The Cumberland Throw

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


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


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,


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

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74 thoughts on “The Review We Had to Have – Part 2

  1. Colin Hussey

    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 have more stronger jnrs that have a connection to the eels club and playing alignment is of the utmost urgency, and something the NSWRL itself needs to seriously look at as well. Its one thing for the clubs to be working on these areas and be seen to be doing so, but another if the head body is not seen to be enacting in that way. The aspect of the NRL and NSWRL being very much far apart and only interested in their own area seems to be too wide a void from my perspective.

    The aspect of a 35man NRL list almost puts the club at a playing staff list just short of the old 3rds, reserves and 1sts games, with their training and integration with each other perhaps further apart than in the older days. Jnr league teams/clubs and players need to have the NRL top side somehow integrated with them assigning the players to be out with those players on a rotating aspect to work with them perhaps on one day a week, when the Jnr clubs/teams are training/playing. The mechanics of that could make it hard though.

    When looking at connecting with each other, and the way the game is today, I also see (and this is a bit outside this post) that one game per game day does little to help connect the players with a club, likewise with many supporters. The NRL has said to be looking at poor crowds and the 2 conference situation, that’s like trying to end a drought with a hand held hose. A two match game day experience with two teams from each club playing would help boost crowds especially if played in daylight hours.

    Overall I look forward to the recommendations and their implementation with the eels, the big area may be the old question of where is the money coming from for it to happen.

    I am pleased that Adrian Jiminese is staying, but I wonder whether Kidwell really is the right fit for the club.

    1. sixties

      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.

      1. Clint Post author

        It’s something that’s completely understated, my friend! It’s easy to think in this fast-paced technology centric world how effective and meaningful something like face-to-face conversation can be in terms of managing a working relationship (or any relationship for that matter). Football department stuff need to understand and appreciate how the funds come to pass, just as administrative staff have to know, see and be a part of the core club focus, and understand that the work they do makes a big difference in the team and clubs ability to compete.

    2. Clint Post author

      It’s so important that the find that club identity again Colin. The Wenty agreement has created a situation that has separated players from the blue and gold colours. It’s time we returned the reserve grade and gave kids a pathway and goal to aspire to!

      1. Colin Hussey

        Mate, you put so much into the post that it makes the mind boggle, not sure I got some things right or not, a bit of a mish and mash I think. You mention face to face conversation above after what Sixties has to say, therein is another aspect of where the game/team etc is going, its too technical, too mechanical as such without the human face contact, social media has not helped with the ability to slaughter relationships in a singe post, sensitivity is at a high when people are now so used to not being personally relational with those around us, that includes even in families.

        Our identity is certainly something that is lost as its likely a word and concept lost in todays language and its called culture, I read where some players and its not just at the eels cannot buy in or understand our culture, the eels culture or the ability to truly identify with the team, its history and what we want to hold on in that history and take that into the future. Its not just a player or team thing either its a whole of club and personal aspect that defines the club and all from and through each level. Relating internally by being introspecitve while needing to be extrospective in outlook and associations.

        To much what I sense in the whole arena is a concentration of the me, as against the we or us. The us of course is what the whole eels club and people are in the broad area of the game and club. History and the legacy of the past, what should be held on to and what to shed. I look at the past players who bled for this club yet never held up a trophy yet I believe so many had a trophy in their desire to play for and stay with the eels.

        1. Clint Post author

          It’s easy to get lost among it all Colin, hell I even do when I’m writing these types of articles (which is why I can’t do it in one sitting), but you’ve spoken to some home truths in relation to technology and our relationship with it.

          I think in many ways that culture and business practice are very interchangeable and interdependent terms. Strong business practice drives culture, while certain influences can affect culture and flow onto business practice.

          There’s been some managerial and leadership challenges across certain facets of the club the last decade or so, because we’ve rarely had anyone in a leadership position long enough to cultivate a culture, let alone drive one. Just as we haven’t had anyone in a leadership position long enough to enact strong business practice. Rugby league and sport are very fast-paced industries, it’s very now and it’s very reactive because the nature of the competition leaves little time for clubs to develop and enact strategic outcomes that drives that practice. It’s a challenge because 50-60% of the year we have people juggling a multitude of duties and attempting to turn that work around for an upcoming game. These people get burnt from both ends of the candle and have limited time or opportunity throughout the year to take leave and get some much needed R&R – usually the only time they can take it is during the off-season during October or maybe November if they’re lucky – only to return and have to immediately plan for the upcoming season. It’s a vicious cycle and a challenge for our leadership and management teams. I’ve always believed that you need two types of employees in a business – those who work in the business and those who work on it. We need to either allocate additional resources to allow us to better work on the business or create more effective process and support mechanisms that allow the current resources to do that.

