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From The Stands – May 2, 2023: Working Towards Success

What does a successful club look like?

On a micro level, we should see the NRL team playing to its strengths.

Against the Knights on Friday night, we saw the Eels take steps towards doing that.

Though understrength, the Eels forwards won the middle against the Knights with the performances of some individuals surprising their harshest critics.

Of course, they can’t afford to leave it there. Stronger opposition will be met against the top sides but the effort and physicality must be replicated.

The Eels second try typified Parra playing to their strengths, and key to that was the discipline and patience involved.

In the build up to that Moses try, the forwards got on a roll. The right to play expansive footy was earned and they found the balance between going for the try and taking the tackle.

Friday night celebrations

To explain, in the lead up, Junior took on the line and delivered a beautiful pass to Hopgood. At that point, Hopgood had a choice to make – the miracle flick or a quick play the ball. He opted for the quick play the ball which allowed Hodgson to deliver a crisp pass to Moses who was running at a staggered, retreating defence. Mitch did the rest.

I talk about this try because our Eels have been guilty of impatience in 2023. Indeed, the team fell back into the habit at times during the second half on Friday night. But when the team reviews the match, that try should be highlighted as it is the simplest example of how effective Parra footy can be.

But the qualities demonstrated in victory on Friday night were almost secondary to what was witnessed on Saturday afternoon at Leichhardt Oval. And it wasn’t just about what happened on the field.

Before getting to the point of this post, I want to extend huge congratulations to the SG Ball players, coaches, support staff and also the parents who no have doubt spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours over the years supporting their son, or in the case of the De Stradis twins, their sons!

I also noted a similarity to the style and structures of the NRL team, most notably evident in that short pass to Charlie Guymer on the right edge that led to the second try. It was simply fantastic to have these young men represent the Eels so well, playing for each other especially in their resolute defence on the try line.

Critically, what we witnessed post match on Saturday was what a successful club looks like on a macro-level, and that’s all about club culture and philosophy.

When the NRL players greeted the victorious SG Ball team in the sheds to celebrate their title win, it was more than just a surprise. It signalled that the success of any Eels team is important to the entire club.

Saturday celebrations

The footage said it all. The first graders were genuinely happy and excited for the young pathways players.

Sustained success requires a production line of talented footballers. But it’s far more than just that. Successful clubs generate, foster and maintain a great supportive culture.

Those dressing shed scenes were heartwarming for supporters, like me, and they probably went a long way towards making these young players “Parra aspirational”.

The reality is that if managed well, a few of those SG Ball players will take the field alongside the NRL stars in the near future. After all, they’ve already trained with them during the preseason.

Back in 2017, Clint Gutherson and others showed up to support the SG Ball team when they defeated the Sharks in the Grand Final. In 2023, Dylan Brown, Haze Dunster and Matt Doorey are playing alongside the King.

So when the Eels captain tells them, and any future players, that supporting one another is part of the club’s DNA, they know from first hand experience that those words are credible.

At Parramatta, there is a one club philosophy. On a Saturday afternoon at Leichhardt Oval it was there for all to see.


(images courtesy Eels media)


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10 thoughts on “From The Stands – May 2, 2023: Working Towards Success

    1. sixties

      Electric, Lebron suffered a hand injury which required surgery. We covered this at the time and referenced it in the preview. It was an inopportune injury, not that injuries could ever be good. However, after missing much of the preseason with injury he was just starting to build up minutes on the field and making an impact from the bench.

      1. Leigh

        It will be interesting to see who is elevated to Flegg. Gee there’s some good forwards there. I know it’s hard to forecast teenage growth but I had Charlie as a strong running centre; he’s now moved to 2nd row via lock and still filling out.

  1. Longfin Eel

    You are right Shelley, and it’s a very good sign that the NRL players had such buy in to the SG Ball side. As you say, this is what it takes to create a successful Parramatta club. Culture is crucial to any club, and it certainly seems that Parra have finally rediscovered their own culture. Let’s hope this fosters over the years such that the club lives and breathes this culture from players, back room officials to fans.

    1. Shelley

      One of the things I loved the most was the fact that BA and the club officials did not make it about them. Clubs leaders can suggest the culture they want but senior players determine how real it is.

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