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The Parramatta Eels have landed the first blow in the countdown to tonight’s blockbuster against Canterbury-Bankstown at ANZ Stadium, edging out the Bulldogs to win the NRL’s ‘Race to 10,000’ initiative for the biggest percentage increase in Club Memberships.

The NRL today announced that the Eels had won the $10,000 cash prize to further develop the club’s membership program, ahead of the Bulldogs, Wests Tigers and Sharks.

The ‘Race to 10,000’, involving the eight NSW clubs and Canberra, followed a record game-wide growth in memberships in 2009 with South Sydney and St George Illawarra sharing the prize for most Ticketed Members after both surpassed 10,000 in the same week in February.

In recognition of the achievement by members of the Rabbitohs and Dragons, the NRL and its media partners increased the original prize pool from $50,000 to $100,000 which included advertising and marketing support and $10,000 cash each, while inspiring all clubs to spend the past two months generating their own record levels of membership.

Game-wide, NRL Club Memberships have risen by more than 20 per cent (23,000) in 2010 to a record 137,459. The Bulldogs and the Eels have also joined the Rabbitohs, Broncos and Dragons in surpassing 10,000 total members.

“Membership is an important part of the game’s future and I wish to congratulate all the clubs for their efforts in this campaign and thank all the fans who have shown their commitment and pride in their club by becoming members,” NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said.

Parramatta Eels Chief Executive, Mr Paul Osborne, added: “We know we have the most loyal fans in the NRL and I have to thank them for getting behind us and becoming a part of our Parramatta family. We broke through the 10,000 mark in membership this season and that is very exciting for us – but the work has only just begun.

“Membership has become one of the most important areas of our game and our club. Our club knows our survival depends on how many members we have at the Eels, not how many poker machines are in the Leagues Club.

“To have the highest percentage increase in the NRL is a huge credit to all our members who have shown their heart and soul is blue and gold.

“I urge every supporter of the NRL to become a member of their club because it will only make this great game of ours even stronger.”

Media partners who have supported the innovative ‘Race to 10,000’ competitions include the Nine Network, Fox Sports, 2GB, and The Daily Telegraph.

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