The Cumberland Throw

Bumpers Up – November 29, 2022: A Clearer Future?

For most NRL fans, the start of every preseason brings renewed hope for what lies ahead. After typically winding up the season before with “maybe next year”, we find ways to see the promise in the future.

After hitting the dizzying heights of our first grand final appearance since 2009, 2023 only requires Parra to go one better for the title to be ours.

So how are we travelling right now? What road markers are there to indicate that good times still lie ahead?

From an operational perspective, the news about the Kellyville HQ should enthuse those invested in the Eels long term plans. Equally, the performance of young pathways players getting their first taste of an NRL preseason is indicative of strong succession plans.

Looking at the current squad, the recruitment of a genuine leader could bring immediate dividends, but does the potential loss of one or both halves dampen any enthusiasm?

Like always in rugby league, the future starts now.

Bumpers Up!


Kellyville Development

It feels like it’s taken an eternity, but the next and final stage in the development of Kellyville Park has finally been confirmed.

After seeing the plans during the season, I was hoping that approval was just an administrative tick away. If you haven’t already done so, check out the virtual tour presented on the Eels official site.

The virtual view from the proposed grandstand

A road works depot full of demountable buildings occupies the site on which the main Centre of Excellence building will be constructed. The upgrade of Memorial Drive was always going to impact the starting date for the Eels new home, but fortunately the project in its entirety now looks likely to commence by mid 2023.

Modular buildings currently house the club’s administration and football operation. The facilities are quite good but not permanent. Furthermore, the grounds do not currently contain a match venue with any level of spectator comfort.

All of that will change come 2025, with a community centre which will include a grandstand, gym, match-day media rooms, change-rooms, café, and parking. Parramatta will then stage regular Junior Representative, lower grade and NRLW matches at Kellyville.

Happy days! Happy future!


Is A Veteran The Key To Parra’s Future?

Those who follow my preseason training reports are aware of my opinion of Josh Hodgson. The English international has made a strong impression at Kellyville from his first day on the training paddock.

Watching him mentor, encourage and drive the young Eels squad has already been illuminating to watch.

Whilst it would be ridiculously foolish to tip a massive season ahead for a veteran player with a history of serious knee injuries, a healthy Josh Hodgson could be a game changer for the club.

I don’t need to rattle off what the talented English rake has produced over the years for the Raiders. Most NRL fans acknowledge the threat that he poses around the ruck. He is a vastly different dummy half to Reed Mahoney, so expect some changes to how Parra will play.

So, what I will tip is that Hodgson’s leadership and desire to assist team mates in becoming better players will bring a different dimension to the team. And for a club looking to take one more step forward, he could be exactly who we needed.


The Young Ones

I’ve made the decision to keep a lid on writing up the young pathways players getting some NRL preseason experience. Many of these lads will return to either SG Ball or Flegg when their NRL training wraps up, so it’s important not to get ahead of ourselves.

That said, I do want to offer my early praise to them as a group. They arrived ready for their first NRL preseason (easier said than done) and are responding well to the challenges put to them.

Ready to run

Those wanting some details on young players to watch and their current level should check out Forty’s Rookie Watch series here and here. Though not detailing every pathways player involved in the preseason, it does identify a number to follow and most importantly provides a realistic overview of where they are at.

By the way, the first of the Junior Rep trials will take place in the middle of this month. Make sure you follow TCT for our coverage.

The Immediate Future Of Contracts

I’m well and truly over the endless speculation surrounding the future of Eels halves Mitch Moses and Dylan Brown. I was therefore in two minds about sharing my takes on the uncertainty of their deals.

Mitch Moses

But there is something worth reminding people about.

In 2022 the Eels reached the grand final without having one player voted as the best in their position (see Dally M Awards). It’s resulted in a strong and balanced team.

If the last couple of years has taught me anything, it’s that the Eels won’t go beyond market price, and won’t put themselves in salary cap trouble to either recruit or retain a player. Consequently, Parra has lost players to clubs desperate to climb the ladder and willing to shell out significantly more coin for those players.

Both Dylan and Mitch are valued highly by the Eels. I’m confident that their offers are rightly reflective of their worth. If they move on the money will have to be massive and if so I wouldn’t want the Eels to match it.


