us to develop ourselves into a community asset and tap into growth markets.

What the Football Department review needs to produce from a Facilities perspective?

  • An integrated Fan Engagement strategy to utilise the stadium to its potential: We’ve hit the jackpot in terms of stadia Eels fans, now we just have to be smart in the way we use it to ensure our fans are having not only the best viewing experience, but the best experience full stop. Australia as a country is only now starting to play catch up to the US when it comes to fan engagement within sport, but this new stadium will allow us to do just that. I expect to see us use the big screen at games as an opportunity to interact with the game and the stadium, opposed to just viewing club website content and on-field activations. We should be conducting feeds into the greater precinct and encouraging fans to participate in games and activations outside the stadium, we should be providing analysis and insight into the games being played, we should be getting fans twitter feeds and live comments up on the big screen, we should be leveraging the smartphones that most people carry within their pockets. There is endless opportunity, but an initial plan and strategy with the opportunity to grow and expand must be considered. Those within our game day, events and fan engagement work areas have tremendous opportunity – I hope that all options are being considered.
  • Integration of administration and football operations departments: For reasons stated above, we need a culture of community within the club, if we’re going to cultivate a culture of community outside the club. You generally project what you are inside to the outside.
  • A commitment to a Centre of Excellence site: I proposed both here and in part one, that if we can’t secure a site within Parramatta City Council, that the Hills District is our next best option. This site should be the nexus of our operations and I thoroughly look forward to the commitment to a site in the near future.
  • A commitment to a Centre of Excellence funding model: A centre of excellence is not cheap. We’re looking upwards of $25 million to get this off the ground. Given that this is not necessarily going to be a direct revenue generating stream, it’s a large amount of money to be spending. How do we do it? There are a few immediate options that comes to mind, and it doesn’t have to be limited to just one:
    • A fan funded Centre of Excellence fund: Supporters and corporates can directly make donations to a fund that helps get the centre of excellence project underway. Based on their contribution, these fans and corporates are recognised within the centre itself and can have access to pre-determined club benefits as a result.
    • A percentage of commercial funds being allocated to a fund: The service agreement between the club and Venues NSW for Western Sydney Stadium is key here. It will determine exactly how much money we can make off a home-game. Based on the revenue we can generate from this, we can allocate a percentage of income to a centre of excellence fund.
    • Leagues Club revenue generated from non-Eels sporting events: What a blessing to have our Leagues Club on the door step of Western Sydney Stadium. Presently we know of at least two non-Eels teams who will be utilizing this facility, which means the Leagues Club is going to see non-Eels fans spending money on the Eels at the bar, pokies and restaurants. The spend of the Western Sydney Wanderers and Wests Tigers fans who come through the Leagues Club doors on game day should be directly pumped back into the Eels and for projects like the centre of excellence (as well as asset acquisition et al). In short, other sports and NRL competitors are going to be directly contributing funds and money to us – not bad, ‘ey?
    • Leagues Club grants: As the Leagues Club rebrand continues to grow and preparations for stage 2 of the Leagues Club upgrade take place, the revenue generating activities of the Leagues Club will only continue to grow. A Sport and Aquatic Centre with 5,000+ members could generate the club an extra $5-$10 million in revenue (not including operating costs) for the club. Say they experience a profit margin of $1-$2 million per year – that is a handy bit of cash to have at our disposal. Further to this, there has to be a focus on us as a Football Club becoming self-funding and sustainable ourselves. The more revenue the Football Club can generate within its own operations, the more money that will become available from the likes of the Leagues Club to allow us to fund said projects.
  • A strategic partnership with a local council: Partnering with a local council who can take on some of the costs could be an immediate win. The only downside (if you see it as such) is that it will have to be a shared asset among the community, meaning the players won’t necessarily have the privacy to which they’re accustomed. Alternatively, it allows us to have a foothold within our local community and can be a draw card for people to see the players in action.

Jewel in the Crown: Western Sydney Stadium is going to give the Eels a new home and potentially act as the catalyst for other revenue generating opportunities

Conclusion

There you have it Eels fans, a “summary” of some of the things I’d expect to see come out of the Eels Football Department review. Now will all these become available to us publicly? Of course not, as a private entity the Eels have the right to withhold some of this information (and for the sake of our competitors, it’s best we do), but there are some things we should expect to see, particularly when it comes to the allocation of resources and commitments to our facilities.

I’m sure you join me in excitedly awaiting the outcomes of this review, but if it were you, what would you like to see? What of part two would you like to know more of or see the club action?

At the end of the day what matters most is not just the outcomes themselves, but how we implement systemised structures that allow us to produced sustained success within our Football program and give us the best chance to regularly challenge for NRL titles – our core focus should always be at the forefront of everything we do.

