The Cumberland Throw

A Pathways Positive – New Territory As Eels Go Back To The Future

The Cumberland Throw recently highlighted flaws in the Eels development pathways which have resulted in the loss of younger key players. It provided little joy for us to publish this post, nor to read the mainstream media coverage which followed. We are currently monitoring whether the Eels review their processes.

But there is still a positive light on the Eels Development Pathways horizon. In 2020, Parramatta will be entering a stand alone team in the Canterbury Cup, an exercise which removes a disjointed step in their players’ pathways to the NRL.

Back in 2018, I authored a series of posts (found here, here and here ) which campaigned strongly for an end to the partnership with Wenty. Those posts highlighted the reasons for, and the importance of, fielding an Eels team at that “reserve grade” level. I admit, I was like a dog with a bone on this topic, so I was overjoyed when news of an Eels Canterbury Cup team was eventually announced.

The joint venture with the Wentworthville Magpies had aligned the Eels with its most powerful, wealthy and famous junior district club. Unfortunately, this union brought little success and saw far too many players take the field with no connection to Eels pathways.

Consider this statistic.

Back in 2018, a staggering 52 different players were used by the Wenty Magpies in NSW Cup. A figure like that is absurd, and when you consider that there were a number of Eels Top 30 players who didn’t play a single game for Wenty, it’s indicative of how many different Ron Massey Cup standard players were called up. How many of those had any connection to the Eels pathways? Not many!

Based on those figures, you’d think that the Eels would need to have around 30 players on second tier contracts. However, with greater control over the players made available for Canterbury Cup, a more realistic number is about 15 to 16.

Where will the players come from? How will this work?

The 2005 Parra Premier League Title winners, including Henry Perenara

In any season, the ideal scenario is for the injury list to be insignificant. This happened for Wenty in the 2019 Final Series, when only Will Smith was unavailable for selection. Incredibly, just three players not on Eels contracts were named in the 19 man grand final squad.

The full time NRL roster consists of around 36 players – 30 on NRL contracts and six development players. Depending on their age and individual circumstance, the development contract players could find themselves playing Flegg or Canterbury Cup.

Given that 18-19 players might be kept exclusively for NRL duties in any given round, the best case scenario is that 17 full time players will be available for reggies. However, that doesn’t take injuries into account or even the respective positions to be filled in the team.

And though Flegg players are often elevated, the more likely scenario is that you need virtually another team of players on second tier deals so that all positions are covered for Canterbury Cup.

I expect relationships to be established with a number of Ron Massey Clubs, not just Wenty. This will allow second tier Eels contracted players to be spread around and not overly strengthen a single feeder club, or conversely weaken it, when player availability fluctuations occur.

The jubilation of consecutive titles for Parra in 2006.

At the local level, this would be a healthier arrangement as it removes perceptions of favouritism towards the Magpies.

When it comes to recruiting second tier players, the first port of call should be graduates from Flegg. This keeps players in the Eels pathways, which was a motivating factor in the decision for the club to field their own CC team. This source has been somewhat diminished for 2020 as a result of the recent exit of young players, as reported by TCT.

The next port of call would be known Wenty players – that is, players who’ve pulled on the joint venture jersey in recent years and have proven their worth. 

And it’s a three-peat for the Eels in 2007.

Finally, you’ll have players cut by rival NRL clubs, at either senior or Flegg level, who’ll be looking to continue their career. It’s possible to pick up the occasional hidden gem via Ron Massey Cup (see Maika Sivo playing CC for Penrith after time in Shield and Massey levels) but the most likely scenario is that players will feed back to Massey Cup rather than players being discovered from that competition.

Whatever the source of the talent, just like at some NRL clubs, there are players currently going through a train and trial process.

And just like NRL clubs, the final roster for the Eels Canterbury Cup team has not been finalised as yet. We hope to report on that, and players to watch, when details are known.