          1. Colin Hussey

            Clint great reply.

            With a lot of the angst going on against our coach and so called failure this year, and yes the spoon is not a good look or reference point either, I wonder how many of the clubs that have played in the NRL this year, especially those 4 remaining this weekend had a coach that had to cover other aspects at the club as well? How many of them basically had to work alone as the coach but have other areas to manage besides his primary coaching job?

            I don’t doubt that the assistants that he had tried in their own ways, but too much was placed on our head coach for mine, who to play owing to the amount of injuries etc, while this reflected on him and the team, it has also bitten the PLC’s administration as well, something I have not seen in all my years as a eels supporter but also a member of the PLC and the now defunct football club, that’s not saying we have had inept boards and the like in the past but nothing like we have seen this season,

            Each and every person involved in the club beyond this year and that really includes the players as a whole need to commit to the team, their playing partners, and that word truly has to happen they are partners with equal shares in the team and club, coaches and I am sure they do what they can anyway and go beyond, also those in the office, they need to be eels team members, not just on comfortable contracts.

      1. Clint Post author

        11,796 words across the two articles (I’m sorry Eels fans!). Should I apply for a doctorate? That’s the going word rate for those thesis’, isn’t it?

    1. Clint Post author

      Thanks Gunbuster – I’ve often held the belief that criticism is only warranted when it’s constructive – and even then, it must come from a source(s) who have earned the right to deliver that constructive criticism.

      As supporters and stakeholders in the club, we absolutely have the right to ask questions to gain context and better understand the clubs current position, but not to attack. We call ourselves supporters by name and that only holds true if we support by nature too. I’ve always believed it best to try and provide that context or try and determine that context to better understand something, so we can discuss practicalities and hypothesize potential solutions – I hope this article has achieved that in the readers eye!

  2. Tyler

    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 been great at turning juniors into legitimate first grade players, or picking the right juniors before they are stolen by other clubs. Another point to highlight is that it takes a long time to cultivate junior talent, therefore this should not be seen as a solution to our short-term problems, but rather investing in a sustainable competitive advantage for the future. As a fan, I’d love to see all of our teams as part of one collective Parramatta Eels identity, from our youngest teams to our senior squad. For me, this is also an essential part of enriching the match day experience. I want to be able to go to a home game and watch our future first grade players develop before they make the big time, not watch touch football.

    •While I stated that getting our junior systems right is a way of supporting future success, effective and efficient recruitment and retention is one way of being able to address a club’s short-term problems (just look at the Knights recruitment for 2017: Ese’ese, Griffin, Guerra, Heighington, SKD, Lillyman, Moga, Pearce, Ponga, Watson), and I think part of the reason this has been an underwhelming area for us is that these problems have emerged rather quickly. Only last year we were a top-4 club with a completely different identity. If I was in the clubs position last year, I too would have thought that our roster was in a good spot and only incremental changes would have been necessary. Clearly, the situation has changed and part of being accountable requires players being moved on if they don’t perform. I also feel that because of injuries and a lack of depth, we were unable to really make players accountable this season for poor performances because we simply didn’t have the depth to support accountability.

    •You mention discipline as being a problem area for the season and I absolutely agree with everything said. I think the rule changes and interpretations caught everyone by surprise and we just couldn’t adjust quick enough. Here’s hoping that the NRL and the refs don’t change the rules and interpretations massively again in the 2019 season and that we can sufficiently prepare in the off-season.

    •Hopefully in the 2019 season there will be more staff to support BA and roles are better delegated. We also do not want a unity of control/command problem or in-fighting. It is essential that any staff we bring in are there to support BA and the club’s vision wholeheartedly.

    1. Colin Hussey

      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.

      1. sixties

        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.

        1. Clint Post author

          It’s almost an assumed variable in rugby league these days – if you have less than 50% of the ball, you won’t win and you won’t score.

    2. sixties

      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 identify which players are on the rise at a club? They only do that via social media or lower grade match reports. Hardly any have seen the young kids in action, either in ISP or Flegg. As you said, put two grades on. Lower grade footy is an Aussie tradition.
      3. Our depth – I keep coming back to the Wenty structure with this. Have only Parra contracted players and you’ll have a higher calibre of player being developed.
      4. Rule interpretations – absolutely we were one of the clubs impacted by the penalty-A-thon in the early season that gave bigger packs more rest time.
      5. The Head of Football position will be a godsend for BA and his staff.

    3. Clint Post author

      Thanks so much for stopping by Tyler, I appreciate your engagement with the article and that it resonated with you!

