It’s been a while, and for various reasons Bumpers Up has been on hiatus.
However, with so much going on in PARRAdise (what’s new!) it was time to get a new issue out there.
And what better way to celebrate its return than with a new featured image. The photo of Marata putting on a bump during an opposed session served its purpose for a few years, but with the big Kiwi now only a fond memory for Eels fans, it was time for an update.
So when Clint Gee created that new featured image, he could not have chosen a better moment than when Sivo treated James Tedesco with complete disdain. Let’s hope the big winger can resurrect that unstoppable force that had fullbacks shaking at the thought of tackling him.
Thanks Clint and go you mighty Eels.
The Colonel’s Future
Can the Eels retain Ethan Sanders and what would they need to pay to get him to ink a new deal with the club?
We know that proven halves are getting well north of a million dollars per season. The Wests Tigers are preparing an offer for Jarome Luai which is reportedly in the vicinity of $4.5 million over four years.
As an interesting aside, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has declared that his five-eighth has never been required to steer the team around. He believes that he could but his system has the number seven as the chief playmaker. Of course, that could all be a ploy to ward off potential suitors for Luai.
So what about a 19 year old game manager who is only proven in age football?
After a successful SG Ball season and an impressive under 19s Origin appearance for NSW, Sanders’ stocks were high enough to attract a handful of lucrative offers mid season, with the Raiders in the box seat via a contract to commence in 2025.
Changes to contract rules mean that Canberra’s apparently successful negotiations cannot be finalised until documents are signed after Round 6 in 2024. At that point in time, as the incumbent development club, the Eels will learn of the size of the deal and will have a short cooling off period to try to match or better that figure.
Will it be possible for the Eels to retain their rising star?
As I see it, three factors are in play. History, future opportunity as a halfback, and coin.
The Eels cannot undo any mistakes that were made in previous deals or negotiations. It will have coloured the landscape, but what’s done is done.
I’d also rule out trying to turn The Colonel into a utility or moving him out of the halves. In a competition where quality halfbacks are scarce, he’d be looking to enhance his reputation in that position, not diluting it by having clubs see him as something other than a talented specialist playmaker.
Will there be an opportunity for Sanders to play first grade for the Eels, in the halves, before Round 6? If so, could the Eels convince him that his immediate future lies with them as a playmaker?
Unless BA is suddenly going to either shift Moses or Brown out of position, or out of the club, this seems unlikely.
So, rule out two factors.
Finally, the coin.
I’d suggest that come Round 6, we’ll see offers for Sanders from the Raiders or other clubs from $350k to possibly as high as $500K per season.
Would the Eels be prepared to match that given that they have already got a combined $2 million plus per season invested in long term deals with their incumbent halves?
It’s literally the million dollar question.
When it’s all added up, it’s difficult to see the club retaining this talented pathways player. And it’s hard to be critical of a professional footballer looking to maximise his opportunities and financial returns, especially one who plays in such a highly valued position.
In Parramatta’s favour is that they will know the contract value that they will need to match or better. There is also the unknown about whether injury or circumstance might create the scenario where Sanders becomes an integral player in the Eels spine sooner than expected. And it shouldn’t be forgotten that he is currently training with, and moving forward will be playing alongside, a number of good mates.
Whatever the outcome, I expect Brad Arthur to see Sanders as a valuable resource during the upcoming season, and that could mean an NRL debut regardless of any contract decision.
Georgallis Joins The Eels
The biggest news out of PARRAdise this week was the appointment of Steve Georgallis to the dual roles of Elite Pathways Coaching Director and NRLW Head Coach.
Born and bred in western Sydney, Georgallis has an impressive resume. Beginning as a player, he notched up over 200 first grade games across the Roosters, Magpies and Tigers. in addition to a couple of stints in England.
But it’s as a mentor that Georgallis has built his rugby league career.
Beginning with his appointment as the Greek National coach in 2003, Georgallis has compiled a wealth of experience as head coach of lower grade teams, and also as an NRL assistant coach at a number of clubs. Whilst in those roles he has been called upon to serve as interim NRL head coach at Penrith (2011) and the Bulldogs (2020).
Georgallis will hit the ground running with the Eels junior rep teams currently in their preseasons, and trials just around the corner.
There are quite a few Eels supporters in the extended Georgallis family. They’ll be happy to see Steve finally link with the Blue and Gold.
Not Quite Effective Immediately
Just on the subject of pathways, it was reported that Nathan Brown had parted ways with the Eels, effective immediately.
Whilst it’s correct that Brown will be relocating to the Gold Coast, he will remain at the Eels until the Christmas break.
I’ve already extended our best wishes and thanks to Nathan. We certainly found him to be both helpful and accessible in our coverage of the junior rep season. He is genuinely the affable, “good bloke”, that the media often refer to.
