This week’s team list is close to the creme de la creme of Eels players from the last 50 years. To qualify for a place in this team, the players needed to receive an end of season award measured against their Premiership peers.
Supporters from the early to mid 60s might feel aggrieved that there’s minimal representation from that era. Unquestionably, the proliferation of annual awards from the 1970s onwards, and the ease of digital access to recent award records, makes it more likely that Parra players of the last half century will be named.
That said, how can anyone be critical of players who make the grade this week.
In analysing the team, it’s obvious that a particular golden age, and a resurgent period, account for many of the selections.
In the 12 seasons from 1975 to 1986, the Eels played in eleven finals series, qualified for seven grand finals and won four titles. Little wonder a swag of players took out some major gongs during that era.
Likewise, the 13 year resurgence between 1997 and 2009 saw the Eels reach the finals in 10 seasons, win two minor premierships and qualify for two grand finals. Players from this period also featured prominently in the list.
Supporters can feel encouraged that three current players are listed as honourable mentions. Mitch Moses, Maika Sivo and Clint Gutherson might well find themselves named on the 2025 version of this list.
A special thank you to Parrathruandthru who researched much of this list, and then sourced the accompanying images.
Fullback – Ken Thornett
Sun Player Of The Year (1965), Daily Mirror Player Of The Year (TBC)
It’s the Mayor, the Eels first genuine superstar. Of course he’s listed.
i reckon my father would disown me if Thornett wasn’t named in this list
So good they named a medal after him.
Winger – Jarryd Hayne
Dally M Rookie (2006), Dally M Winger (2007), Dally M Fullback (2009 & 2014), Dally M Player (2009 & 2014), Rugby League Week Player Of The Year (2009 & 2014), Ken Thornett Medal (2009 & 2010), Dally M Top Try Scorer (2014)
This list of awards tells the tale. Probably not the greatest Eel of all time but arguably the most talented.
Centre – Mick Cronin
Dally M Centre (1980,81,82,83), Rothmans Medallist (1977, 1978), Rugby League Week Player Of The Year (1977)
The Artie Beetson of the backline.
Record setting point scorer.
One half of the Edgey and Crow stand up team.
Centre – Steve Ella
Dally M Centre Of The Year (1984,1985)
He made his name as a centre but could play any position from half to fullback – and excel.
It’s been said by his peers that injury prevented him from achieving his true potential.
That thought is frightening.
Winger – Semi Radradra
Dally M Winger Of The Year (2014,2015), Dally M Top Try Scorer (2015)
His departure contributed to a nightmare 2018.
Semi was arguably Parra’s best “front rower” – making the hard yards.
His back field carries were as important as the tries.
Five-Eighth – Brett Kenny
Golden Boot (1985)
That’s the sum total of his awards?
It’s not a bad award to display in your trophy cabinet but it’s almost inconceivable that Bert has just one major season award next to his name.
That said, I reckon Hindy would swap all of his awards for just one of Kenny’s four premiership wins.
Halfback – Peter Sterling
Dally M Player of The Year (1986, 1987), Rothmans Medallist (1987, 1990), Rugby League Week Player Of The Year (1984, 1986, 1987), Golden Boot (1987), Dally M Halfback Of The Year (1983, 1984, 1985, 1987)
He went OK didn’t he…
Multiple winner in all major Australian awards.
Amazingly, he still earned gongs in ordinary Eels seasons like 1987 and 1990.
Lock – Ray Price
Rothmans Medal (1979), Rugby League Week Player Of The Year (1979 & 1985), Dally M Player Of The Year (1982), Dally M Lock Of The Year (1982)
The mould was broken after Pricey was born.
One of a kind.
The impact of Price and Cronin retiring was instantaneous. That’s says plenty about what they brought to a ridiculously talented team.
Second Row – Nathan Hindmarsh
Rugby League Week Player Of The Year (2004, 2005), Dally M Provan Summons Medal (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011), Dally M Second Rower Of The Year (2001,2004, 2005, 2006), Ken Thornett Medal (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012)
His recent “comedic stylings” might have people forgetting that he was an amazing player. Look at that awards list!
Hindy, you deserved a premiership.