Yours in blue and gold,

Clint

All images courtesy of the Parramatta Eels, NRL.com and Getty Images.

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Colin Hussey
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WOW! What a huge post to take in Clint. There’s little doubt in my mind that a huge proportion of the reviews findings and recommendations will be kept in house while some will be in very much a short summarised statement of intent in the specific field and for its implementation, the why for it may simply not be needed to be made public as the intent will be well noted. Reading the aspect with the Jnrs, along with the use of the term Reserve grade really sits to being very much a top of the list important priority, to… Read more »

sixties
Admin

Clint has raised an excellent point regarding the internal relationship between the football department and administration. There are aspects to running a football club that most people rarely think about – such as community and corporate availability of players vs training schedules vs mandated time away – that involve liaison between different administrative staff and the footy staff. The decisions and actions undertaken are made a lot easier when staff know each other and understand the job that the other is doing.

Gunbuster
Guest
Gunbuster

Great read, well though out, well presented, no hysterics and no BA bashing! Love it!

sixties
Admin

How good is this! Kudos to Clint for literally constructing an Eels thesis over two parts.

Tyler
Guest

This is a great article Clint. I agree with everything that was said. There’s a lot to unpack here, but I want to make a few comments that I thought of while reading the article that resonate with me. •It’s a great point in regards to our juniors. It is absolutely essential that we get this right for our long-term success. It is important that we not only focus on establishing systems that produce/grow/retain these junior players, but systems that effectively transition these juniors into first grade players. While we may have a great junior nursery, we have not necessarily… Read more »

Colin Hussey
Guest

Tyler good post and you picked up on something that I forgot in my above post, and that was the rule changes and how we failed to adapt to them.

The old adage of a good big man will always beat a good small one seemed to catch us, thing is a smart small man can really beat a big man, thing is that the small man has to be both smarter and fitter, our fitness and smartness let us down as it had not adapted correctly, smartness needs to have discipline as its twin, and that is where we failed.

sixties
Admin

Discipline again – can’t disagree. You need to do what needs to be done to have an even share of possession. Hold the ball and don’t give away stupid penalties.

sixties
Admin

Brilliant reply Tyler! You’ve certainly nailed a couple of areas. 1. Junior development is very much a long term investment. Many fans have been critical of the number of juniors in the Eels teams, and though there might be one or two that we would have liked to have kept over the last 5 years, there’s not many that have bitten us badly after they’ve moved away. The next couple of years will see quite a number of Eels developed players wearing the Blue and Gold in the NRL. 2. Match day – in all honesty, how many fans can… Read more »

The rev aka Snedden
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The rev aka Snedden

Well written Clint Thanks for all that insite into our club it really goes to show how far behind the 8 ball we really are as a club. With all that is going on with in the club I’m hoping it all works out well for the team. How long before the club is finished with the audit ? I’m hoping Brad Arthur stays n has a very successful year just to prove all the knockers wrong n show that this year 2018 was just a hick up. On wenty n the ISP thing I wish the NRL just go… Read more »

Parramatta Tragic
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Parramatta Tragic

That is PhD quality reporting right there Clint. The club could do a lot worse than employ most of TCT crew to some of these positions. It’s no use having degrees without passion for the club. Brilliant articles by a man with insight and IQ. That said, we still need a huge prop and a very footy smart hooker to make a dent next year. Congratulations on a great read.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Spot on there tragic ,1 more big bopper and a reliable 9 gets us a fair season then 2020 the departure lounge free,s up at least 2 million , tim ,gowie jenko ,moses ,taka , corey ,french , all of contract .

BDon
Guest
BDon

The basis of success for an NRL club, these excellent insights show that success doesn’t come easy, and delivery requires competent, skilled operators. I don’t think I’ve ever quite understood the breadth and depth of the challenge, but I get it now. Tks Clint. If we have to improve in so many critical areas, Jack Gibson was right, it all starts with the front office. Our on field efforts were probably never going to rise to any consistently high level. The thoughts on fan engagement and crowd building are interesting, I can see it for a localised, tribal environment in… Read more »

Pou
Guest
Pou

Another great article, Clint. You and sixties have convinced me we need to take back our reserve team from the external partner. But I’m still unconvinced of the value of our local comp. Most of those kids will never become first graders (much like most kids in any junior competition) and the numbers that will are far too small to make a difference. What matters is the players in the junior rep teams (Matts, Ball, Flegg) rather than the junior clubs. NRL clubs like the Roosters and Storm produce plenty of NRL players and they have no junior competitions to… Read more »

Colin Hussey
Guest

Pou, if we do not value our local comp, as most of the kids will never become first graders, then we also devalue or place no value on the Junior Rep teams, as the Junior Rep Players come from those junior teams. While other clubs as you mention, the chooks make players from recruiting outsiders rather than within, if the non supporting of Jnr league comps by all the other clubs, including the eels headed in the direction that the Chooks have taken, it would not be long before there is no RL at all, or one that is very… Read more »

Pou
Guest
Pou

I don’t see how lack of funding from NRL clubs will kill junior rugby league. Soccer has been the biggest participation sport forever, and there’s only been a professional top-tier competition for 13 years.

