Eels team returning to Intrust Super Premiership
Parramatta will have a reserve grade team back in the Intrust Super Premiership in 2020 as the Eels refocus their attention on becoming a strong development club.
Severing ties with their NRL-feeder team Wentworthville Magpies after an amicable 10-year association to have an Eels presence in the ISP is one of the key recommendations from a two-month review of Parramatta's football operations.
"Out of the review we found if we want to be a successful development club we need to have the Parramatta Eels in the ISP. Then you've got a clear one-club mentality," CEO Bernie Gurr told NRL.com.
"So from 2020, we're bringing it back in-house."
Another was the faith the NRL players had in current head coach Brad Arthur, who was placed under the spotlight after the Eels finished fourth in 2017 but slumped to 16th in 2018.
The Eels lost six games this year by six points or less – three by two points.
Arthur, who is off-contract at the end of 2019, has yet to seek a meeting with club CEO Bernie Gurr to talk about his future.
But Gurr said the club review was not "a witch-hunt" about any individual but did identify various parts of the organisation that could be improved.
"Bottom line out of this review, there was nothing negative about Brad. The players have confidence in Brad; they think they are well prepared every week," Gurr said.
"The issue from the players if that they're not taking that onto the field."
So in addition to appointing a new position of "development coach", the Eels want to appoint a few of skills coaches to help the NRL squad, and have already filled the new positions of general manager of football, former Wests Tigers 2005 premiership winner Mark O'Neill.
"It's an absolutely critical appointment to maximise the potential of our footy department," Gurr said of O'Neill who will work closing with football operations manager Craig Sultana.
"We're also going to have a full-time dedicated coaching co-ordinator for our junior representative program. That's not commonplace in rugby league clubs," Gurr said.
"Some do it in different forms but we're going to have someone fulltime who will have a strong dotted line to Brad around coaching philosophy."
Working alongside current assistant NRL coaches Steve Murphy and David Kidwell, the Eels will look to appoint a goal-kicking coach, and an "attacking spine" coach to help the fullback, five-eighth, halfback and hooker gel better.
"So additional resources in the shape of a couple of extra staff. The idea of additional people is to number one bring expertise, and number two, to get more ideas," said Gurr, who denied it meant Arthur wasn't up to the task.
"Not at all. It's not a huge jump from what we currently have. It's refining it and adding some expertise to it. It's all centred on giving Brad, the footy program, and players all the resources they need to be successful."
Gurr said the Eels board was not marking any particular round in the 2019 draw to review Arthur's progress towards a new contract.
"When you put a date around it, you put a noose around your neck," he said.
"What we're going to do is have a good pre-season, get into the 2019 season, hopefully win some football games, and it will be assessed at the appropriate time.
"But at the moment we're not even thinking about that."
Gurr also said he expected Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman to remain the Eels halves, dismissing speculation both players had been shopped around to other clubs.
"They're contracted with us," he said.
"Bottom line though is we can't sugar coat it – they didn't play well but neither did the team play well.
"If your forwards aren't going well then even if you have Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny in the halves your team isn't going to go well."
The Parramatta review interviewed directors, administration staff, football department employees, coaches, players, and even "outsiders" to hear their perception of the Eels.
Best-practice methods in football departments over a range of sports were considered.
The review was headed by leading AFL and sports consultant Shane McCurry, who did an internal review of the Richmond Tigers club in 2016 – they won the AFL premiership the following season.