The Cumberland Throw

Bumpers Up – November 25, 2023: The Big Eels Update

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.

Steve Georgallis

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.

Nathan Brown

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.

Pathways staff at their training

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.

Earthmoving work on the Kellyville hill

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.

Conditioning work in action

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.

Eels forever!



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32 thoughts on “Bumpers Up – November 25, 2023: The Big Eels Update

  1. Hamsammich

    On Sanders whilst we may not be able to keep him it should be a lesson to the R&R committee that we should have talented players, in particular talented spine players, locked up until they are no longer Jersey Flegg eligible. Then again they probably should have learned their lesson by now having: Stefano Utoikamanu, Trey Mooney, Myles Martin, Michael Gabrael, Zaidas Muagututia, Lachlan Metcalfe all signed up by other clubs. Being Eels juniors whilst I’m sure they would have preferred to stay at the club we should not be taking this for granted, all of these players were in some way recognised by the club as having exceptional talent. Amongst that group we had: junior rep captains, junior rep award winners, players that progressed beyond their age group. The talent that they had was recognised by us, the question becomes why didn’t we think it was necessary to have them contracted?

    Georgallis has shown time and time again that he is a developer of players. His work with reserve grade teams and the Greek national team shows he’s committed to furthering a player’s skills. I believe we have a women’s squad with a fair bit of potential that needs to be nurtured. Tohi-Hiku, Fay, Tui, Church, Amiatu, Cherrington, Todhunter all have massive potential. Hopefully Steve is able to further their talent and put them alongside more experienced players in the years to come. I think the Eels have a massive fan base that want to support the women’s team and could eventually match the support of the swans in the AFLW, a winning team makes it far easier to retain and grow that support.

    1. sixties Post author

      Ham, it is a relevant point that all of these players had been identified as genuinely talented. I’d suggest that half of them should have been retained.

  2. Tony

    If they really want to keep Sanders and they think he is a potential star then it’s not that hard.
    A) offer him decent money for a nrl 1st year five eight.
    B) Strengthen our centre position with Gutho being the roaming centre who helps our wingers that struggle in defence.
    C) D brown to full back who just might become a revelation there like Walsh for the Broncos and Brown is the X factor they talked about wanting.
    Sanders left foot kicking and strong passing game could work with Moses.

    1. Mick

      I think Brown would be a better option at centre than fullback, that’s only if we can convince Sanders to stay. Brown would help with our defensive structures out wide. Gutho is more beneficial to us at fullback, his defence alone is second to none, I don’t think his defence as a centre will be as good as Browns.

      1. sixties Post author

        Mick, I can’t help but remember the reaction of supporters when BA shifted Dyl to the centres for a couple of games when the team had a backline injury crisis. Obviously their opinions were influenced by their obsession with hating on Jake Arthur rather than the reasoning behind Dylan filling in at centre. Do you think fans will express their disapproval were BA to make such a call again?

        1. Mick

          Sixties, I don’t think there would be much disapproval if Dyl went to centre to accommodate Sanders, it just means we could potentially lose Talagi because his pathway has been blocked, it’s a no win situation. I know this is all hypothetical. Where some say losing players like Sanders is bad management, it’s more to do with timing and circumstances. Many supporters are living off the memories of Sterling, Kenny, Grothe and Ella, all come through relatively the same time but, they didn’t really have anyone in front of them to block their pathways, now we do. Like I’ve mentioned before, we bought Harper on a 1yr deal as a backup, or stop gap purchase knowing Talagi will more than likely be our future in the centre position, that’s why I’m glad we didn’t sign Billy Smith, I think that would have made Talagi think twice about staying as well.

      2. Gol

        Our current roster is built and aged to win now, I don’t think moving the incumbent NZ 5/8 to centre or fullback and shifting Gutho (who loses most of his unique skills moving anywhere else but FB) to make room for a kid is the best move.

        Sometimes you have two good players in front of a young guy and he leaves for opportunity. There have certainly been mistakes made in junior retention over the years, but with two rep players in front of him and a constantly crunched salary cap, I don’t think there were many ways we could’ve kept Sanders.

