As the Parramatta Eels embark on yet another new era, this time under the reins of CEO Scott Seward and head coach Brad Arthur, NRL.com sat down with Seward to discuss his first 100 days in the toughest gig in the NRL – bringing the Eels back to life.
NRL: Well Scott, your 100 days is just about up. How's life in the hot seat?
Scott Seward: It's been great. There's plenty of hard work to do. We're making some good inroads, but sponsorship's great, membership's great, and there's some good buzz around the club at the moment. Obviously getting some key personnel like Brad on board, Daniel Anderson on board [as general manager of football], and John Boulous as our COO has helped to get us where we need to be. We're just focusing on getting some good feel back into the club.
Has there been a settling-in period between Daniel and Brad?
Yes, without a doubt. But we're bringing Parramatta people back to Parramatta and I think that's really important. When you're trying to get the club going back in the right direction, those people really need to be clear on the history of the club and what's made the club what it is. That's really been important. And it makes it easy, that both footy people and Parramatta people are back in our footy program.
"We're challenging ourselves on a daily basis to be the very best football club we can be. We're not going to cop second best anymore."
Was that a key part of the criteria in those appointments, having blue and gold in your blood?
Without a doubt. To me, to get the right feel of a footy club, you've got to have people that understand Parramatta. No one's going to come in here and tell Parramatta what they should be. Parramatta's got a strong history, strong culture. It's about polishing it and getting it back to where it needs to be, and the best people to do that are Parramatta people, not external people.
You've got over 10,000 members already so the fans must be on board.
I think so. I think the fans are seeing what we're trying to do. We're not going to promise anything we can't deliver. The members know that everything we're doing is trying to transform a football club that we're responsible for and make it better for them. That's our charter, we need to make it a better club for our members and fans. That's what we do every day. I think you can see that the members are showing some faith in the results. We're getting in the record numbers that are coming through, so it's positive.
It all sounds good off the field, but what makes you confident of success on the field in 2014?
Look the important thing for us is to improve. If we get the right culture into our footy department, and the guys are rolling their sleeves up, working their butts off and just getting some heart and soul back into our football program, it won't guarantee wins and losses but it will guarantee that when the team runs out, our members and fans know that we've got a team that's going to bust their backsides off. We're not going to promise wins or top eights or anything like that. It's just about us improving and knowing that there's a journey here to get back to respect. We just want to make that as short a period of time as possible.
Have you identified where it's all gone wrong over the last few years?
Look I'm more interested in working out what we do going forward, to be honest. I'm not going to look back. We're not going to blame anybody. It's just a case of saying this is what we want to be and now we just work our butts off to get there.
Brad Arthur tells us the ability is there in the football team, they've just never had the belief. Is that a fair statement?
I think it's reasonably fair. Everything we're doing at the moment is about giving those guys every opportunity to win. I don't know how many games that's going to mean in 2014, 2015 or even 2016, but everything we're doing in resources, infrastructure, coaches, technology, any research it'll take, is to give them the chance to win. If that can help them focus and give them greater belief to win on the field well then we've done our job.
How have the senior boys reacted to the changes?
They've been great. Timmy Mannah's walking around with a spring in his step again. Jarryd [Hayne]'s come back and has been here after his World Cup and there's a pretty good feel around here at the moment. It's our job to make sure that feeling stays. We've got a tough draw, so we've got to start it well, but there are no excuses for that either. We've got to play everyone and we want to win every game that we play. Things like that, getting that mentality back in, is paramount. When we're walking out onto the field, we're walking out to win. That's off the field as well. We want to be the best in membership, in corporate, in media. We're challenging ourselves on a daily basis to be the very best football club we can be on and off the field. We're not going to cop second best anymore.
What's your message to fans who have been hurt by false starts before?
Pretty simple: we're not going to tell any member and fan anything we can't deliver. We're not going to go out with any ridiculous statements, we're not going to go out with long-term this and rebuild that. It's simple. We're going out to win footy games from round one onwards. Some things are going to take time to get there but I don't want our fans to be patient. I want them to want us to win. We want to be in the finals every year. We want to be talking about winning the premiership every year, not here and there. So it's a case of we won't over promise, but we will deliver what we say we're going to deliver. I don't want our fans to be patient. None of us are.
And lastly, tell us about your membership Race to 20k against the Bulldogs. We've heard it's getting competitive.
It's a great initiative. Two clubs can work together. I wish the Bulldogs the very best in getting the 20,000, as long as it's after we do. We've seen in membership over the past two years, our members and fans have a great deal in faith in what we're trying to do. They're showing how supportive they are of the club, knowing that even when we're not doing well on field they're prepared to back us. We'll take getting to 15,000 first, and the Doggies can have the Parramatta Eels flag flying over Belmore for the day. But it's a long-term thing too. That 20,000 mark isn't our goal. We fully intend getting to 40,000 in a short period of time. I'd like to think that'll be higher and by the time we get to round 20, we should be talking about 55-60,000 members.