Looking After The Future Of Those From The Past

In case you missed the images on our social media platforms, the Blue and Gold Alliance (BGA) held their Christmas drinks at the Royal Oak Hotel in Parramatta last Saturday. It was a casual catch up for their members in the lead up to the festive season.

The BGA welcomes all former graded Parra players and officials to be a part of their community. It’s important for people to stay connected and the BGA is building their network of members so that they can regularly check on the well-being of former Eels, both now and into the future.

Mal McMartin, Ross Law, Kevin McFarlane and Chris Coy at the BGA Christmas drinks

We’ve previously brought you details on the BGA in our interview with their Chairman Bill Richards, and in our coverage of their annual Eels player reunion. The 2022 reunion was a massive success and the NRL team’s comprehensive victory over the Bulldogs made the day that much sweeter!

Each year their calendar will include the Ted Sulkowicz Memorial Golf Day, the Annual Players Reunion and a Christmas gathering with other events likely to be added. Every gathering maintains and extends their reach.

We have been honoured to attend a couple of their events during this past year and will continue to support the BGA in whatever way we can.

Eels forever!


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48 thoughts on “Bumpers Up – November 29, 2022: A Clearer Future?

  1. Ron

    This media circus re:player signings has to end. It always focuses on parra. No mention in the media that the whole sharks backline is off contract nor the south’s trio of latrell Cody and cook. I would be incredibly disappointed if Moses took a few extra dollars to play for tigers or bulldogs. We made him the best version of himself and he has been paid handsomely his whole career. To try squeeze more out of a club is not the go in my opinion if you’re deadset about competing for premierships and being a leader. Dylan is hard to read but I think he will stay. Nonetheless, these protracted negations by the eels need to but cut out. It feels like the eels management take so bloody long to do anything and are not proactive enough in locking up talent. Will penisini should have been locked up ages ago.

    1. sixties Post author

      Ron, I can’t speak as to why negotiations with Moses are taking so long this time, but his agent is likely to be a major factor. That said, he has it in his power to minimise it and to be fair, past deals have been painless. As for Dyl, he said he wouldn’t decide till his footy was wrapped up for the year, and he’s currently enjoying his travels, so there’s a reason there. Like you, I feel Dyl is likely to stay.

  2. Shaun

    We won’t get the best of Hodgson but if we get the best from Hodgson then Parra will do well. So well, I’m going to put the house on Parra to win the comp.*

    And count me as someone also over the contract saga and the media’s gossip columnist spins. Wake me up when they have signed.

    *Not my house of course. Someone else’s.

  3. Brett Allen

    I can’t agree with your casual take on Mitch & Dylan. They are irreplaceable, we are no chance of competing for a title in 2024 without both of them, in fact, you can write us off in 23 if either sign elsewhere, the distraction will be too much, we are too mentally feeble to stand up to the constant media speculation. I really hope Mark O’Neill understands that these two are must keeps, we have to pay whatever it takes, and lock them down long term.

    1. Milo

      Brett I agree with your comments about O’Neill but players are replaceable but like me I would like to know the clubs plan ahead if they choose to leave.

      1. Brett Allen

        When I say irreplaceable, I mean in the short to medium term. Obviously long term they are, but MM & DB are the best halves combo we’ve had since Sterling & Kenny. Quality halves aren’t just lying around waiting to be picked up on the cheap. If we lose one of them we’re no longer a contender, if we lose both we miss the finals and are looking at a full rebuild. They are that important

        1. pete

          As you said our best halves combo probably since the 80’s. If we lose one or both its a failure. We should only lose one to upgrade I.e. a Cooper Cronk type replacement. Given there’s nothing remotely like that. We have to hold onto what we have. It may cost us but, we just spent $600 on Matto and looked to keep Papalli so surely we have enough cap. Throw in N Brown’s money we will be in a strong position.
          I’m confident they’ll stay.

        2. John Eel

          Totally agree with your comments Brett. There is nothing to replace them with and if there was, it would cost the same as the two we are letting go or possibly more.

          The Eels mgt have made the decision to not chase the players that have left following the 2022 season. However now it would seem inconceivable after going through that pain that they would lose either of MM Dylan or Penisini.

          I have been saying this for some time now that the secret for keeping the halves in my opinion is long contracts not necessarily high contracts.

