(The end of this post has been updated regarding the impending announcement of Mark O’Neill and the replies are now reflective of this – Sixties)
With the Eels now four weeks into their off-season, and the start of the pre-season just over a month away, the club moves closer and closer to the announcement of the appointment of a General Manager of Football.
The Eels went through a typical process of recruitment – advertising, head-hunting, shortlisting – with very little leaking out regarding the list of applicants. The only rumour emanating from the last few weeks concerns a media identity with a rugby league background being in the mix.
How did you, as fans, react to such a rumour?
What individual would you see as the ideal candidate for the role?
Obviously, there’s already been a bit of debate on social media, but before opening the floor here, let’s examine what the role encompasses.
The General Manager of Football at the Parramatta Eels was advertised as a newly created position with the mission of driving and developing football department strategy, and managing all aspects of the Football Department with the exception of coaching. The role was listed as having the following management responsibilities:
* Player roster & recruitment
* Salary cap
* Player contract negotiations
* Football operations – NRL & Junior Elite
* High Performance unit
* Player wellbeing & education
* Parramatta junior league
* Elite training facilities
* Budget compliance
* Media obligations
* Provide leadership & professional development to football department staff
* Foster & develop key relationships within the NRL community & key stakeholders
In terms of prior experience and qualifications, the following was listed:
* General management level experience
* Extensive experience in high performance sporting team to a satisfactory level with NRL or other elite sports commitment
* Strong people management or communications skills
* Able to build strong relationships
Considering the duty statement and selection criteria, is there a group of individuals that would be best suited to the position?
For example, would you look to appoint someone who’s had experience in a similar role at an NRL club?
The names that most people are familiar with include Peter Parr from the Cowboys or Frank Ponisi from the Storm. Given that the club included “other elite sports”, it’s not outside the realms of possibility that the Eels would consider appointing a sports administrator from outside the NRL.
Should the Eels decide to go down this “experienced” path, it’s likely that they’d have certain candidates in mind. They might not be high profile operators like Parr or Ponisi, but their success in a similar role would be paramount. There may be an individual at the Eels or at another club ready to take the step up into this position.
Considering that player roster and recruitment responsibilities feature prominently on the duty statement, I’d steer away from other sports as I believe that an NRL background is essential.
Therefore, given the importance of NRL experience, perhaps the Eels might dive into the pool of ex-coaches. There’s a few to choose from there!
Brian Smith’s name has come up regularly over the last five years for a potential role at the club, and he’s currently in a similar position with the Warriors. Undoubtedly, Smith is renowned for setting up systems to produce elite junior talent, and he’s never been one to shy away from challenges. As a coach, he’s done everything but win an NRL premiership. But would an older head be the right fit for the Eels in 2019 and beyond?
Smith has the advantage of previous experience with the Eels, but going beyond such history, the list of applicants with a coaching background might include the likes of Geoff Toovey, Michael Maguire or Anthony Griffin. Most applicants with NRL coaching experience would come with knowledge and a level of respect within the rugby league community, but have they got the coaching bug out of their system?
The vision for the Parramatta Eels General Manager of Football involves a role that works alongside the head coach, not someone who’d be looking to impose their opinions. Ideally, the role would be filled by a calm head who’d be there for the coach to consult with, not a person charged with overseeing the coach’s decisions. A person who still harbours a coaching ambition might find the delineation between coaching and administrating too much of a challenge.
Would this role suit a recently retired footballer? If the club is looking for a new direction and/or a dynamic person who’s going to grow with the role, then this might be the path that is taken.
The recent rumour of a media personality with an NRL background being in the mix might has seen the likes of Mark Gasnier, Michael Ennis and Ryan Girdler come into the spotlight. But not all player candidates need be in the media. Some ex-players have gone down the track of becoming player agents – I believe that former Eel, Isaac DeGois, is now an agent. Whether these former players are currently in the media or elsewhere, they certainly understand their football and having a resume with a successful, long term career is a definite advantage. Additionally, they are respected within the rugby league community and have honed their communication skills in their post-football endeavours.
Would a younger, ex-player have the administrative chops to take on such a role? Would the club overlook a lack of experience to get the right person with the right drive and ambition?
Herein lies the intangible of recruitment.
Having worked in this recruitment industry for around a decade, albeit in the distant past, I’ve discovered that the right person is so much more than the resume they present. The interview process sheds some light, especially if you allow the applicant to share their vision of themselves in the role. The reference checking with people who’ve worked alongside them fills in another piece of the jigsaw.
More than anything, if you have a genuine understanding of what type of individual your organisation needs, that should be your major reference point.
I see this position as a long term investment. Here’s the checklist I’d be referencing in selecting the right candidate:
* NRL background
* Lateral thinker/proven problem solver
* Motivated by what’s possible, not hindered by what’s impossible
* Success driven
* Excellent communication skills
* Respected within the NRL community
If I was selecting someone who’d hit the ground running, and meets the above criteria, I’d be appointing Brian Smith. However, if I go back to my long term investment perspective, I start looking at a younger candidate – perhaps I’d appoint one of those recently retired players who’ve had a foray into the media.
What about you Eels fans? Do you have a category of applicant or even a specific individual in mind?
Whatever the case, we’ll be finding out soon enough.
27/10 Update: Media reports are tonight naming former Wests Tigers player and Football Manager, Mark O’Neill, as the Eels new GM of Football.
Experienced in football manager role. Won a Premiership as an NRL player. Experienced in the media. Experienced in commercial management.
Is he the best fit for the Eels?
We await an announcement from the club, including the basis for his appointment. Given the negativity surrounding the termination of his Tigers role, I’m certain that there were many positives that secured this role with Parra. We need to be informed as soon as possible.