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Eels' 75 Years: Top Five - #5

Join us as we count down the top five moments and memories of the Parramatta Eels’ 75-year history.

This week we celebrate the anniversary as we approach the annual Easter Monday blockbuster against Wests Tigers.

Number Five: The first Parramatta Eels team of 1947

Original ’47 Eels Team: 1. Col Schomberg, 2. Dave Munro, 3. Bob Andrews (c), 4. John Smith, 5. Keith Gersbach, 6. Les (Bert) Bell, 7. Wally Woodward, 8. Arthur Slattery, 9. Ted (Barney) Hearn, 10. George Saywell, 11. George Robertson, 12. George Cook, 13. Frank (Snowy) McKean and Frank McMillan (coach)

The Parramatta Eels entered the Sydney Rugby League Competition in 1947 after an 11-year campaign by a group of locals came to fruition.

Pressure in the area for a local club to participate in the New South Wales Rugby League Premiership began in the mid-1930s with a formal proposal put to the NSWRL in 1936.

It was rejected and put on hold during World War II, before being proposed again in 1946 when the Club was successfully admitted into the Premiership.

Had it not been for Jack Argent and Jack Boyle, the Eels would never have existed.

Argent was a decorated military man who along with Boyle helped build a licensed club in 1956 to help propagate the football team.

In partnership, they created “the house that Jack built”.

The team used to gather at an oval where Parramatta Stadium (CommBank Stadium) stands today on O’Connell Street, Parramatta.

The Eels were known as the ‘fruit pickers’ until the 60s and were made up of three grades.

They were somewhat of a rag-tag of local A-grade footballers and ex-servicemen who grew up during the Great Depression.

Parramatta joined the existing eight clubs in ’47 to make it an 18-round competition involving foundation clubs Easts, Wests, Souths, Norths, Balmain and Newtown plus St George and Canterbury.

Training was held on Monday and Wednesday nights at Cumberland Oval with Rugby Union using it on Tuesdays and Thursdays; a sharing arrangement that continued until 1981.

The first coach was Frank ‘Skinny’ McMillan who grew up in the district and had played nine Tests and toured with the 1929-30 Kangaroos and as captain-coach in 1933-34.

He stayed only one season as coach before being replaced by Vic Hey.

The Eels’ first match was against Newtown on April 12, 1947, before a crowd of about 6000.

The Parramatta team, that went down fighting 34-12, was Col Schomberg, Dave Munro, Bob Andrews (c), John Smith, Keith Gersbach, Les (Bert) Bell, Wally Woodward, Arthur Slattery, Ted (Barney) Hearn, George Saywell, George Robertson, George Cook, Frank (Snowy) McKean.

It was round seven before Parramatta enjoyed the first of their four victories of 1947 – 13-8 against big brother Wests at Cumberland Oval on June 21.

The Eels only managed two wins for the season, but were competitive in just about every match.

The Eels' first competition success came in 1964 with a Third Grade Premiership.

The Club struggled with results until the 1975 season when Norm Provan coached the First Grade team to the semi-finals and Terry Fearnleys Reserve Grade team won the competition.

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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