The Cumberland Throw

Team List Tuesday – The Award Winners

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.

 

The Team

 

The one and only Ken Thornett.

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.

 

 

 

Jarryd Hayne

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.

 

Legendary player, humble man.

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.

Champion player.

Champion bloke.

 

Steve Ella – dual centre of the year winner.

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.

 

 

Semi on the Dally M podium.

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.

 

The Natural

Five-Eighth – Brett Kenny

Golden Boot (1985)

What?

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.

 

 

One of many Sterlo photos I could have used

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.

 

 

 

Legend

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.

 

 

Hindy with Provan & Summons

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.

 

Higgsy – one of the toughest ever!

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.

 

 

 

Dean Pay

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.

 

 

Brad Drew

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.

 

 

Micky V

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.

 

A young Jethro – Photo by Trevor James Robert Dallen/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).

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.

 

 

 

 

Jim Dymock

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.

 

Jason Smith

Bench – Jason Smith

Dally M Lock Of The Year (1999)

Versatile and tough.

Ridiculously talented.

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.

 

 

John Peard

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!

 

 

Gibbo and Fitzy

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.

 

 

Brian Smith

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!

 

 Honourable Mentions


Nathan Cayless

Dally M Junior Player Of The Year (1995)

From local junior to loyal and long serving NRL captain.

 

Daniel Wagon

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.

 

Tim Smith

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.

 

Clint Gutherson

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.

 

Maika Sivo

Dally M Ken Irvine Medal – Top Try Scorer (2019)

The journey has just begun for Maika. An impressive debut season.

 

Mitch Moses

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.

The suit!

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?

Not me!

 

Eels forever!

 

Sixties

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Clive

No Eric Grothe Snr mate?

Achilles' Eel

I don’t think Guru ever completed a full season to win a major award, but what a prodigious talent he was all the same. The sheer speed and power of the man. I’ve never seen anything like it on a football field. As a child, I remember being at the SCG to watch him run down Penrith’s Warren Fenton in a semi-final. I then headed home to watch the same game on television and Eric wasn’t even in the shot over the first thirty metres of Fenton’s run. He just emerged from the bottom left-hand corner of my TV screen… Read more »

Zero58

Eric Grothe power and pace was in fact his strength and weakness.
He ran with such powerful pace that he invariably got hurt in a tackle or when tackling.
It was frustrating and I guess if he did the weight training and adapted a better running style of these times it would have helped him recover better.
But, without a doubt he was Parramatta’s best winger by a country mile.
That he never won an award is a mystery.

Clive

Ahh sorry mate, I was too eager to get to the list that I skimmed through the rules to qualify😂

Shelley

I know he does not qualify as it was not an end of year award ( amazing really when you think about it) but I cannot have a Parra ‘best’ list like this without Bob O’Reilly on it, especially as he was the first parra junior to come through and play for Australia. The closest I could find was him being judged and given best on ground in the 1981 grand final . (Special moment for our club) Of course this award became known as the Clive Churchil in 1986 with Sterlo winning it for the first time See the… Read more »

BDon

Tks sixties, great read. The old pics and the one-liners open out acres of memories.Brett Kenny and Jack Gibson seem a bit short changed.Jack led the way in bringing the game into a changing world of professionalism, media and societal choice.I look at his contemporaries, some had many of Jack’s strengths and abilities but I reckon none had them all.

Greg Okladnikov

When I was a kid the Eels trained at Granville Park down the street from where we lived and Jack used to get the players to play cricket with the local kids who would get to training to watch. It was amazing as a kid to be bowling to …maybe Steve Ella, with Sterlo as wicket keeper. Amazing memories….and built lifelong memories. I also remember Jack had all 3 grades train together in 4 different groups to build a real club environment

Greg Okladnikov

And all the players were involved at some stage, even Ray Price and the Crow. But if my memory is correct no one was keen to get Ray Price out….I think we were a bit scared of him at the time as young kids. They were great days….and creating loyalty to a club forever.

parrathruandthru

Bowled a few balls at that 34 gallon drum myself Greg

parrathruandthru

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parrathruandthru

As a kid I got a fence post from Cumberland Oval signed by the 81 GF team. When I got Jack to sign it I asked him to be careful not to smudge any already there. I still carry the look he gave me to this day. He signed it though

BDon

An old work mate played under Jack in that 67 Roosters team (last 66/finalists67). Louis Neumann riled John Sattler in a scrum, but Sattler death stared my mate…’any more of that, I”ll ….g kill you’. He spent the next ruck yelling at Neumann to knock it off,that Jack won’t wear it.Gibson was trying new things, as simple as cut the penalties, no cheap shots.He rated Jack through the roof, and also Sattler for not killing the wrong bloke.

Zero58

Well, Ray Higgs is out. He went Manly. Sorry Sixties for bluntness but, he sold out. Thirsty Lynch was better. Brian Hambly had a toughness not matched by any other eels forward. And how could we leave out Steve Edge. Brad Drew was good but Steve Edge did so much more. Special mention Bob O’Reilly. Dick Thornett. The forwards will always be up for serious discussion. The back line picks itself except for Eric Grothe Snr. Semi was brilliant but he didn’t stay long enough whereas Eric didn’t leave and his efforts were absolutely awesome. Eric won quite a number… Read more »

Zero58

Sixties, I too jumped the gun.
But sticking to my thoughts.
Cheers

Milo

Sixties interesting concept; only player i cannot have in top 13 is Vella…I would prefer Cayless / Gerard from the bench; and i would even have Dymock / Smith in there before Vella to be honest. Sorry mate just my view.

Greg Okladnikov

Great team…..Brett Kenny never won a 5/8 of the year…thats incredible….and these are the players that beat him in the 5 years we made the GF, winning 4 of them

1981 – Five-eighth: Mick Pattison (South Sydney)
1982 – Five-eighth: Mitchell Cox (North Sydney)
1983 – Five-eighth: Terry Lamb (Western Suburbs)
1984 – Five-eighth: Terry Lamb (Canterbury)
1985 – Five-eighth: Neil Baker (Souths)
1986 – Five-eighth: Terry Lamb (Canterbury)

parrathruandthru

Mick Pattison was my favorite Parra player before Kenny. He was outstanding in 81 playing outside Little Artie. When Souths played Parra at Cumberland that year it was 16-0 after about 15 minutes 3 tries to Patto and another set up by him. Parra won 27-16 after the Bear took the game by the scruff of the neck. Kenny scored an outstanding long distance try that day using deceptive pace. Mitchell Cox took Norths to the semis in 82 in his first year in league. He stood out for them as they didn’t really have any other stars, Stiull got… Read more »

Trapped in the 1970's

Mate, I recall that game so well, one of my favourites. You are spot on. Pattison was on fire early and then The Bear scored a try that was just pure brute strength and determination near the posts at the Leagues Club end to gain some momentum. A couple of years earlier I dared to dream that 1979 would be another GF year in the form that Pattison was in in the first SF against the sharks but after that I think he was out with a leg or knee abscess if my memory serves me correctly.

PHIL

Eric Grothe was chosen as the Eels rookie of the year for 1978. Does that count?

Luke Winley

Hi there.
I was wondering if you could post the whole article that accompanied the Brett Kenny nomination. I believe had kenny played for queensland history would show that he was a better player than Lewis let alone meninga(whom both immortals were moved at various time to accommodate the natural) . His defence was astonishing only outshone by his speed and mastery with the ball. His reading of play and injecting himself into the game at precise times was ahead of his time.

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