Christmas is almost upon us, but that hasn’t stopped the Eels world from turning. So forget the old red and green decorations, there’s Blue and Gold to add to your tree this week.
Announcements have literally arrived on a daily basis, so there’s plenty to review, plenty to discuss.
The Eels have confirmed that their traditional “Battle of the West” trial against the Panthers will take place at Panthers Stadium on Saturday, February 27.
If you love your footy, it’s a day not to be missed with three grades on show. The main event kicks off at 7:30, but I’ll be getting there early as the Riff are strong across their lower grades and always provide a decent gauge for Parra’s depth.
Panthers supporters also offer a solid warm up for Eels fans. They aren’t partial to their Blue and Gold brethren and definitely aren’t shy about expressing their feelings.
I first visited the ground when it was a no better than a cow paddock back in 1976. I’ve had a couple of “entertaining” recent visits to the venue and this will likely be no different.
Eels HQ Development Continues
The Hills Shire Council this week announced that their ongoing commitment to the Eels headquarters at Kellyville will next include the construction of two more elite playing fields.
There are currently four fields at the complex, with three of those added as part of the Council’s development partnership with the Eels. This next phase will see a $1.4 million construction tender awarded to replace the older existing field and build another alongside it.
Parramatta have been in their new Hills home for a year now, and the facilities are a far cry from the not too distant past. Though only temporary, the large modular building houses the club’s administration and provides a modern gym, recreation lounge and kitchen, dressing shed, physio treatment areas, coaches’ offices and a meeting/presentation room.
In coming years a grandstand will convert one of the existing fields into a pathways match venue, before the construction of the permanent Centre of Excellence building finalises the project.
Polar Bear Migrates
It was a bitter-sweet moment for fans of Daniel Alvaro this week when his long rumoured move to the Dragons was finally confirmed.
Since debuting in 2015, the 27 year old prop has notched up 89 NRL appearances for the Eels and has thousands of admirers in the Blue and Gold Army.
Polar has always been a fine ambassador for the club, on and off the field, and was rewarded by being named the Ken Thornett Medal winner in 2018, an award judged by his peers.
His six appearances on loan to the Warriors in 2020 takes the Italian International’s top grade tally to 95 games, right in that sweet spot of around 100 appearances that a club looks for when recruiting. In this mutually beneficial deal, the Dragons have added a terrific player and role model, whilst Danny has locked in greater security for the next two years.
For the Eels, Alvaro’s departure opens up a roster spot and provides a bit more coin for future signings. Do they add a middle or look to splash more cash on a quality back?
I like the competition for first grade places in the pack that now exists, and the questions that will be asked from the bench. But extended depth is never a bad thing so is the answer found internally or will Parra recruit?
There’ll be no arguments from supporters if the Eels go on the hunt for a strike centre. The obvious question – who is available for 2021?
January could hold the answers.
Nothing Beats The Eels
Another exciting announcement on the Eels partnership front was made when Gatorade was confirmed Parramatta’s Official Hydration Partner.
In a powerful endorsement of the club’s strength and direction, the world’s leading sports drink brand will provide hydration products for players from pathways to NRL.
Eels Chief Commercial Officer, Andrew Mikhail, has been kicking more than his share of elite partnership goals with Lending Association and Macron also linking with the club for the 2021 season and onwards.
With the Brad Arthur coached Eels continuing to produce consistent finals appearances, and the construction of world-class facilities, the club is building its identity as a destination place on the Australian sporting landscape.
Parramatta supporters should feel proud of the club’s community partnership with Ronald McDonald House at Westmead.
The Eels have been associated with this fine organisation for 27 years, doing their part in providing brighter moments for children and their families who are facing tough times through their health challenges.
During the week, the players and staff visited RMH to deliver Christmas gifts donated to the Eels giving tree and to spread a bit of festive season fun.
I reckon this is a partnership in the truest sense of the word as every visit sees the players gain at least as much as the young people do.
The players and staff are now in their annual festive break, meaning that official training shuts down for the fortnight.
Of course, whilst many of us let our hair down and add a few kgs to our frames over this time, NRL players cannot afford similar indulgences.
Each will be given programs to follow and you can bet that measurements and tests await them on their return. Any who lose their discipline make their task harder in the countdown to Round 1.
“Enjoy” the break fellas. January 4 will be here before you know it.
Images courtesy of Eels media