The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – Anchoring Our Home, Building Our Future

Today the Parramatta Eels finally confirmed that the new Western Sydney Stadium would be their home ground from 2019 onwards. Though few doubted that this would be the outcome of the robust negotiations, it was still welcome news when Bernie Gurr announced that an “agreement-in-principle” had been reached.

According to Gurr, this new stadium right next to Parramatta Leagues Club, will be a game changer for the Eels, especially when it comes the bottom line – finances.

Bernie Gurr and Stuart Ayres.

“This Stadium will provide our Members and commercial partners with an outstanding game day experience and will also contribute to the Club’s financial stability, allowing us to invest further in our Football teams.”

In securing their anchor tenancy at the new Western Sydney Stadium, the Eels are laying a significant platform for both on-field and off-field success.

As supporters, we’re excited about the facilities and the views from the stands. The club will no doubt be excited about the corporate hospitality that they’ll now be able to provide. For anyone unaware of the stadium design, nearly all of the western side will be dedicated to corporate facilities.

This means that around 3000 seats will be taken up by commercial partners and their guests. Though there are some disgruntled fans who sat for up to 31 years in the Ken Thornett Stand, there’s little that the club could do about this.

Western Sydney Stadium is a suburban stadium with a difference. A problem faced by older suburban grounds is their inability to adequately cater for the corporate dollar. Though the game has its roots in northern England’s working class, rugby league clubs need strong commercial partners to compete with other clubs and other sports. The positive is that the new stadium provides the Eels woth tremendous potential to grow their commercial partnerships.

Moving into 2019, Parramatta supporters will need to have some patience before they christen their new spiritual home. Two home matches, in rounds 3 and 4, will still be played at ANZ Stadium.

The Eels and the Tigers will open the new WSS.

On the plus side, that first game in Round 6 will be the traditional Easter Monday clash against the Wests Tigers. Based on past attendances and the anticipation surrounding the new venue, a sell out on April 22 seems a formality.

Footy at Western Sydney Stadium promises to be an incredible experience. The planning process involved consultation with supporter groups from all potential users, specifically the Eels and the Wanderers. Ultimately, the selected design has spectators literally sitting on top of the action. The Eels will aim to make match days the envy of other clubs.

As spectators, we can expect unrivalled facilities. The club can expect to improve their match day revenue stream.

But what does it mean to the football team?

A number of good judges have said to me that a home match is worth between 2 to 4 points per game. To me, that translates as an additional couple of penalty goals. In tight contests, that sort of advantage becomes significant.

Historically, the advantage of playing out of Parramatta Stadium was obvious.

Across 31 seasons, and 348 matches, the Eels returned a 55 percent win rate. This was despite only qualifying for twelve finals series over this period.

When the Eels returned to Parramatta Stadium after four seasons playing out of Belmore, the result was a premiership. That 1986 team was filled with our stars of that era, but there was little doubt that the return to a home ground provided the fillip to extract the best from an ageing and injury-riddled team (only 6 starting team players took the field in 20 or more matches).

And don’t discount how important the supporters were in that equation.

Thirty-two years ago, that return home saw the 1986 attendances boom, with the season average sitting at just under twenty thousand. The fences were close to the action, and there was a strong connection between supporters and players. For stalwarts like Ray Price, acknowledgement of loyal fans was paramount.

The last two years at ANZ Stadium has seen a major disconnect develop between players and fans.

Poor results in 2018 didn’t help the cause, and the vast distances between the stands and the playing fields were almost symbolic of that disconnect. There was little to celebrate, and few fans to acknowledge. Though to be fair, those that attended deserved some recognition.

The Western Sydney Stadium again puts the supporters close to the action. Players can draw on the energy of the crowd, and I hope that the team takes the opportunity to engage with their fans.

Though I won’t be going overboard with any predictions about Eels results in 2019, the positives about the new stadium can only leave us excited about what lies ahead.

From Cumberland Oval, to Parramatta Stadium, to Western Sydney Stadium, it’s been quite a journey.

The Eels have belonged to this site since 1947, and now, on the same ground, they’ve anchored a new home. Let the building of a bright future begin.

Eels forever!

Sixties

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Trouser Eel
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Trouser Eel

I think I’ll always resent not being given the option of burning Parramatta Stadium down once we had finished with it. Even when we win the premiership next year, I’ll always hang on to the fact that the demolition would have gone faster (and therefore the reconstruction would have started sooner and we would have had more “real” home games in 2019.)

Rowdy
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Rowdy

For Parra fans, there was a real sense of ownership being projected to us about this iconic site that no other tenant can ever lay claim to. This is our heritage and I love it! With the inevitable deal concluded the Minister Stuart Ayres and our very own Bernie Gurr have presented this long term tenancy deal as the cornerstone of this precinct for decades to come. We were told, the stadium is nestled on the banks of the Parramatta River. Parramatta Park is not just a precinct on the Parramatta River that contains a footy stadium and the Old… Read more »

John Eel
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John Eel

Extremely pleased that the deal has been done. Have great seats for 2019 and really looking forward to the clash against the Tigers on Easter Monday.

For a prediction I believe that anywhere in the top 8 will be a great result. Given the year that we have had, the rebuilding we are going through and the fact we are a little down on experience for 2019, this would be a good result.

Milo
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Milo

Happy the deal was done and i trust Bernie has the right mind to help the club furthermore. I will reserve judgement on seating and cost analysis until we have been there a few times. We were offered seats on eastern side in terrace and cost was too high so we’ve chosen elsewhere (think behind stands ) and under cover. We are looking forward to a new era and only hope the players and staff lift. As for any predictions….i have no idea; I have no idea what top 30 we will have and this all depends on the next… Read more »

Rowdy
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Rowdy

So Milo you are Parrathruandthru?
Thanks for the positive comments though Milo, we real Parra fans are allowed to be sceptical and happy to hear constructive criticism from one-another as it is part of the banter and enjoyment of diverse opinion especially when discussing footy. The input of fellow supporters sometimes stimulates my own perspective and at other times it just puts a smile on my face.
And may I say, at least you’re not fork tongued

Milo
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Milo

Rowdy i am many things mate but not Parrathruandthru in that way….agreed mate; we have some experience to be sceptics imo.
Constructive criticism is the key and i guess to have solutions is also important.
Definitely no reptiles here mate; only a slippery eel of some sort. Electric even….

parrathruandthru
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parrathruandthru

I’m parrathruandthru

Rowdy
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Rowdy

And I’m looking forward to catching up with you at Saleyards soon mate. I reckon we’ll have a lot to talk about when our new roster additions emerge next month and we get a look at what I hope will have a change or 2 to the spine and the forwards to give them some go forward and room to work in.

Graz
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Graz

Thanks Sixties. I used to watch all the lower grades/U20 before each game. We have now been denied that by the NRL. What you are doing is keeping us all informed. Very grateful.

Graz
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Graz

Oops….this was supposed to be a comment re Junior Updates from Sixties. Posted in wrong spot!