Looking ahead to the 2020 season, it will be an exciting prospect to watch our “reserve grade” team playing in Parra jerseys at Bankwest Stadium. It will also be a positive for fringe players to be pulling on a blue and gold jersey at the same venue as their NRL cohorts. And for those weeks when the draws don’t align, it’s my understanding that a healthy relationship has been maintained with Wenty so that Ringrose can be utilised as a venue.

We will probably never again see the three grades of Eels football on match days, and there may still be roster or organisation teething problems that will make the job a challenging one for new coach, Ryan Carr.

Nonetheless, this back to the future move gladdens the heart of an old timer like me.

See you there at the curtain raisers in 2020.

Eels forever!

Sixties

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Big Derek
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Big Derek

Question, implying Ryan Carr as coach in charge of NSWRL cup side, have we moved on Rip Taylor, he is the most successful reserve grade coach in the history of NSWRL. The club must have a high regard for Carr.

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Sixties, I look forward to next year, if for no other reason than having a proper eels CC side in eels colours and basically within the full control of the eels club. The sorrow I guess is what happens to Wenty? I had neighbours who played for Wenty over the years, and one did his knee in at Ringrose as a consequence of the ground having Kikuyu as grass on the field as it was considered the most robust, Joe hobbled up to our home one afternoon with his leg and knee area plastered all over, he told me the… Read more »

Milo
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Milo

Sixties i can only see this to be a win; and its a shame we have allowed some players to leave. I guess for people like me until we see who is on the lists for CC, Flegg etc we wont be able to gauge them as well. For me, i would be giving some of these younger guys some time in CC ( Schnieder, Hollis, Hughes?) at some point as i am particularly concerned about the clubs direction in terms of retention. I wont go on about this suffice to say its v concerning and v hard to still… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Agree with your sentiments here Milo. Hard decisions have to be made so that we can sure up the future with the young guys coming through.

Hanging on to these players is a low risk option but is it best for the club in the long term.

I look at clubs like the Roosters and Storm, while they identify the core of the team they seem to have no problems moving fringe players on to achieve the best outcome for the club.

John Eel

Muz
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Muz

Thanks Sixties… This is a subject that has absolutely intrigued me since the club made the decision about a year ago to field their own CC team, The idea of aligning ourselves with multiple RM cup teams is an interesting one but I think the club will form an exclusive extended squad ( 2nd tier or reserve grade ) call it what you will but it will be players outside the 36 and Flegg squads. As it stands right now I’m reliably informed that there are about 6 players on a train and trial contract with with about 2 player… Read more »

BDon
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BDon

Sixties, are there any salary cap rules for development and 2nd tier players? (You’ve probably covered this before). And just on cap, when you run through our NRL squad, there’s talent lurking everywhere, maybe the spreadsheet is bulging and retention isn’t as simple as we’d like.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Interesting article. Which clubs in Massey Cup do you think would be part of this relationship ?

Anonymous
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Anonymous

I was of a view that they would use Kellyville as a home ground for CC once it was completed. Is this true and would it negate the need for Ringrose?

John Eel

parrathruandthru
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parrathruandthru

Yeah but for CC it needs to be fenced and have a grand stand.
This will be the last part of the complex to be built
So it will be Ringrose for a couple of seasons

John Eel
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John Eel

Thanks Parra

Are you going to the meeting on Sunday. I have gone weak at the knees and sent in a postal vote this time.

parrathruandthru
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parrathruandthru

Yeah I’ll be there and have already voted
Can you send TCT your email. I’ve got a couple of old pictures of Phil Jelly I’d like to send you

John Eel
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John Eel

Thanks for that. I have included my email on this post. Not sure why it keeps dropping off.

Look forward to seeing the photos and will pass them onto the family. We are having a gathering in a couple of weeks.

parrathruandthru
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parrathruandthru

you may need to send it to admin

parrathruandthru
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parrathruandthru

I’ll PM you on one eyed dingbats

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Parra I responded to your PM, hope you received the email address ok

John Eel