      I referenced in part one our absolute need to (re)establish ourselves as a development club – it’s our strength – and we already have resources that allow us to do this, our junior league being one of those resources. We just need to give them the proper tools for the job. Re-aligning Reserve Grade to the Eels and providing a clear progression path is one way to do this, allocating further coaching and support staff resources across the grades is another and the point you raise about being able to watch a game prior to the main game is something that should ring true through all rugby league supporters and administrators heads. This is part of how you return rugby league to the people.

      I get it, it’s more expensive, there’s not as many people coming along, but imagine if we were able to generate a following for our reserve grade team too? Fans would know the greater squad and who’s progressing through the system. A hypothetical here, but if I was told by the club something to this effect “Look, we’re going to raise you season tickets by $50 a ticket per year and that money is going to be directly invested into allowing our reserve grade team to play prior to first grade” I would be on board with that. Now, obviously I don’t speak for every member or supporter when I say that, but I view my membership as an investment in my club. That’s me providing the resources I can to assist the club the best way I can – and that statement rings true to any other part of our operations we may be looking to improve. If I was provided a yearly breakdown of my membership contribution and where that revenue went, I would be in full support of what we’re trying to do – transparency and congruency develops trust within the supporter base, and it’s a way we can detach ourselves from the narrative of some journalists and doomsday supporters.

      The Knights have made some shrewd investments on the recruitment front, but even the best recruiters on the surface can’t guarantee success. Injuries are a horrible variable that clubs have to manage, but it adds a bit of theatre for the fans, because it means you can play clubs at an opportunistic time and advance your own campaign further as a result. I mean look at the Sharks team on paper this weekend to play the Storm for a spot in the Grand Final. Melbourne have everything going in their favour, but even the proverbial rugby league robot isn’t assured of victory, no matter how likely it may seem. From our own clubs perspective, our ability to create balance and like-for-like replacements in our roster is what will position us best. If you get the chance (if you haven’t already) take a look at part one and the balance we had across our NRL, Reserve Grade and Jersey Flegg squads – it was fantastic!

      No doubt we were the slowest to react to the rule changes, particularly because the areas where the rule changes applied to, were the areas where we developed our competitive advantage last year – our line speed. Something very similar happened between the 2001-2002 seasons, where an off-season rule change restricted our effectiveness. Coincidentally, we player the Panthers in the first round of that 2002 (and 2001 too) season.

      I’m hoping there’ll be more resources too. I’ve seen a few job adverts going around recently, so that should be indicative of a couple of extra heads within the football department – the biggest being the Head of Football. They’ll relieve BA’s duty’s and pressure tenfold.

      1. Tyler

        No worries Clint! Thanks for putting so much work into writing this great article and starting a positive discussion.

        I have read part one of the review article you wrote and completely agree with you about the club already having most of the resources necessary to be an effective development club. In that case, it’s not that we don’t have the resources, but that we aren’t using them in a way that is efficient and effective. Having the right tools to leverage these resources is key. I hope that with all the noise that has been generated on Twitter and in the Parramatta Eels online community in regards to re-aligning our reserve grade is being heard by the administrators at the club.
        As I mentioned, supporting the club for me is about more than just supporting the senior squad, but our players at all levels. The supporters have just as much of a stake in who is playing first grade now, as they do in our players who will play first grade in the future. For me, it is the best way the club can enhance the game day experience, with an emphasis on the word “day”. For someone that travels almost 6 hours to the stadium and back to watch a home game, it is much more appealing to be able to watch our young blokes play from the members bar and make a day of it, than to just go to watch the main game. I would gladly pay $50 more if it signalled to the club that this is something fans want to see.

        Injuries definitely cruelled us this season and that had a massive impact on our depth and ability to hold players accountable for poor performances. As you mention under “medical support”, hopefully we can keep our players fit next season so that we can foster friendly competition among spots with the added pressure of some of our big names (if they remain past this year) in their final contract year. I’m optimistic that we will see a different mentality from our players if this remains true. I believe we have addressed a few of our deficiencies through recruitment already which is good to see. Ferguson, Sivo, and Paulo give us much needed size. The role of the winger has become even more important in years past as became painfully clear after the loss of Semi and what must have also become clear for French. The metres gained from wingers at the beginning of sets is crucial for being able to grind for field position. Ferguson will surely help in that regard.

        My of my biggest hopes for next season regardless of rule interpretations is that we get back our defensive mentality/identity from our 2016/2017 seasons. I’ve discussed this with Craig in previous articles, but I firmly believe if we get this back it’ll put us in good stead to be able to compete in every game.

        1. Colin Hussey

          Good post Tyler

          One thing that concerns me in the game today is the emphasis on size especially in the backs and wingers. Last year with Semi on one wing and the centres complimenting him, usually with Taka on his inside to feed him, than MJ on the other side with Bev on the wing we had a great combo of plays with Bev’s natural high ball takes, quick reflex/thinking in plays along with his speed gave the team an edge that was missing this year.

