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An update from Parramatta Eels CEO Jim Sarantinos...

Dear Members and Supporters,

Before I begin my wider update, I wanted to briefly reiterate our Club’s comments earlier in the week regarding Dylan Brown.

The sanctions and initiatives that the NRL and the Club have taken, not only reflect the seriousness of what took place, but also make sure that we provide the tools and support to help Dylan become a better person. Many of you would have seen Dylan’s genuine remorse for his actions and the impact they have had, as well as his commitment to learning from this experience. We look forward to Dylan returning to the field in the coming weeks.

As we head into the business end of the NRL season, I thought I would provide a brief update on some of the key football areas of the Club. The next three months will be an important time as we look towards finals in September, begin our NRLW campaign and start construction of our Kellyville Park Centre of Excellence and Community facility.

NRL Update

The 2023 NRL season so far has presented some challenges, but the team is building well for the key period of the season. The opportunity for players like Brendan Hands, Wiremu Greig, Matt Doorey, Ofahiki Ogden, Luca Moretti and Daejarn Asi to contribute has been a positive for the Club and will hold us in good stead for the rest of the season.

A number of players have been rewarded with representative honours through this year’s State of Origin. Mitchell Moses, Clint Gutherson, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo have all featured in the Origin series and J’maine Hopgood received a call up as 19th man for the QLD squad.

Another positive for the Club in 2023 has been the retention of some of our key NRL players which establishes a strong foundation for our roster into season 2024 and beyond. Mitchell Moses, Dylan Brown and Will Penisini have signed long-term contracts with the Club. We have also seen contract extensions for eight of our current players including J’maine Hopgood, Brendan Hands and Maika Sivo. Additionally, our squad has been strengthened with the mid-year acquisitions of Andrew Davey and Joe Ofahengaue.

The Eels 2023 NRL draw has presented some challenges including the timing of byes, scheduling of home games and timeslots. We have raised our concerns with the NRL and have suggested some solutions that could help deliver a better draw for 2024.

NRLW Update

The expansion of the NRLW from six to 10 teams and the development of a dedicated women’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) led to a significant recruitment period for all NRLW Clubs across May. The squad has been assembled with a focus on developing a strong and professional long-term high-performance culture while equally progressing our development club philosophy through our female pathways.

There is a strong core group of experienced NRLW players like Kennedy Cherrington, Rachael Pearson, Elsie Albert and Shonny Stowers along with a number of key younger players such as Abbi Church, Zali Fay, Rueben Cherrington, Cassey Tohi-Hiku and Ruby-Jean Kennard.

A positive development for our women’s rugby league program is the partnership with Cumberland Council that will see our NRLW, and related women’s teams based out of Eric Tweedale Stadium at Granville Park for at least the next two seasons. It was important for the Club to secure a major facility for our women’s rugby league teams while our Centre of Excellence is under construction, and our Eels women now have a high quality multi-million-dollar facility as a training base.

Our first NRLW trial was played there last Friday and we had over 1,200 people come along for a great night for the footy community, which saw the Eels beat the Dragons 18-14.

We now look forward to kicking off the NRLW season in Round 1 against the Wests Tigers at CommBank Stadium on Sunday 23rd of July. In what will be our first ever standalone NRLW fixture, we’d love to get a big turnout from the Blue & Gold Army to cheer our women on to a win in the first game of what will no doubt become a fierce rivalry. Make sure you get your tickets available from our website.  

Elite Pathways

The 2023 NSW Rugby League (NSWRL) junior representative season saw all three Eels major competition teams reach the finals, culminating with our SG Ball team winning the premiership in the grand final against Newcastle. Our Lisa Fiaola team (U17 Girls) also won all of its official games as part of the 4-game round robin competition. The U16 Development squads had strong and positive results against the other Sydney based clubs they played.

The performance of our Elite Pathways program showed the benefits of the review the Club commissioned last year. The structural changes and the investment in both staff and additional resources have delivered strong initial outcomes from which to build on for the coming seasons.

The Elite Pathways’ main objective is to continue to produce and develop players for our NRL and NRLW squads. The current strengths of our programs are best demonstrated by the players and staff who have earned representative honours including the four Eels players and three staff who will be part of the U19 boys and girls Origin games tonight. Furthermore, we had one player selected in each of the Australian Schoolboy and Schoolgirl teams. The ultimate success will be measured on how many of our locally developed players go on to represent the Eels at the NRL and NRLW level and the staff are excited about the many players we expect to progress through the ranks in the near future.

Centre of Excellence

Our Kellyville Park Centre of Excellence and Community Facility project is progressing well with construction expected to start in the next two months and completion set for the end of 2024. Currently the Club is finalising the selection of our preferred builder which once completed, will be a significant milestone for the project.

The tender process has been extensive, and it has reinforced the scale and size of the project compared to other similar facilities in Australian sport. Once completed, Kellyville Park will be the largest rugby league facility in Australia.

It’s anticipated that by 2025, all our administration, NRL, NRLW and Elite Pathway programs will be in one location for the first time in our 76-year history.

Parramatta Junior League

Following our extensive review of the Junior League in 2022, it’s pleasing to see that we have had double-digit growth in registered players including increases in both male and female participation. We have seen a return in overall playing numbers to pre-covid levels with the number of female players rising by over 50% in just 12 months.

However, while we have seen some good initial results, this is just the beginning of a new era of junior league and participation strategies in our Western Sydney catchment. The new junior league board is currently working through a new strategic plan for the competition with the aim to have this ready for review by Clubs and participants in the coming months.

Key Milestones in 2023

As we head into our game on Sunday night against the Titans it’s important to highlight some of the key milestones of our Club and players so far in 2023. We saw Mitchell Moses (200 NRL Games), Shaun Lane (150 Games), Bryce Cartwright (150 Games), Ryan Matterson (150 Games) and Junior Paulo (150 Games) reach significant game milestones earlier in the season.

In a major achievement, Head Coach Brad Arthur became the longest serving Eels NRL Head Coach when we took on Canterbury in June. We also saw Mitchell Moses become only the third player to score 1,000 points for the Eels (after Mick Cronin and Luke Burt) during our victory against the Dolphins.

We also celebrated the 40th anniversary of our 80’s threepeat premiership team at a memorable event at CommBank Stadium before our game against Manly. It was great to see so many of our Legends come together on the day and receive their premiership rings.

Last Saturday night, we came together as a Club to raise money for former Head Coach Daniel Anderson with our Leagues Club, supporters and former players raising over $100,000 for Daniel’s recovery. Please click here if you wish to make a donation to the Daniel Anderson Fund.

2023 has delivered some unforgettable moments already. I am sure that all of our Members and Supporters are looking forward to the remainder of the year as we move into the business end of the season.

Make sure you stay updated through our website and social channels on the initiatives for the game this weekend.

I look forward to seeing you all then, and during the run into the finals.

Go the Eels

Jim Sarantinos
Chief Executive Officer
Parramatta Eels 

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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