          The player managers in these cases have worked hard to manipulate the contracts so that the players are coming off contract at the same time the salary cap is increasing.

          At the same time Abdo has failed to get the cap negotiation concluded.

          1. sixties Post author

            Who’s to say that they haven’t been offered long term deals – see Matto, Junior and Reg. But I can’t agree about 7-10 year deals and few agents would lock a 22 year old into such a deal – if any!

          2. Brett Allen

            Well to answer your first question, Mark O’Neill has shown a real reluctance to offer long term deals, to your second question, why not, unless you don’t believe they are our long term answer ? As Gus said, when you find quality halves, you lock them down for as long as you can. Maybe DB’s agent advises him to not tie himself down to such a long term deal, but most players if given the chance will take the security of the longest possible deal that they can negotiate. He may not go for 10 years, but why not seven. That only takes him to age 30, but licks down a likely future captain of this club.

        3. Milo

          Good point and agreed they’re the best combination since back then. If Taylor / Buettner had got us up back in 01 maybe they could have passed them.
          I get it that quality halves are not on the shelf waiting but i do say that if one leaves, it allows us 12 months and $$$ to find someone and Cronulla found Nicho Hynes and he had a decent year; albeit not as many talented ready for NRL but he was a good purchase.

          1. Brett Allen

            60’s, we cannot rely on the NRL to police other clubs. We have to show these guys that they are our guys, that we mean business, that we are here to win. Being salary cap prudent is fine when dealing with wingers, centres, edges , even middles, but with playmakers it goes out the window. If you believe they are our guys, then do whatever it takes to keep them.

    2. Trapped in the 1970"s

      I agree with you entirely Brett. The market now has a new club, an increased salary cap and a couple of geographically close clubs that are desperate to secure established quality halves. That is the reality of the situation and it is much easier for a player to be loyal when the money is close to other offers. In my opinion it is nothing but a massive fail by the club if they don’t secure both DB and MM and a massive boost for another club should either leave. If they do what happens from here? Is there a plan, or does the club have to throw money at an established half from another club, or do they end up paying ä perceived “market” value for a half which ends up being over their true value anyway. I appreciate the dangers of overloading the cap on just a few players but in this instance O’Neill just needs to get it done.

      1. sixties Post author

        Trapped, this is assuming you are dealing with agents who have no agendas or where no other factors are in play. And I’m not saying this as an apologist for the club. We didn’t get things right with Ice in that he could have been locked up earlier. In this instance Dylan flagged that he wanted to wait and Moses was going to test the market. Also, the market values in the NRL aren’t perceived. All Clubs receive details on current contract values for all positions

        1. Trapped in the 1970"s

          Without doubt there are other factors at play but a repeat situation like with Ice has me worried. He should have been locked up earlier and in the end wasn’t the talk that the club got very close to the tigers offer anyway, which would have meant a shift in their earlier market value appraisal?

          Off topic but what a blast to see a photo featuring Chris Coy! Not sure if the facts back up my memory of Chris which was of a real club stalwart who was the understudy hooker to John McMartin seemingly year after year with very few first grade appearances. The quality of the incumbent and playing for your district no doubt major contributors to his limited first grade career.

    3. sixties Post author

      It’s not a casual take Brett – it’s one where I refuse to stress over a situation where agents impact clubs far too much than they should. Furthermore, there is a limit that exists on the contract with every player and I’m very, very confident that both have been offered deals that reflect their worth to the club.

  4. Milo

    Another great read Sixties and i like the story about the Blue and Gold Alliance. Its such an important program to have.

    I love reading about the younger brigade on the up and hope we can bring some on next season and give them a go.

    I for one am happy about Josh Hodgson and feel he will be great as long as he stays on the park.

    Look i am also over the contract saga but have to say i would be very peeved if we lost both, let alone one. I also feel we may need to pay beyond for one of them.
    I for one feel we have dropped the ball with this and should have locked up Moses a while ago and I also appreciate that this may not be the clubs total fault but if we lose Moses for 2024, then i would like to know the clubs plan as i would feel we are in strife unless BA has a plan to move DB to half and bring in someone else to 5/8 such as Gutho with the view to moving another fullback into the team.
    I also feel the media love a Parra story but unfortunately they’ve got some history to go off with last season being one.
    If MM and DB move on for more cash then good on them but having two important players off contract at the same time……gee it lends itself to potential issues.