          I was one who thought we would miss Semi but, not by the amount we did, but would he have really made a difference anyway or just lulled us into a false sense of security as he may have helped in not getting the spoon but we would not have been the success demanded by some anyway.

          If Bev can get his confidence back and get some bulk without losing his agility as shown last year, with some good coaching as a fullback, I honestly see him as a vital part of the team going forward. Should he go elsewhere we may rue that day when he plays for a new club and when against us.

          I don’t believe a player of his class loses that for long, but he was not alone this year as he had some higher profile players in the team as bad if not worse than him at times.

        2. Clint Post author

          My pleasure, Tyler.

          It’s definitely a balancing act between the two, as well as a case of interdependence. Some things need greater resourcing, while others need to be more efficient and effective. I referenced this in a reply to Colin above, but I’m of the firm belief in the world of rugby league (or any business for that matter) you need people working in the business and people working on the business. The fact of the matter is, for 50%-60% of the year, the club is turning around a game day every week. It becomes incredibly taxing, tiring and there are a lot of emotions ridden throughout a season. These same people – coaching and administrative – get very little down time or opportunity for R&R, and before you know it, they have to prepare for the next season almost immediately. It’s a tough and uncompromising business rugby league and because it’s so fast-paced and always on the go, there leaves little room for strategic outcomes to be driven and/or achieved. That’s why it’s pertinent that the right people are in the right jobs, they’re properly resourced, given an opportunity to grow, succeed and drive outcomes and to foster a culture. Our reactive management approach over the last 10 odd years has made that difficult.

          Sixties and I are both big supporters of Wenty returning to the Eels brand, and neither of us have hidden from that. For people like yourself who travel 6-hours just attend games (I salute you, sir!), I agree, there needs to be better value so you can make it a whole-day experience. Some of that will be addressed via stage 1 of the Leagues Club upgrade. There will be some options available to supporters, particularly those with families, but that should only serve as the beginning. An interactive precinct outside the ground, as well as a strategy/proposal to bring reserve grade back to pre-game, every game, needs to be on the cards. I’m sure the club feels exactly the same way, but it needs to be commercially viable as well. One of the suggestions I made about this could be a potential option, and there are definitely others as well.

          Injuries definitely hurt. We used the most players of any club this year and the restrictions of the top 30 made it hard for the coaching staff to enforce the level of accountability to some players performances that I think they wanted to. The size we’ve purchased will make a massive difference, especially Ferguson. Rucking it out of our own end is where we struggled big time this year.

          Absolutely – that mental fortitude and resilience we developed went missing this year and it’s something we need to rediscover over the off-season.

  3. 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 back to the old ways.

    I remember going to the game n watching 3 grades. president’s cup ,reserve grade n the NRL sides n they all were wearing the eels jumpers not wenty. It’s time it comes back that way we simply cannot be watching wenty then watch Parra it’s just gotta be eels every grade.

    1. Clint Post author

      Thanks Rev, I appreciate you joining the conversation – and welcome! We’re glad you could join us!

      It was my pleasure to provide this insight, I hope you found it enjoyable?

      I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’re “that far behind” – like any club we have our challenges – but there’s only a few small, but key changes that could be made to help redirect the course of the ship. An analogy I like to use is one from golf. When a golfer is teeing up his first shot and swings with all the power they can generate and generates a particular velocity as they do so, the ball will land in one place. Now if they replicate that shot in every way they possibly can, but only adjust the direction of the club by one degree before they swing, will the ball end up in the same place? Of course not – but that’s the effect one degree can have.

      One of the major challenges we’ve encountered is the turnover of personnel in key leadership positions within the club over the last decade. How can best practice be delivered, if boards, executive managers and coaches are chopping and changing each year? It becomes challenging, that’s for sure. I believe that if we put the proper support and structural mechanisms in place, that we’ll be able to adjust the one degree that we need to.

      I believe the review is close to coming to it’s conclusion (if it hasn’t already), but I’m not privy to when (or if any) details will be released. I’m hoping we see something in the next fortnight or so.

      All coaches have seasons where things just don’t go right. Trent Robinson had one in 2016 following three successive minor premierships and a premiership in 2013 – they happen. What matters most for Brad, the players and the club now is how they respond.

      I remember those days fondly too! How great were they? You got to see who was coming through the grades, who in reserves was a legitimate chance of pushing for NRL selection and you got to enjoy watching multiple Eels teams! I’d love to see us try to navigate the challenges that come with venue hire et al, to see what we can do to try and return at least the reserve grade back to the game day schedule – is that something you’d be on board with too, Rev?