Colin Hussey
Guest

Pou fair reply, thing is that soccer has developed as a game at all levels for many years now and yes the money is not provided by the clubs, our two sons aged 41 and 38 now both played it as youngsters, the oldest migrated to RU and still plays a few games a year. Soccer though has gained a greater foothold in many areas owing to the game being more heritage based within migrant/ethnic groups, one only has to look in the diversity of cultures across Sydney and other capitals and large population areas. One other aspect is that… Read more »

Milo
Guest
Milo

Great work Clint; too much to comment on but very insightful and great read.
We need to appt someone to footy manager asap and then the extras. We only assume they’re onto this along with club / junior systems.
I only hope they are onto this now as we cannot afford to fall behind other teams in Sydney let alone broader NRL for another 12 months etc.
We also need to have systems in place to keep the best juniors. And yes that costs $$$$.

sixties
Admin

I reckon we’ll get an appointment within the next couple of weeks Milo. Thanks for joining us from the UK. Enjoy your trip mate.

Colin Hussey
Guest

I certainly hope so.

Milo
Guest
Milo

Ill be staying tuned then; hope it does occur soon. Weather is raining cats nd dog here; the leftover of the hurricane from US.

parrathruandthru
Guest
parrathruandthru

Appreciate the time and effort put into both articles Clint. It’s a pleasure to read thoughtful views and possible answers as opposed to outright unknowledgeable criticisms I’m subjected to elsewhere. Keep up the good work

sixties
Admin

Agree with that PT&T. This has been an epic undertaking from Clint. He should feel proud of the work he’s done across two posts.

Burty
Guest
Burty

Great write up. Can anyone tell me why the away jerseys were scrapped? I’ve never seen this done before I quite liked it and bought one at the start of the season but feel let down that it only was used in 3 games?

Colin Hussey
Guest

Burty, simply put there was a big anti the playing jersey’s for this year from certain quarters, more especially for the away version, and they won out on the away jersey, hope they don’t get rid of the one the home game version of this year for next year though, but I suspect it would likely go. Personally, I did not like the away version much as there was too much Gold and I don’t think the design and stripes suited the amount of gold in it. I would have liked to have seen wider banded away jersey’s an rather… Read more »

Burty
Guest
Burty

Thanks Colin, I’ve never seen such a backlash to jerseys before quite surprising really, I agree with your points about the band width also think the marine blue and gold colours didn’t go well personally the lighter colours would of suited this design better imo however you can’t please everyone.
Unfortunately these jerseys will be remembered for all the wrong reasons a easy target even the 86 design which I love but feel changes will be made in the commercial world we live in.

Colin Hussey
Guest

Thanks Burty. I have never seen such a backlash against a jersey in all my 55+ years of supporting the eels, and I supported what they wore even when jerseys had the wrong non traditional colours of royal blue (my understanding of the shade) and gold, I could not stand the one of a few short years back which was bright canary yellow and insipid blue, but I accepted it and supported the eels. Some small changes to the banded jersey could well be made and it could well become more acceptable, including shorts design and the sox. I was… Read more »

Colin Hussey
Guest

Clint, been off line for some days now and just catching up on things. Its hard to define my favourite kit over the years as there were quite a few, however I would say that the one I admit to liking most is the alternative full banded blue and gold, with full white collars. I tend remember one year or so one that had more evenly spaced along with the bands both of closer sizes as it evened it out better. I am not sure about that though as it may have been an early supporters version but I liked… Read more »

Greg Okladnikov
Guest
Greg Okladnikov

a great analysis

Longfin Eel
Guest
Longfin Eel

Regarding the Old Sales Yards future facilities, it might be worth a post of what the original plan was. This is going to be a difficult thing to get right, as you say because of land availability. I wonder how other inner city clubs do it?

MAX
Guest
MAX

Clint, I have read this three times now to fully absorb it, and I have two points to make.
1. The post is outstanding
2. I hope the CV you submitted for the GM of football operations is as comprehensive

sixties
Admin

Clint is like the Kalyn Ponga of TCT. The brilliance of youth. Though I should check with Forty who’s of similar vintage and brilliance, but it just feels like he’s been around forever. I’m sure someone can come up with an NRL equivalent.