Second Row – Ray Higgs
Rothmans Medal 1976, Rugby League Week Player Of The Year (1976)
He wasn’t a big bloke but damn he was tough.
How often can you say that a Queenslander played with as much passion for their club as they do for their state?
Higgsy truly bled for that Blue and Gold jersey.
Prop – Dean Pay
Dally M Prop Of The Year (1998)
Delivered via Super League war and a huge part of the Eels revival in that era.
Named in the Parramatta Eels team of the Century.
A tremendous role model for a young Eels pack.
Hooker – Brad Drew
Dally M Hooker Of The Year (2001)
Close to the most dynamic number 9 to wear the Blue and Gold.
Provided a major point of difference around the ruck as the Eels made their way to the grand final. The nuggety Drew was a converted halfback who found a home in the middle.
Should have been retained for a longer period.
Prop – Michael Vella
Dally M Rookie Of The Year (1999)
Was he the fastest prop to play NRL? He would have gone close.
From local junior and winger to front row for Australia.
His greatest win was probably his victory against cancer.
Bench – Geoff Gerard
Rugby League Week Player Of The Year (1978)
Played centre, back row and front row during his career.
Gerard was part of the local junior surge into first grade that turned Parra into a finals resident.
Unfortunately Gerard left Parra just before their title run.
Bench – Jim Dymock
Dally M Lock Of The Year (1996)
“Jim, the penalty is against you. You were the aggressor“
”Of course I was, I f’ing smashed him!”
Would he have made the difference if retained for the 2001 season?
I’m voting yes.
Bench – Jason Smith
Dally M Lock Of The Year (1999)
Versatile and tough.
How good could he have been without the gaspers!
He suffered injuries in 2000, but like Dymock, I reckon he could have helped to get Parra across the line in 2001.
Bench – John Peard
Commonwealth Bank Superstar (1976)
The arrival of the Bomber launched the aerial attacks of 1976.
Jim Porter and Ray Price loved him.
A composed general on the field.
A man who could hold up an enormous trophy off the field. Check out the size of that monstrosity!
Coach – Jack Gibson
Dally M Coach Of The Year (1982)
In my opinion, Jack Gibson was coach of the year in 1981, 1982 and 1983.
He changed the face of coaching
“In football, if you’re standing still, you’re going backwards fast.”
Played strong, done good Jack.
Assistant Coach – Brian Smith
Dally M Coach Of The Year (2001)
The longest serving Eels coach, departing during his record 9th year at the club.
The man behind a record breaking 2001.
Had the well-earned reputation as a coach who could deliver change.
That he did!
Dally M Junior Player Of The Year (1995)
From local junior to loyal and long serving NRL captain.
Dally M Lock Of The Year (2001)
We called him “Superglue”. If the ball hit his hands, it usually stayed there. Went from a very average winger to a valuable utility to an Origin player.
Dally M Rookie Of The Year (2005)
It’s doubtful if any player has had a better debut season. What could have been.
Eric Grothe Junior
Dally M Winger Of The Year (2005)
Like his father, young Guru could create tries out of half chances. Near unstoppable at his best.
Dally M Provan Summons Medal (2017)
It’s an encouraging sign that the current Eels captain is a recent award winner. On the verge of Origin.
Dally M Ken Irvine Medal – Top Try Scorer (2019)
The journey has just begun for Maika. An impressive debut season.
Dally M Halfback Of The Year (2019)
Another year like, or better than, 2019 could just about get the Eels to the decider. Arguably the best Parra half of the last 20 years.
Over To You
Imagine competing against this team! How do reckon they’d go?
Actually, try accommodating such a team under a salary cap.
Extraordinarily, there are Parramatta legends and internationals who don’t qualify for this list, which is a measure of the talents of the players on this list, or at the very least, a measure of a stand out season that each enjoyed.
Is there someone that should be listed that we’ve missed. If you have a player and the award won, please add that in a reply.
But before concluding this post, I have to include another photo from Parrathruandthru. It’s of champion Eels second rower Ray Higgs and he’s wearing one of the greatest suits you’ll ever see.
It doesn’t even need to be in colour to get your attention.
Do you think anybody had a shot at him about his choice of formal wear?