Christmas Eve is a special time for The Cumberland Throw. It marks the date that we first announced our arrival as a dedicated Parramatta Eels supporter site. Our birthday!
A late December launch came after months of meeting, planning, website design and ultimately content creation. After all, we had to offer a reason for that first visit.
We might normally expect this time of year to be quiet in Rugby League, but it seems that’s rarely the case. Case in point, some of the headlines I’ll touch on in this issue.
There’s the good and the not so good. Santa vs the Grinch if you will, but as far as I’m concerned the focus on the positive deserves to be the sharpest. And that’s my intent here.
Just quietly, there’ll be no holiday for TCT over Christmas and New Year. There’s some content in the pipeline and we’ll be ready to cover any breaking news.
A Christmas Contract Gift From The Eels
The contract extension of Dylan Brown was a timely holiday gift for the many thousands of Eels supporters stressing out over the rich offers from rival clubs. Congratulations to Eels media for their unique announcement of the deal. Just brilliant!
I was quietly confident about Dylan remaining an Eel. I shared the story about an earlier contract extension in my previous issue of Bumpers Up. It was an insight into the mindset of a player who marches to the beat of his own drum.
Though Brown was an import to our pathways at the Harold Matts level, Parramatta is his rugby league home. That raw talent identified by Anthony Field has been fine tuned by his Eels coaches, with Dylan praising BA for what he has done for his game over the past four seasons.
The key to a development club finding success is keeping the best of those from their pathways. It’s not always possible to do so, as even the Panthers have discovered. But in Brown, the Eels have locked up a major local talent.
My Christmas wish is that similar ties that bind will get Will Penisini across the line. Another pathways product, the Blue and Gold is part of his DNA. Will’s association with Brad Arthur stretches back even further than Dylan Brown, as the dynamic centre was coached by BA at the Rouse Hill Rhinos.
And when Penisini prepares for his footy each week at Kellyville, he’s joined by a host of Rhino or Eels Junior Rep team mates including Sean Russell, Jake Arthur, Sam Loizou, Toni Mataele, Jontay-Junior Betham-Misa and Matt Komolafe. It also doesn’t hurt that his younger brother Richard is highly rated within the Eels system.
Hopefully most of you have had the opportunity to catch our podcast with Eels GM of Football, Mark O’Neill. Buckets has endeavoured to record a chat with TCT at least once a year, and I appreciated him ensuring that it happened – this time in the lead up to Christmas.
The hour that we spent with Mark was informative with regard to club decisions, systems and ambitions. It was also an interesting insight into how busy a Football GM can be.
Though his phone was on silent we could see it constantly lighting up with calls and messages throughout the interview. It was no surprise that there was no time for a debrief when our recording had finished.
I should also mention that this all transpired late in the afternoon in mid December. A reminder that from players, to coaches, to administrators, there is rarely any down time in the NRL.
A Belated NRL Gift
After a prolonged process of negotiations, the NRL has finally announced the salary caps for the 2023 NRL and NRLW seasons. It’s been a long wait and there can be no finger pointing at any courier service for the late delivery.
The total NRL cap of $12.1m includes $11.45m for the top 30 players and $650K for the development list. The minimum salary for a top 30 player will now rise to $120K.
As far as the NRLW is concerned, their cap will rise to $884K.
The CBA is still under discussion. With the current preseason in its Christmas break, and the countdown to NRL trials beginning, the NRL and RLPA wisely agreed to extend and amend the current CBA to provide clarity about the salary cap.
How this amended cap figure impacts player contracts currently under negotiation remains to be seen. Perhaps we might expect a flood of signing announcements.
A new cap of $884K for the NRLW Premiership is still well short of an amount that would see female players becoming full time professionals.
Though the product is world class when stacked up against other women’s football codes, the NRL continues to take cautious steps. The expansion of the women’s premiership to ten teams will not include a home and away round between every team.
Outside of the financial considerations limiting further expansion, there are player depth and logistical questions to be answered. That said, the ultimate goal will remain a 17-18 team competition running parallel with the NRL.
Until that happens, contracts will be limited as any future expansion will require significant numbers of free agents so that new franchises can immediately assemble competitive rosters.