But is his value to the elite pathways programs on which he should be judged for his short tenure at the Eels. In that regard, pathways staff and players speak highly about his knowledge, coaching and guidance.
The baton now passes to Steve Georgallis.
Mental Health Leaders
Congratulations are in order for the Eels club for the priority they place on the mental health of all players, from the NRL and NRLW down to Elite Pathways footballers.
I have long been impressed by the work and programs within the Eels welfare department. In the past, I’ve sat in on information sessions for pathways players and caregivers to see some of the resources and support available to them.
Recently, the club announced that their elite pathways staff had undergone Youth Mental Health First Aid Training. The training is designed to help them identify the signs and symptoms of mental health matters. Our feedback is that this is a mandatory requirement for pathways staff.
Much like teachers, these pathways staff work with young people for significant periods during the year. Outside of the players’ family and friends, they are an important part of the support network available to the players, whether it is their official role or not.
Society has become increasingly aware that sometimes people will speak up about their mental health struggles, but more often they won’t. It isn’t hard to imagine that some of the most reluctant to speak up might be young people striving to make a positive impression in a competitive environment.
Elite Pathways programs will always be competitive. Creating an environment where proactive mental health support is the norm must be applauded.
Centre Of Excellence Construction
It might be up to 18 months before we see the finished product, but work is well and truly underway for the Eels new Centre of Excellence.
A genuine asset for the Hills district, the build will include a community centre and a match venue that will host junior representative and lower grade matches.
The complex already boasts five playing fields, with local rugby league and rugby union clubs calling it their home.
Road upgrades on Memorial Avenue at Kellyville had delayed construction for some time, with the work depot situated where the main building will be located.
However, earthmoving equipment is now re-shaping the grounds in preparation for construction to commence.
In 2024, junior representative and lower grade fixtures look likely to be staged at Eric Tweedale Stadium in Granville. Already the training base and occasional home ground for the Eels NRLW squad, the ground is actually the redeveloped Granville Park facility. It boasts a new stand meaning that spectators will find the experience more comfortable than sitting on the hill at Kellyville.
I encourage Eels supporters to check it out when the junior rep season commences.
Eels Pre-Season Update
My thanks to the thousands of readers who visit TCT to check out our training reports. The goal of the reports is to try to describe what the squad is doing in each field session along with some highlights or stand out efforts.
Bear in mind that nearly 40 players are out on the field at the same time, often split up into groups working at different stations. It is impossible for me to give an opinion on every individual in every session. Fortunately, BA has a team of coaches, drone footage and GPS monitoring which means that nobody escapes assessment from those who make the big selection calls.
With three weeks of the pre-season already completed my overall observations are as follows:
* The inclusion of a dozen 2023 Jersey Flegg players has thus far been a success. Some are among the leaders in the conditioning work, bringing energy to the group. They have integrated into the wider squad very well, both in terms of how they interact and how they execute drills alongside more experienced players.
* The conditioning work has been changed up from previous pre-seasons. There will always be change but it looks to be very different this year.
* The technical and tactical components of the sessions seem to have increased in the early part of the season. There has been a lot of footballs in the hands of players since day one.
At this stage I am missing the Gutho yardstick. The Eels captain drives standards on the freakish standard of his own training efforts. Others can be measured against him.
I’d love to know what sort of distances he’s clocking up on the exercise bike as he’s going through his rehab. Maybe he’ll wear out a bike or two in the process.
This Wednesday he came down from his viewing point on his exercise bike up on the verandah and positioned himself at different places on the field to watch the squad working through their shapes.
Whilst there might be questions about how long the King can play at fullback, there can never be any doubt about his level of investment in his team.
Finally, to date, the recently reported lower grade signings have not been a part of the NRL preseason. All participants in the preseason have been listed in my reports. Outside of top 30 contracted players, the preseason involves supplementary list players (development contracts), train and trial (second tier full time training) players, or pathways players with NRL preseason time written into their contracts.
Lower grade contracted players, including Jersey Flegg, are in preseason training with their extended squads in the evening.
The New Jersey
When an early leak of the 2024 Parramatta jersey was sent to me, I admit I was underwhelmed, if not disappointed.
But, once images of players wearing the gear were finally published, I found myself actually liking the kit.
All supporters have their favourite jersey. I wear the 86 jersey to games (the cotton is far more comfortable in winter than the current material used), but I was also a fan of the hooped jersey.
No matter what the jersey is, there is one question that has to be asked. Is it unmistakably Parramatta?
As far as the 2024 jersey in concerned, the answer is a clear yes.
I am now looking forward to the release of the other 2024 jerseys next year.