      1. The rev aka Snedden

        Thanks for the quick response Clint.
        Yes I would be on bored with that for sure but the question needs to be asked not will it happen but can they NRL HQ make it happen.

        Look Clint I speak with many fans of different clubs n all they say is don’t you miss the 3 grades of footy being president’s cup, reserve grade n NRL. My reply is yes n they NRL need to bring it back straight away.

        They say the under 20’s standards was poor but after watching alot of ISP it wasn’t much better.

        To me Clint being able to watch 3 games of footy a day n mainly our team
        Was a good relaxing day spending money n time with mates.

        I think it’s good that the club is doing the review like you said we simply cannot afford to be chopping n changing boards CEO’s n coach’s.

        What we do need is a strong n stable n financially run club that is bringing in revenue n sponsors to fund our team.

        We need a good n strong leader at bored n club level.

        On Brad Arthur it’s important that we supply him with the best trainer’s in all aspects of the club from defence coach to recruitment n a support system were we can bring kids thru on scholaships.

        We have one of the best juniors systems going in the NRL yet we are not using it to our advantage. What we are seeing is that our jrs are Simply walking away to sign elsewhere for less money why …because other teams (not all) have a great juniors development systems.

        We as a club n great game of rugby league really need to start bringing back the people to the game’s. Crowd’s have been way down n I think to bring back the people I say bring back the 3 games a day. It’s simple really.

        As the great man jack Gibson once said to have a successful team you must have a strong leadership n that starts from the top.


        1. Clint Post author

          No problem at all, Rev. It’d be great to see all three grades return, as we were still accustomed to in the mid-2000s, however, the two challenges will always be (and remain), making it a commercially viable option for the club – and getting the venue governing body on board. New by-laws exist, which police the amount of traffic a playing field sees and the club needs to be able to cover the money for opening the gates 2-4 hours earlier – there’s a massive flow-on effect in terms of casual game-day staffing costs (which eats into gate-takings for the club) which would have to be off-set, and that’s only the beginning – the bottom-line will always win out. So the question beckons, what are we doing to challenge the way we operate and go about our business to investigate and make this a potential option? Is it on the radar?

          Three games in theory could bring more people through the door, but we don’t have any data that really quantifies that to the point of making a straight forward business decision to “bring them back”. The argument has to be off-set with the fact that people now, more than any other time in history, have an abundance of entertainment options at their disposal (most of them sitting in their pocket on a smartphone). Rugby league is one of those entertainment options.
          Why would I go to the game when I can watch it anywhere in the world via a livestream or in the comfort of my home? What’s going to get me purchasing membership and through the gates attending a match? The answer will always be the experience, but the way in which that experience manifests itself is different for every supporter.
          At the end of the day rugby league needs to evolve to the point where it adds-value to the fan experience. More footy could contribute to that (and I’m sure if you ask any purist, of which I’m one, they’d agree), but the thought process can’t remain that linear – the sport as a whole has to grow in this area.

          1. Colin Hussey

            Good response Clint and you are correct in it all.

            Personally I would love the 3 game experience once again, and if played at the right time of the day and day of the week I believe it would/could be a success, as supporters would get more value for their outlaid money.

            The thing is though, and its a bit like the jersey thing, it will only be a success if the team and that means each one of the teams are themselves successful. Another year like we have just experienced will likely kill off a lot of supporters who may baulk at buying their tickets early and the membership numbers will also slow and likely drop with another poor season.

            2019, really is going to be a huge season for the club, as its going to be seen as a make or break one, players, officials and all associated with it are under the microscope even now, and I for one am glad that there was no mad Monday event for the eels, last thing we would have needed should a player said or be seen doing a dumb thing, even a small issue would have been blown out of proportion.

          2. Clint Post author

            Thanks Colin, I appreciate your sentiments.

            Yes and no in relation to on-field success. While yes, there’s always a flow-on effect from on-field success and commercial success, the two are not mutually exclusive.

            What matters more in the commercial space is that the club remains a community asset and has people driving the right activity in the local community that lead to commercial outcomes.

            Rugby league and sport in Australia (less perhaps the AFL), have been a bit behind in this department, but growth opportunities in this sector are still well and truly achievable. In both 2012 and 2013 we came last, but our membership grew from 11,000 odd to about 17,250 – and we’ve continued to break our membership record every year since.

            We have over 550,000 fans (Neilson Sports 2012) across the country. The more those fans feel they’re a part of the club, the more likely they are to invest in it, both emotionally and financially – and that will translate into a desire to want to go see the reserve grade team, buy merchandise et al – on-field success just snowballs and compounds those things.

