“We’re here for Parra, we’re here for the Eels and that’s exactly what we’re here for.”
At a time when COVID-19 has had, and will continue to have, a massive impact on our communities, the above statement made by Parramatta Leagues Club President Greg Monaghan in his recent chat with Forty and I on The Tip Sheet truly resonated with me.
It’s a powerful commitment to the community and to football in the district. As a lifetime resident of the club’s catchment area, as a long term Parra Leagues member and as an Eels supporter, I want to know what is central to the values of my club.
In the context of the past 12 months, it’s incredibly reassuring.
Back on March 22, 2020 it was announced that the COVID-19 pandemic required venues such as pubs and clubs to close for anything up to six months. The following day, the NRL announced that it would have to suspend its competition, effective immediately.
Soon after, media organisations commenced their diagnosis of the health of each NRL club, especially those financially supported by Leagues Clubs, and in some instances, offered premature autopsies.
There was understandable fear and concerns. It seemed like the world was flying by the seat of its pants. Businesses were closing, sport had shut down, people were dying.
The new world might not include simple things that we take for granted – socialising, watching and playing sport. In our corner of Australia, the code that we loved had been put on hold, and its financial foundations put under the microscope.
Of course, history records that the NRL resumed on 28 May. The empty arenas were a reminder of the times, but there was a bright light on the horizon.
At the same time, another success story was unfolding, but it wasn’t revealed in full until the release of the Parramatta Leagues Club Annual report this week.
In that report, the club announced a profit (surplus) of $2.12m for the year ending 31 October, a figure almost identical to the previous year. It was a far cry from the predicted doom facing clubs, but it didn’t come easily.
There was the matter of a 10 week shutdown, and the operational changes associated with COVID safe practices.
Yet, the annual report details $800k in support to community groups and the district junior rugby league clubs, as well as $5.9m funding for the Eels.
Anyone who visits a hospitality venue understands that the challenges haven’t disappeared.
However, the way our club navigated through the immediate uncertainty last year was a story that needed to be told, so Forty and I asked Greg Monaghan to share that on The Tip Sheet.
Ultimately, the success can be attributed to calm leadership which avoided retrenchments, utilised the shutdown period for maintenance and staff training, and cleverly and immediately responded to community needs by donating perishables to Mission Australia and surplus hand sanitisers to Northcott.
In our chat with Greg, the importance of community was obvious, and it began with the people they employ.
“We’re very proud that no staff member had to be retrenched because of COVID.”
Greg’s pride in being able to retain valuable staff was rewarded when the club finally re-opened its doors and members were greeted by familiar faces.
The commitment to the people in the community wasn’t just lip service.
An elderly friend of my family who has major health issues received a welfare check phone call from Parra Leagues, followed by a care package. We learned later that this was an early initiative by the club in caring for its members. Some readers might have their own instance of support that they can recount.
Another club initiative, driven by PLC Director Phil Sim, focussed on junior football clubs who all received COVID sanitiser packs which were essential for them to return to playing and training. The additional requirements for Junior sport, and how they would suddenly meet them, is probably something that doesn’t come readily to mind for people who aren’t involved, but it doesn’t make them any less significant.
Maintaining the Club Grants program – 800K in funding to community groups and junior rugby league clubs – also needs to be put in context. So uncertain was the future, an early order of business for the club was to lock in an emergency line of credit (never utilised). Having navigated the difficult waters, the club gave back to the community.
The Cumberland Throw had to talk footy with Greg and he was full of praise for the on-field performances of our Eels team and their top four finish, as well as the management guidance of Jim Sarantinos, Sean McElduff and the Football Club Directors. The ambitions remain high for 2021 on the back of a strong 2020.
Of course, reflecting on the past twelve months is well and good, but it means nothing without future plans.
The PLC president had this to say, “The Eels and Parra are pretty powerful brands – we’re here for our community and our community is really important to us in relation to the Parramatta footy catchment area and the surrounding areas.”
Greg went on to detail that Parra Leagues recognises that it attracts members and visitors because of its brands, but it needs to expand and refresh its services and facilities. That includes providing more areas to eat, drink and socialise.
Members were able to have their say in what they wanted via last year’s survey. Coming up very soon, is a more important opportunity for club members to have their voice heard.
Next week, Parra Leagues members will begin to receive their voting papers. The new constitution provides for online or postal voting, which means it’s as easy as filling in the papers or going on line to tick the boxes.
The Cumberland Throw encourages all members to use their right to vote. It’s an integral component in determining the future of your club.
Let’s ensure that it remains a bright one.