Dear Members and Supporters,
Our 2023 season ended early and there’s no doubt we are all disappointed.
After making it to the Grand Final last year, we expected to qualify for our fifth straight NRL finals series. The reality is, we did not meet our expectations and ultimately it was inconsistency, lack of discipline on and off the field, and missed opportunities that took their toll.
Winning just one of our first five games was costly. Despite putting ourselves in strong positions to win several close games we were unable to secure a victory.
One of our biggest challenges throughout the year, was that we weren’t able to put our key players on the field together consistently enough. Accumulating 22 weeks of suspensions placed the team under undue pressure.
Unfortunately, our depth was tested further with several long-term injuries to key players throughout the season.
However, despite the disappointment, there were promising signs in the middle of the season with impressive on field performances and a string of back to back wins which took us to sixth place on the ladder in Round 18.
While we couldn’t maintain that form for the rest of the season, our players showed immense resilience with a comprehensive win against the Panthers in our final round. A performance that gives our members and fans a glimpse of what our team can produce heading into next season.
The opportunity for players like Brendan Hands, Wiremu Greig, Matt Doorey, Ofahiki Ogden, Luca Moretti and Daejarn Asi to gain valuable first grade experience was a positive for the Club.
Another positive 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 and we have also seen contract extensions for eight of our current players including J’maine Hopgood, Brendan Hands and Maika Sivo.
What are the next steps?
Our focus on 2024 commenced as soon as our 2023 season came to an end. During the off-season we will evaluate every element of our football program, identify what needs to improve and implement the necessary changes to ensure we are positioned to have a successful 2024 and beyond.
The team has high expectations of themselves, and together we share the responsibility for our performance this year and the obligation to turn it around for our members and fans in the 2024 season.
Our NRLW team has had a challenging season so far, starting with injuries to our half-back and co-captain Rachael Pearson and key forward Elsie Albert who were both ruled out for the first three games. In a devastating blow, Elsie picked up a season ending injury just before half-time in her debut game for the Eels. The team was further impacted by the four week suspension to co-captain Kennedy Cherrington. Despite the disruption, we have seen the emergence of a number of talented young players who will be a part of the core of our NRLW team in future seasons.
The expansion of the NRLW from six to 10 teams led to a significant recruitment period for all NRLW Clubs further highlighting the importance of player development as the women’s game continues to grow in the coming years.
In an exciting development for our women’s program, we will be fielding a team in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership for the 2024 season, which will complete the link in our female pathways. We will provide a more detailed update about this at the end of the year.
Our Jersey Flegg team eliminated defending premiers Penrith in the first week of the finals and have advanced to the Minor Semi-Final against the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at Leichardt Oval this Saturday. The team had a great run at the back end of the season winning it’s final four games against tough opposition to force their way into the finals. Our Flegg team is an exciting look to the Club’s future with many of our players having also tasted premiership success in our grand final winning SG Ball team earlier this year. We wish the team all the best for the rest of the final’s series.
At the end of the year, we will provide a comprehensive update on all of our football programs – NRL, NRLW, Elite Pathways and Junior League, as well as an update on our retention and recruitment and our facilities, in particular, our Centre of Excellence.
I want to congratulate the award winners at our Ken Thornett Medal Night, in particular our co-captain Clint Gutherson who won the prestigious Ken Thornett Medal as the Player of the Year, the Nathan Hindmarsh Players' Player Award, and the Blue & Gold Army Award.
On behalf of everyone at the Club I’d like to thank you, our members for your ongoing support and unwavering loyalty.
Chief Executive Officer