        1. sixties Post author

          Spot on Gol. I think we could have locked him into a contract a couple of years back that may have seen him stay with the club till 25. However, he has ambitions which he doesn’t think will be realised at Parra.

    2. sixties Post author

      I’m not going to argue with the logic behind the concept of those positional changes, but it would be a massive call to make three changes in one preseason.
      The other player to work into the equation Tony is Blaize Talagi. Is he destined for the halves, centre or even fullback? Make no mistake, he will be in the top grade at some point soon.

      1. Tanky

        Geez 60s it’s something like that I want to hear I know nothing much about our promising juniors but I’m all for to give them a go surely it would save money. On a side note I saw sterlo on tv tonight talking about loyalty and how it was in his day at Parramatta .apparently he got a huge deal to go to manly he went to Ray price and told him pricey said all good mate but just remember I’m going to target you sterlo stayed .sterlo probably exaggerating but quite often on the footy shows Thursday and Sunday always rated pricey number 1 closely followed by Brett Kenny

      2. Tony

        Agree sixties, I’m only assuming Sanders will be a fist grader from the limited amount I have seen of him.
        Talagi looks the real deal and if the salary cap only lets us keep one of Blaze and Ethan, I think Blaze might have the most upside and the X factor

  3. Ken70

    Great, reading ,very thankful for any updates ,sixties, do you happen to no if
    Young reed and latu ,are in training squads, cheers,

    1. sixties Post author

      Ken, I imagine that Latu would be in the Flegg group as he is young and a graduate of the SG Ball team. I’m not sure about Reed as he is a bit older and from memory was brought to the club for the Flegg team via coach Brennan. I’ll see what I can find out.

  4. UnMade

    Great Read.
    Really looking forward to the journey for our women’s team. I think Steve will be an excellent accusation.
    No offence to Dean Widders but the team too much played like Dean did, brilliant in patches but underwhelming in many areas. I know the first three seasons have been fluid in regards to player retention and team make up but 4 wins in 19 games is not acceptable

  5. King Gutho

    Your kidding yourself if you believe parra are leading the way in mental health.
    Iv seen first hand players be promised new contracts and pushed out without even a conversation finding out through social media.. so dribble what ever miss information you want to make the club look good.
    You have no clue what so ever.!

    1. sixties Post author

      If you want to reply with such accusations and venom to me reporting on actual staff training that has taken place, and my experience sitting in on JETs training, then have the bottle to put your name to those accusations. If you can’t then this comment will be removed as it simply the words of someone who won’t own them. If you do own them, I’m happy to leave your comment up. And before you throw any more accusations at me, I’m not suggesting that the club is infallible. I’ve been critical of the club when communication hasn’t been what it should be. But, the value given to the welfare department by the club, and work of staff in that space, deserves commendation.

  6. Marty

    60’s pls don’t ever say out loud again that you liked the hoops.
    Say it to yourself mate
    However, I’ll back you all the way for the revival of ‘86 – including the result

    1. sixties Post author

      Ha! The only thing wrong with the hooped jersey was the sponsor integration. As an aside, there was a greater percentage of finals series played in the hoops than the 86 jersey (and remember I wear the 86 strip). We only played in one finals series in that jersey – in 86. Lean times followed!

    2. N.Senada

      I was a big fan of the hooped guernsey. Probably because I attended University of Sydney and that was our rugby team uniform. So it probably just reminded me of my happy youth (a very very long time ago)

      1. sixties Post author

        We all have our attachments to jerseys for different reasons don’t we. But ultimately, I just want the jersey to be unmistakably Parramatta.

  7. Avenger

    If the four stripes on the jersey were solid and not braided with the same shade of gold as the bottom of the sleeve it would a great modern re- interpretation of our classic mid 70’s to -’85 jersey.

      1. Mick

        Like you Sixties, I love the old striped jerseys. The memories of the Thornetts, Lynch, Hambly, Rushworth are just a few of my favourite players who wore it. Mostly, the ones who don’t like it were bought up from the 80’s onward. There have been a few good designs but, as far as I’m concerned, you can’t beat the stripes.

        1. sixties Post author

          100% Mick. There has been an argument put forward that those 80s supporters make up the majority of the fan base. I say, don’t forget about those of us that went before. There are still plenty of us around.

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