          3. Colin Hussey

            Pretty well spot on Clint. Although without any real form of success next year and that means being high on the table, and not the lower end, is vital as I think a lot could drop off for some time after another failure.

  4. 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.

    1. 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 .

      1. Clint Post author

        There’s definitely some players coming off-contract next season Anon. Some will know that they’re playing for their careers, which only works in our favour.

    2. Clint Post author

      Very kind of you to say Parramatta Tragic and I’m humbled by your suggestion. I’d love to be a part of a project team that went about implementing best practice and processes at our club. I think we have such tremendous potential and opportunity for growth across all facets of operations, both on and off the field (and, just quietly, I’d be absolutely open to approach from the club if anyone is reading and found this interesting).

      A forward who averages 10m a run, can draw in multiple defenders, and can generate either a quick play-the-ball or an offload would be invaluable to our middle and our halves. Those extra metres, as well as the time it’d provide the 6 and 7 would be priceless. A fit Blake Ferguson is going to make a huge difference to the start of our sets – his metres are invaluable and those along will start our sets on the front foot and allow our forwards the opportunity to build a little more momentum. Another forward would just be the cherry on top.

      Reed Mahoney is a great prospect, but he’s also very much in the infancy of his career and yet to play a full NRL season. He’ll need some support and I have no doubt we’ll see another hooker come in on the books. I anticipate we’ll carry three of them in our top 30.

  5. 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 a smallish coloseum atmosphere but the Homebush world just doesn’t cut it for NRL club games.

    1. Clint Post author

      You’re welcome BDon, I’m glad you found the article insightful – and thanks for leaving a comment.

      There’s a reason that Jack Gibson quote is such a classic, but we don’t require mass changes. I referenced in a golfing analogy above, and we only need adjust our approach by a quarter of an inch. There’s a fantastic opportunity for growth and for long-term solutions to be implemented.

      Western Sydney Stadium will be our Colosseum! Build it and they will come!

  6. 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 speak of. Targeted junior recruiting is what gives them the edge. We could do that with the money we save on supporting the local junior comp. The kids who are good enough can always try out for the junior rep teams.

    1. Colin Hussey

      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 poor and likely smaller than it is today.

      Our Junior comps have players of varying qualities, and the better ones likely drift to the stronger clubs as many have said, it would be ideal that rather than having half a dozen or less strong clubs that the other clubs could be lifted in quality by help from the mother club, in our case the eels. That flows from the 3 rep teams through to the Eels ISP team as well.

      Going with an Eels ISP team also allows Wenty to build or say rebuild their team and identity, and that would help foster jnr league and players as well in the overall district.

      Small jnr clubs battle but they should be able to fight and survive, just like the big ones, if not, its simply like removing the bottom rung from a ladder and expecting that spreading the remaining steps at greater spaces will suffice in the job its meant to do.

      1. 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.

        1. Colin Hussey

          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 many choose soccer over RL owing to the idea of it being less aggressive and dangerous for kids.

          We will always battle against the other codes and the way AFL has poured money into Sydney and other cities is not to be sneezed at as you only need to see the amount of grounds that now have 4 posts rather than 2 at them.

          The more you cut and the more that parents have to provide from their incomes will lessen the players going to RL. I hope I am wrong though. Other aspect though is if the money was withdrawn, how much would that really be, and how much would it really benefit the rep teams anyway as they are pretty well supported by the eels as well.

    2. Clint Post author

      Thanks Pou, I always enjoy reading your comments and interacting with you, you always bring fantastic conversation to the table.

      They’re fair points you raise about the local competition. From my perspective I don’t believe it needs a wholesale financial investment, I think there’s plenty of opportunity to leverage students undertaking studies in sport management, as well as volunteers, to support junior league operations and give them someone who is involved with the club in some capacity the ability to liaise and support the junior clubs. Some of this has been done previously, but probably not the most effective way it can be. However, that is a discussion for another time.

      The challenge as far as I’m concerned revolves more around the ‘Super Clubs’ I referenced. Those super clubs are draining all the talent from the smaller clubs. As those smaller clubs, who are still well-entrenched within our junior district become weaker, they become disenfranchised – and they may explore opportunities to join other clubs competitions or disappear altogether. If they join other competitions, what’s to say those competitions won’t go after other clubs within our area too? Then we have a real problem on our hands. I believe we need to keep them competitive for the health of the junior competition, as well as for the players we believe could progress to NRL. It’s a good thing if the teams within the first division competitions are from all over our district because it means the Eels brand is well represented across the district and if they’re competing with one another, it expands the reach of the Eels brand and identity in the market – the wider our junior district boundaries lie and the wider playing pool our top line players are drawn from, the greater the potential we have to draw wider support in a congested Sydney market and the greater potential we have to ‘spread our seed’.
      If teams start to drop off and junior clubs fold, we leave that territory open for an opposition team or sport to claim. Now some of these clubs folding may be a good thing. It may actually be beneficial that they merge with other clubs or set up shop elsewhere within the district, but that should only happen as a part of a targeted junior league strategic plan – and that’s the thing we need to get right. We’re not just creating future Eels players, we’re also creating future fans, because as you cited, many of them won’t be top line players or ever reach NRL, but we still want to be making the most positive impact we can on them and engaging them from a fan perspective, because their junior league experiences were so positive.

