Late last month, when the Parramatta Eels held its prestigious 2017 Ken Thornett Medal at the Rosehill Gardens Racecourse, the Club announced that long time Junior League Administrator Jan Bryen and Football Operations assistant Denis Anderson would be awarded Life Membership of the Parramatta Eels for their multi decade’s service to the Club and the Eels Community.
Since 1947, Life Membership has been a special acknowledgement awarded to people who have made an outstanding contribution to the Club.
Bryen’s Life Membership is a historic one, as the Club awarded it’s first female Life Membership.
Bryen has contributed to the Club over nearly 40 years and without her contribution, the Parramatta District Junior Rugby League would not be where it is today. Throughout her time, numerous players would not have had the opportunity to go on a play NRL.
However, it is Bryen's impact on thousands of kids playing rugby league across the district that is also so important. For years on end, Bryen has donated countless hours off her own bat to make sure the kids are getting on the field every week and making sure the clubs provide a safe environment to play rugby league.
Presented the award on the night by Parramatta Eels CEO Bernie Gurr, a humble Bryen was overawed with emotion and left speechless.
A few weeks on from the night, Bryen is still in shock and the emotions have still not subsided.
"It left me speechless and I still am. I know it is a great honour and I feel very humbled by it all." Bryen said.
"I think seeing the children out there playing is the greatest satisfaction you can get. Particularly when we have this new 'Try Time' program, which is for children on the autism spectrum. Just seeing the smiles on their faces and the delight they have when they play is great."
"I have watched the Juniors from when they couldn't catch a ball, to learning how to catch a ball, pass and tackle and then seeing them out on the field is tremendous."
"It's very special and I am still very shocked.. there are just too many people to thank," an emotional Bryen added when asked of being the first female Life Member.
Denis ‘Big D’ Anderson was also the proud recipient of a Life Membership of the Parramatta Eels for his tireless and selfless contribution at the Eels over the last 30 years.
Involved at every level of footballing programs from the Junior Reps all the way through to the NRL side, Anderson is an embodiment of what the Parramatta Eels has stood for in the game of Rugby League and the guardian of what it means to wear the Blue & Gold.
He needs no introduction to anyone who has played, worked or coaches at the Eels over the last three decades. On countless weekends, Anderson arrives early in the morning to set up for Junior Rep matches and ends the same day clearing out the dressing room after a NRL game.
A standing ovation, led by Eels Head Coach Brad Arthur and his players, Anderson was overwhelmed by the award.
“What this Club means to me.. it’s the blood in my veins. I am Blue & Gold. This has been my life. Some of the memories have been unforgettable.,” Anderson said on the night.
“It is a joy to wake up in the morning and come to work, or be involved with the Parramatta Eels Football Club, and I cherish every minute I have been involved with it.”
“To make it so special, I spoke to my granddaughter during the week about the function tonight, and with my wife not here, she said ‘Can I come?’. “ Anderson added.
“I thought ‘why does she want to come to our Club presentation night with an old bloke like me’, and she said she would love to come. She is sitting down there tonight and this is such a special moment for me and I appreciate it greatly.”
Anderson has seen plenty of moments throughout his time at the Blue & Gold, however said there were plenty more special moments to come.
‘This is one of the most special moments’ Anderson said when asked of what special moments he had seen over the years.
“I was born the same year the Club came into existence, in 1947.” Anderson added.
“Some of the special moments aren’t over yet.”