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Member Update: 2020 Review and looking towards 2021

Dear Members

Following the conclusion of the season we wanted to provide you with a brief review of our 2020 season and a Club update with a look towards 2021.

2020 in Review - Football

In what seems like a lifetime ago, we opened the NRL season at Bankwest Stadium against Canterbury on the 12th of March. 

In the 48 hours leading up to that game, we started to hear the warning signs of the impact of COVID, but the show went on. 

It proved to be virtually the only game of the NRL season that was not impacted by this global pandemic.

The following week, we played in front of an empty stadium on the Gold Coast.  A day later the competition was suspended. 

The weeks and months that followed were incredibly uncertain, disruptive and took a great personal toll on all involved, particularly for our football staff and players who were confined to the bubble, and of course, their families. 

Our Canterbury Cup and junior pathways competitions were cancelled, which had a detrimental effect not only on our first-grade squad but also the future stars of our game.

The way Brad and the team responded when the competition resumed was a testament to their character and an illustration of their commitment and dedication during a period of great disruption.

The team’s resilience at the back end of the minor premiership saw us finish 3rd at the end of the regular season.

There has been a lot of outside commentary regarding our season but its important that we reflect on the positives:

  • We improved our ladder position from 5th to 3rd in 12 months and recorded our highest regular season finish since 2005;
  • The team spent 8 weeks at the top of the ladder and had a 75% win / loss ratio;
  • We have played finals football in 3 of the last 4 years and in consecutive years for the first time since 2006 and 2007; and
  • We have 4 players in the 2020 NSW State of Origin squad which is the highest Eels representation since the 2002 season

We showed great promise in both games of our finals campaign and we placed ourselves in a position to win both games. We feel that we have continued to grow as a football team. 

However, we also cannot get away from the fact that this season is also one of missed opportunity.  The positive that we take from the sentiment around our Club in the last fortnight is that no one is satisfied with us bowing out in the 2nd week of the finals. 

That’s the standard that we’ve all set, we want to be the best.  Everyone, from the playing group, to our football staff, our front office and our board, is committed to growing next year, and contributing to greater success at the Club and becoming a force in the NRL.

2020 in Review – Off the Field

In addition to our efforts on the field, off the field, we have a lot to be proud of that demonstrates not only how far this Club has come, but how bright our future is:

  • We completed Stage 1 of our facility strategy with our relocation to Kellyville Park in December last year. We are well down the track on the planning for our Centre of Excellence and Community match day venue;
  • Our whole Club pulled together to support the Sapphire Coast region impacted by the bushfires, with significant funds raised and valuable time spent by our players and staff connecting with those devastated communities;
  • We broke our membership record for the 7th consecutive year, with the Club now ranked 2nd in the NRL with over 29,000 members. Our growth of 15% was well ahead of the next best Club in the NRL;
  • We secured and extended many of our key partnerships, with a number of exciting new sponsorship announcements to be unveiled in the coming weeks; and
  • The many staff and volunteers involved in our Junior League worked tirelessly to bring together a competition that provided an outlet for so many in our Parramatta and Western Sydney community

The Club is in the healthiest position it has been for a long time, and we have taken some big steps towards becoming financially sustainable. The Eels have for too long relied on our parent, Parramatta Leagues Club (PLC), to prop up our shortcomings as a business.

The management and board of the PLC have worked through the challenges of this year exceptionally well and we want to ensure that they have the ability to invest in their key strategic initiatives that will ultimately help all of us as a group in the coming years.

2021 and beyond

In the last few weeks, we launched our 2021 Membership program that is centred on how our Club encourages friendship and community that inspires us all to be our best both on and off the field - always pushing and never settling.

This will be a new approach to Membership and centred on uniting everyone under the common bond we have with our Club. We want to have at least 40,000 Members in the next two years and have the biggest membership base in the NRL.  We are confident of achieving that goal.

We look forward to a return of our Elite Pathways and Canterbury Cup teams in season 2021. We have some terrific talent in our pathways and a further 12 months of development will see many of them edge closer to the NRL stage.

The leaders of our Football program - Brad Arthur and Mark O’Neill – will shortly complete a review of our 2020 season, they are united in their vision of bringing success to our Club and our fanbase. The stability and continuity within our Club, the substantial steps we have made in our football program, and the commitment to continuous improvement across our organisation has us well placed for the years ahead.

As we announced yesterday, we have the pleasure of welcoming Tom Opacic, Isaiah Papali’i and Joey Lussick to the Blue and Gold for season 2021.  Each player will add talent, depth and balance to our squad and will be a great cultural fit for our Club. 

Further additions will be made to our roster in the coming weeks and months to ensure that the Club is positioned to challenge for a premiership in 2021.    

Many talk of the Club’s premiership drought – it is part of our history and we consider it to be the ultimate challenge that we want to embrace.


2020 has been a tough year for us all.  The game has been disrupted, our Club has been impacted and we have all been affected in different ways. 

We’d like to thank our coaching staff, our players, our management team, our football and front office staff, our board of directors, and all our families for their contributions to our Club this year. 

In particular, we’d like to thank our Queensland based people who have made the greatest sacrifice of all having spent many months away from their families and loved ones.

However what we are most proud of as leaders of this Club is how our people, our Members and our Corporate partners have responded, the resilience that you’ve all shown during a period of great adversity and the commitment to our values of being “All In”. 

The Club would not have made it through this period without everyone’s collective effort, and it is because of these contributions that our Club is well placed to take those important next steps towards success.

It is a great privilege to lead the Parramatta Eels and we are passionate about seeing this Club reach its potential, both on and off the field.

We truly believe our best days are ahead of us and look forward to sharing those together with you.

Sean McElduff                                                  Jim Sarantinos
Chairman                                                           CEO
Member #1478883                                             Member #1478933

Acknowledgement of Country

Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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