    1. sixties Post author

      If it was the same manager regarding timing I might worry – but from my recall Moses last negotiated a one year extension on his deal and it was done without fanfare. I also believe that the club is not looking to lowball in any way here. There should be no thoughts that the deals aren’t good enough. They highly value both

  5. Sec50

    Steve Edge was our Hodgson of the 80s. He gave Parra that experience and dummy half excellence that made for a great decade. Thankfully I am old enough to remember it. Hodgson is a player who will not accept the sorts of poor performances we put in last year.

    1. pete

      100% agree.
      We had games where we “didn’t turn up” and nobody on the field with enough experience to turn it around. Our defence has been an issue for years. We need A Steven Edge type. Someone who can marshall the forwards when they are fatigued. Someone who can hold the middle in defence.
      I would have preferred Api Korosau but failing that. I think Hodgson’s signing is pivotal to the club breaking the drought.

      1. Prometheus

        You want to ask yourself ” why we didn’t turn up ” we have had that issue for years. Same as the haphazard defence, they are off field problems that have not been corrected. Josh will help onfield but it has to be righted before they get there.

      2. sixties Post author

        Api would have brought a different skill set. Here’s another take – I see Hodgson as an investment in the future. What he will bring to the younger players will be immense.

        1. HamSammich

          Agreed 60s. I’d really like to see the club recruit a dummy half around the 20-23 age. Have him do 2 pre-seasons under Hodgson and spend the next year and a bit learning our systems

  6. pete

    Whilst i would have preferred Api Korosau. But failing that I’m happy to be considered ridiculously foolish LOL.
    I really think Hodgo’ has been our missing link.
    Yes he’s been injured. But rehabilitation is much different now. He’s basically had a year off. Hodgo is fresh and obviously ready to go.
    I’m happy to start the Hodgo bandwagon.

  7. Anonymous

    We should be having highly visible meetings with Matt Burton’s manager just to shake up the narrative and drive up his price.

  8. Offside

    The media circus is almost always driven by the player agents.
    The fact that our 2 halves are off contract still is mismanagement on behalfof the recruitment team.

    My guts are telling me Mitch will leave he’s generally carried out his eels negotiations relatively quietly unlike this time that worries me.

    We allowed Gutho to carry on during his negotiations now history repeats with Mitch and Dylan.

    A week or so ago I was certain Dylan would stay now not so much interesting times ahead one thing we can all agree on is one leaves we need to recruit from outside because Jake can’t be the next best option (not that he’s as bad as people make out but he’s no 1st grade half)

    1. sixties Post author

      Jake would be ready by 2024 but that’s not the plan and he is and will be a different half to Moses we also have a very fine half in the making with Ethan Sanders and will do well to keep him as other clubs will be circling.
      i agree that the negotiations with Moses are far different this time, and you know that the size of the outside offers are a huge factor. This is what his agent wanted to test.

      1. Offside

        I’m actually more open to Mitch leaving unfortunately if it’s to the tigers my 7 year old will follow he’s still upset about Papalii Mitch will be the last straw I fear.

        As for Dylan is the junior that developed into a international half with potential for more that we have been waiting for I know Mitch was a eels junior but his major development years were with west’s. Dylan is the face of this Development club BS they keep talking about.

        Maybe Sanders is the future halves partner maybe that other young fella from Dragons we signed last year who’s name escapes me maybe it’s Jake, but if we loose either of our 2 elite halves we can slam shut any remote hopes of a premiership in the near future.

        Interesting times ahead

      2. Milo

        Good point Sixties, this is why the club or whoever is in charge of juniors needs to lock up guys like Sanders asap, as halves are key. I don’t expect them to pay Millions but surely if the club see talent then they need to pay? For example and I am not comparing players but Easts bought Sualli for some $$$$

        1. John Eel

          Good point Milo when the Roosters recruited Suallii he was too young to play NRL.

          He signed on for a reported $250,000? A clause in his contract allows him to go to market each year.

          Where is the same NRL media who climb all over the Eels criticising them for having both halves off contract in the same year yet say nothing of the Sualii contract.

  9. Anonymous

    If Mitch goes, which is looking very likely the eels back up plan is George Williams, good mates with Hodgson.
    I was impressed with him at the raiders and the World Cup.

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