      I agree wholeheartedly about the targeted junior recruiting, even development clubs like the Eels have to undertake it and it’s crucial getting the right kids into our system.

      1. Pou

        Fair point Clint. The club’s interaction with the local junior competition would indeed be a marketing tool with a potentially massive long term effect.

        1. Clint Post author

          Ohh 100% Pou – and I know this is something you know already, but at the end of the day we have to come up with a way to generate new fans and future-proof ourselves if we don’t win another premiership for about 30+ years. By that time, many of those who saw the glory years of the 1980s may have passed on. Who then to fly the flag in the stands?

          Culture is a corporate buzzword I dislike (much like engagement – does that not seem to pop up everywhere these days?), but we need to think outside the box and drive it to keep the Eels brand alive (and to thrive). An investor doesn’t put all his eggs in one basket, they diversify their portfolio across a range of investment options to future-proof themselves against changes in the market. We’ve got to do the same. Despite coming last in both 2012 and 2013, the club was able to grow it’s membership base from 11,000 odd to 17,250, so it can be done.

          1. BDon

            Clint, that just caught my eye. Culture – a painful buzzword when organisations claim to have one and they don’t. Or they do and it’s off key. Executives spinning their rubbish, when customers and staff don’t quite see it the same.(Perhaps refer to a current Royal Commission). A good culture generally builds over time with successful performance and some setbacks along the way to test resolve. The modern, changing, instantaneous world with short term demands puts culture in the dodgy basket.

  7. 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 $$$$.

      1. 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.

    1. Clint Post author

      Thanks Milo, as Sixties attested, we should have an appointment within the next few weeks. I dare say we’ll have a member announcement prior to or during the week pre-season training is scheduled to start, but the appointee will probably be a couple of weeks into the role. They’ll support Football operations big time!

      1. Anonymous

        Clint, I post this with a degree of mixed emotion, on the one hand I sincerely look forward to the first announcement that may come before the full public release of the reviews findings, recommendations and what the club is to do in order to implement them. I also expect that the person appointed to the role will have his work cut out, but I can only think that he will be professional and most likely an eels supporter with good insight into the game, which to me augers well for the future.

        With the first announcement I expect that to be who will be the head of the football operations, with it likely what his role and responsibilities will be, and as you say the appointee will be already into his role when training restarts (When does that happen?) and most likely as the players assemble for it as they will be the first to know and what he expects from them and what they can expect from him. I use the masculine only because its an unknown position at this point of time.

        Now to the other hand. I have a concern based on the aspect of the amount of angst and prejudging that is still going on in certain areas owing to this season from hell. The appointee will have a heck of a lot of baggage on his shoulders even before the appointment and person to take on the job as a result of that angst.

        Any hint of a word out of place is likely to be met with a lot of derision and challenges as to what course of action that may well be announced. Hopefully though that many or the vast majority of them will at least get behind the appointment and start becoming real eels supporters again. Its going to be a tough, steep hill to climb for everyone but hopefully as the hill is climbed, the climb will get easier as the climb happens on the field as well as off it.

        1. Clint Post author

          If I was a betting man Col, I dare say we’ll be drip fed information over the coming weeks. The media department has to keep content coming through its channels when there’s no football taking place, so once the Grand Final comes to a conclusion, I’m sure we’ll see information about the HoF, some signings and the findings, all gradually make their way into the public eye.

  8. 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

    1. Clint Post author

      Thanks PT&T – I’m glad you think so! And Sixties isn’t wrong in his assertion below, it was a lot of work, but I happily do it (and more, I’ve still got plenty in me on this review) to help provide context to those who may not understand where it is we’re really at, as well as the domino-effect of some previous business decisions – however, I know I’m preaching to the converted here 🙂

      Side note – I was thinking of you the other day as I walked past the State Theatre and how we bumped into one another earlier this year at Jimmy Carr!

        1. Clint Post author

          It was a brilliant show from a brilliant comedian. Some material that I had seen before, but still made me laugh. Black humour, blue humour and satire are my favourites – and he delivers them in spades!

