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End of Year Message 2021

Dear Eels Members and Fans,

Before we celebrate the festive season and move towards 2022, we would like to provide you with a brief update on the Club to close out 2021 and offer an insight into 2022 and beyond.

NRL

Over the last couple of months there has been a strong public focus on the retention and recruitment of our NRL squad. While we have been able to retain the bulk of our roster over the last couple of years, consistent finals finishes combined with the significant growth in many of our players through our development club philosophy presents challenges in retaining all our players while operating within the constraints of the salary cap.  As all Clubs have experienced, changes in a roster are inevitable.

While it will be disappointing to see Marata Niukore, Isaiah Papali’i, Reed Mahoney and Ray Stone move on from the Club in 2023, each player is committed to playing their part towards the Club winning a premiership in 2022. 

We take pride in the contribution that the Club has made in developing the careers of our young men and we have great confidence that we will continue to develop and grow our own talent as well as other players that join our Club and emerge through our pathways system to ensure that we’re a Club that is challenging for Top 4 finishes every year and positioned for premiership success.

From a longer-term perspective, the re-signing of our coach Brad Arthur, our captain Clint Gutherson and representative quality players in Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard to long term contracts, as well as adding the experience and leadership of Josh Hodgson from 2023 are critical to maintaining a strong nucleus for our roster. Combined with contract extensions for emerging talents such as Haze Dunster, Makahesi Makatoa, Sean Russell and Jake Arthur, we have strong building blocks in place for the seasons ahead.  

The most important focus is on 2022 and as we look to the season ahead, we have 28 registered players and only two spots remaining to be filled. 23 of our Top 30 players from 2021 have returned.  Makahesi Makatoa, Sean Russell and Solomone Naiduki have been promoted to the Top 30 and our squad has been strengthened further with the signing of Mitch Rein and Bailey Simonsson who will both be great additions to our squad.  With the exception of Maika Sivo who is recovering from a knee injury, and Marata Niukore who will be serving a suspension, we expect all players to be available for selection in Round 1, with all our staff and players focused on one goal – winning a premiership.

As was the case for the 2021 pre-season, this year we have a number of members of our elite pathways who have joined the NRL squad for their first pre-season, an experience that proved invaluable for many of our local juniors who made their first grade debut in 2021.  We have also made a significant investment in our coaching and development staff with Michael Ennis and Paul McGregor joining our NRL coaching team and Simon Woolford appointed as our Jersey Flegg coach while also playing a key role in the development of the best talent in our Harold Matthews, SG Ball and Tarsha Gale teams.

All our players and football staff are now enjoying a well-deserved break over Christmas and New Year before hitting the training field again in early January in the lead up to our trials in February and Round 1 home game against the Gold Coast Titans at CommBank Stadium on 13 March.

NRLW

Early January will bring an exciting milestone for the Club with pre-season training officially commencing for our inaugural NRLW squad. Led by Head Coach and former Eel, Dean Widders, our Top 24 roster is now set, and includes eight NSW representatives in Botille Vette-Welsh, Tiana Penitani, Maddie Studdon, Kennedy Cherrington, Simaima Taufa, Filomina Hanisi, Fehi Hanisi and Jocephy Daniels as well as Kiwi international, Nita Maynard.

The NRLW squad and staff have come together really well over the last few months and are well and truly living out their team mantra – Creating memories and connection.  Our NRLW players are already having a great impact on our Club and community and are set for a successful first year.  The NRLW season will kick off for the Eels in Newcastle on February 27 with an historic double header for our NRLW and NRL teams against the Titans at CommBank Stadium on 13 March.

Season 2022 and 75th Anniversary

Our NRL draw features a number of key matchups against some of our biggest rivals, with some of the CommBank Stadium highlights being:

  • A Sunday afternoon home opener against the Titans in Round 1 featuring our NRLW and NRL teams
  • Our traditional Easter Monday blockbuster against the Wests Tigers in Round 6
  • A big Friday night match up against Manly in Round 11
  • A Saturday night clash against the Roosters in Round 15
  • A run of 6 of our last 8 games at home including defending premiers Penrith in Round 20, Souths in Round 22 and a big game against the Storm to close out the regular season in Round 25

We’re also really looking forward to returning to Darwin to take on the North Queensland Cowboys in April which is becoming an increasingly popular away trip for our NSW and QLD fans. 

Importantly, the 2022 season will also represent the 75th anniversary of the Club’s first official game.  The Parramatta Eels played their first match in what was then the NSWRL Premiership against Newtown at Cumberland Oval on 12 April 1947.  We are all looking forward to celebrating this historic and important anniversary, which will coincide with our Easter Monday game.

Off the Field

Despite the challenges of COVID over the last two years, the support and loyalty from you, our members, continues with yet another record-breaking year in 2021, and over 27,500 Members already returning for 2022. We continue to be number one for Membership across all NRL clubs and our pre-Christmas membership tally is the highest mark ever for the Eels.  Everyone at the Eels knows how passionately our members support this Club and again we thank you so much for your commitment and passion.

For those yet to commit there hasn’t been a better time to show your support by becoming a member. We’ve made it easier than ever by completely transforming our memberships in 2022 by giving fans the chance to build their own custom 1-11 game packages as well as options to support from home and interstate packages. With several blockbusters outlined including the Tigers on Easter Monday and our Western Sydney derby against the Panthers, the only way you can guarantee your seat is to become a member.

Become a '22 member today

Ensuring the future of the Club on and off the field continues to be a key focus for us as an organisation. We have continued to make progress on our Centre of Excellence project, with two new dedicated playing fields being completed in 2021 to ensure we have 5 high-quality rugby league fields ready for 2022 to support all our teams as well as community rugby league.

We expect to receive final planning approvals by mid-2022 with the aim of commencing construction of the Community Centre in the second half of the year which will incorporate the match venue for our NSW Cup and Elite Pathways.  Positive discussions are continuing with the NSW Government on securing final funding for the completion of Stage 3 of the project being our High-Performance Centre.

Kellyville Park Eels Centre of Excellence alongside the Community Grandstand
Kellyville Park Eels Centre of Excellence alongside the Community Grandstand

We have also announced the extension of a number of existing partnerships including our Major Partner ALAND for a further three years.  The support from our sponsors and members means that for the second year in a row the Club will record a profit and has not required funding fro

m Parramatta Leagues Club (PLC). This financial independence not only provides a strong financial platform for our Club to grow, but also provides financial certainty for PLC as they continue to invest in the growth of their business.

On behalf of everyone here at the Eels, we would like to wish you all a safe and happy Christmas, as we look to an exciting year ahead in 2022.  We hope that you all get to spend some quality time with those closest to you, and we can’t wait for all our Eels Family and Friends to come back together again in PARRAdise in March.

Go Parra!

 

Sean McElduff                         Jim Sarantinos

Chairman                                  Chief Executive Officer

Parramatta Eels                        Parramatta Eels

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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