Hence, we will only see multi-year deals for club nominated marquee signings, and our frustration will continue at not seeing the likes of the Cherrington sisters, Simaima Taufa, Rikeya Horne, Gayle Broughton, Ruby-Jean Kennard, Mina Hanisi and our other grand final stars locked up on long term deals.
The Annual Christmas Visit
As an Eels supporter, I’m proud of the decades long association between our club and Ronald McDonald House. It’s straight out special.
Recently the team made their annual Christmas visit to RM House at Westmead, giving out gifts, serving meals and just bringing some joy to those young children and their families. The images of the interactions say more than my words could.
A few months ago, Forty and I were invited by Parra Leagues to accompany their leadership team as they prepared and served meals. The tour of the facility, and watching such community service in action, was a memory that will stay with me.
Accordingly, the best thing I can do is, with acknowledgement to Eels media, share some of the photos of the players on the visit. The smiles say it all and there’s plenty on the faces of the players!
It’s a shame when the NRL hits the headlines for the wrong reasons. People are fallible, they make poor decisions or simply do bad things. For all of its good, our game is still subject to some of society’s wrongs.
The arrests of Junior Amone and Sam Burgess were always going to receive far more media attention than a visit to Ronald McDonald House, or any other community organisation by players or clubs.
So I’ll end my comment there. Instead, here’s another RMH visit photo.
Happy New Year From Eels Pathways
This week we posted about the extraordinary logistics involved in simultaneously staging Junior Rep trials at Goulburn and internal Development Squad trials at Westmead. What a day and what an accomplishment.
If you enjoy following Parramatta’s Junior Rep teams, don’t forget that the action starts coming your way from early in January.
Parramatta’s Matts, Ball and Gale teams play trials on January 14 and 21 against the Dogs and the Panthers respectively. Their competitions then commence on February 4.
Once more you can expect coverage of their seasons on TCT, with Forty20’s famous live blogs or my very average match updates.
I would like to give an early shout out to the coaches Chris Howard, Steve O’Dea, and Ryan Walker and all of the pathways staff.
Every year, our access to the program gets better and better, and by being involved and informed, we can continue to improve our coverage for Eels supporters.
Eels pathways staff go out of their way to make The Cumberland Throw welcome at training and on match days. We’ve been privileged to be a part of jersey presentations, captains runs with their associated video analysis and tip sheets, and end of season award nights.
We couldn’t ask for more.
Happy Birthday To TCT
Christmas Eve marks the 7th Birthday of The Cumberland Throw. On that day in 2015, with about a month of content already filmed or written, we hit the go button.
Little were we to know the dramas that would unfold in 2016. After starting the year with the excited expectation of a finals berth, It wasn’t much fun reporting on valid criticism of club processes or of having 12 competition points stripped from the team’s premiership standing.
Our early visitor numbers were encouraging. Around 280K visits were recorded in the first year. In 2022, that number will finish close to 700K – a new annual record.
The last 12 months have been extraordinary for the Eels, and we enjoyed the wild ride of a grand final season.
After every home game, our live Instant Reaction podcasts became a staple of post match celebrations at the Home of the Eels, Parra Leagues. We truly appreciate the opportunity to partner with the club as they extend the match day experience to both before and after games. We enjoyed chatting with Blue and Gold legends and meeting our listeners who travelled from far and wide to CommBank Stadium and then to the club.
For me, a wonderful and validating moment this year came late in the season after covering a NSW Cup game on a cold and damp night at Kellyville. A couple of parents of Cup players approached me to introduce themselves and to thank TCT for our coverage. We’ve experienced similar moments of gratitude from the families of younger players in the past, and it meant a lot to have such feedback from the families of those closer to the top grade.
There are exciting developments on the horizon for TCT and as our community knows, there is no offseason. “All things Parramatta Eels” will mean more for supporters next year. And without our readers and listeners, and supporters like Starr Partners Auburn, Narellan and Parramatta, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. Grateful!
In the meantime, our coverage of the NRL preseason will continue then we’ll be bringing you all of the action from the Junior Rep season kicking off in early February.
On behalf of everyone at The Cumberland Throw, I extend the warmest wish that all of you and your families have a wonderful Christmas.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or simply enjoy the festive season (and hopefully some holidays), we hope that it is a happy and healthy time.
Thank you for your support during 2022.