  9. 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?

    1. Colin Hussey

      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 than the vertical separation on the sides they should have been the full bands around all the jersey.

      Perhaps if the jersey remains for next year, having different shorts which is predominately blue along with several gold vertical stripes on the sides as the first change in designs would enhance the jersey.

      Just my thoughts though, and while this years jersey was not a popular selling item, I put much of that down to the teams position on the field, had we won more, we would have sold more and shut the whingers up.

      1. Clint Post author

        Spot on there Col – commercial properties like merchandise are always affected by on-field performance.

      2. 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.

        1. Colin Hussey

          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 at the pre season comp match at the Sports Ground and forget the year, but it was when Fitz made a public announcement of an updated playing design for the jersey, so it was an executive decision no doubt made by him and the board at the time. When the team ran onto the field there was a huge gasp from the western side stand for the new design, IIRC we did win, but I don’t remember any criticisms as the jersey design does not make the team, its the team that should make the jersey.

          No jersey design changes over the years have had supporter input, nothing for the old Football Club members to have a say either, it happened and was accepted, why not now? its nothing more than the me generation having to have things what they want. At least that’s how this old fart sees it.

          I beg the question on heritage? What is it? My understanding is that it has two aspects associated with it and 1 being it incorporates in this case, the whole of the clubs history, yet many would destroy that including the good times, and bad, the great players and not so great ones as well. Heritage has a beginning and never really ends either, to me its about those who got the eels into the Sydney first grade comp, those like my late dad who worked on the volunteer areas following the war.

          The first few years are where our eels heritage begins and will continue past my life span whether I am remembered is irrelevant but this clubs life span will go on and I hope to never see the angst again like has happened this year. I honestly see our whole history as being integral in and too our heritage, but our original playing designs is where it really begins and should never end, the other so called heritage jersey is not as such in the true sense of the word, but it too is seriously part of where we were, and have come so should be preserved and used continuing on.

          If we have a heritage banded design then have the same as it was when part of the club beginnings, change if need be the shorts from white, which was needed back then to identify a team who played on muddy ovals to differentiate them from the other teams and also for TV purposes in the colour age of B&W. Have the other heritage one for away games and have the players make us proud into the future by being a winning club and lets have supporters being more accepting of our heritage, though not great it is still where we began, and were born.

          1. Clint Post author

            What was your favourite kit, across your 55+ years of supporting the Eels, Colin? You would have seen all sorts in that time frame!

          2. Colin Hussey

            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 it.

            While the white shorts were more of the old system, along with the cotton full white jersey collars, and the white colours seemed to compliment the jersey’s the shorts didn’t, so I would have to go for the blue shorts that had wider gold vertical stripes on the shorts sides, along with the predominately blue shorts and then the deep blue and gold soxs.

            That is a mish mash of mixtures that would likely not be very popular with many but they are ones that I remember and form parts of tradition and maybe newer styles. I understand that home and away outfits are required, so what I mention above would be my home choice and away would be those worn when we won our first grand final. That I think brings our heritage to the fore with an emphasis on the golden years with the premierships.

    2. Clint Post author

      Thanks Burty, I appreciate the kind words.

      All though uncommon, it’s not unheard of for that to happen with jerseys. Normally, as is the case with most things, there’s a commercial influence. The fact that we had two poor performances in the jerseys to start the season didn’t help, plus we generated a much better commercial result from the heritage jersey and made a request to the NRL to use that more instead of the gold.

      I’m not sure if we’ll see the gold return in 2019 or not, but a similar thing happened in 2013 with our white/gold dominant alternate jersey. I’m not privy to the exact details of why we the gold jersey made so many little appearances in 2018, but I’d suggest it’s because of 1) commercial/market response to the jersey 2) poor on-field performances reinforcing consumer opinion and 3) a desire to distance ourselves from those poor performances in both the fans and players minds

      1. Burty

        Thanks Clint, It makes sense I guess in hindsight the club should stick with the popular 86 jersey and reverse the colours for the away strip.
        It would be nice if the heritage jersey for 2019 was the 2001-03 or the 2007-09 These designs were good and have never been seen in a heritage design.
        Keep up the good work Clint and the rest of the TCT crew.

        1. Clint Post author

          Thanks Burty, we’ll do our best!

          As for the jerseys, some continuity would be great. We were fortunate enough to have our previous home kit from 2014-2017, although the trend these days seems to be rotating away/alternate kits each year. I’m sure there’s some metric that shows this drives merchandise sales (otherwise, why do it?), but as a traditionalist, I believe we shouldn’t be changing our kits so often. Rugby league clubs risk lose identity in the public eye when they do so.

  10. 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?

  11. 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

    1. sixties

      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.

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