Discussion in 'Parramatta Eels' started by Joshuatheeel, Nov 16, 2015.
I’m surprised the merkin didn’t ping every NRL and Superleague club
Around this time every year, The Cumberland Throw keeps you up to date with junior system players to follow. We try do this with a little bit of knowledge and from a place of passion.
It’s never been an onerous task given that attending Junior Rep matches and following the lower grades pathways is in our DNA. As supporters we have always been proud that our Parramatta Eels can rightly claim to be a development club.
Unfortunately, this post is not one of those player watch articles.
Over the course of this off-season, the trickle of talent flowing away from the Eels development pathways has rapidly transformed into a flood with the shocking announcement today that Stefano Utoikamanu will be joining the Wests Tigers in 2021.
In our opinion, the term “Development Club” cannot be applied to a system that could more appropriately be named The Wests Tigers Academy.
Is this an exaggeration?
Consider this list of Eels players who have been recruited by the Tigers from Eels lower grades and Junior Reps in just this year alone:
Stefano Utoikamanu, Salesi Fainga’a, Tyler Field, Joe Taipari, Tyrone Faulkner, Vea Tapaatoutai, Etu Vinny Lui.
And the list of departures doesn’t just end with the Tigers. Tui Afualo, Bailey Biondi-Odo, and William Kei have signed with the Bulldogs, Trey Mooney has signed with the Raiders, and Jesse Cronin has joined the Titans feeder system.
In the case of Tyler Field and Trey Mooney, that’s two current Australian Schoolboys players who participated in the Australian Schoolboy Championship as unsigned free agents – essentially allowing the tournament to showcase their talents to the entire NRL!
To be fair, there are players on that list who were recruited into the Eels system from other territories. And there were players listed who were unlikely to reach NRL level at Parramatta or another club. The development system is like a funnel – you will inevitably lose players because there are limited places available in any NRL roster and you certainly accept that you simply can not keep every talented junior in your system.
Even so why should we fire up about this?
The names of some of these players may not be familiar to the average supporter, and their departure might cause few ripples. However, whether these players were locals, or whether they were brought in from elsewhere into the Eels development system, there has been a massive investment made with minimal return. Such investment includes the JETS scheme – elite juniors who receive additional coaching and guidance by Eels NRL staff.
The aim of any investment should be to get a return. In the ideal world this comes from producing an NRL level player. Put a big green tick next to Stefano’s name there – he will play NRL.
For others, they fill places in Canterbury Cup or Jersey Flegg teams. When you are a development club, it makes financial sense to fill places with players from your system. With so many departures, including players who were still at SG Ball level, the time and money spent on them has – to put it in layman’s terms – literally been pissed against the wall. Worse still, the club has lost its opportunity to evaluate whether they would reach the NRL level, an introspective process equally as important as the development of the players themselves.
Left with a void of playing talent, the Eels now have to scramble to fill their vacated places across the various rosters with an array of inexperienced talent, lesser quality players, or those who will potentially cost more money.
Impact On The Junior System
Here there are plenty of negatives to be found. Let’s consider just two of the most obvious.
Firstly, the message to those in our system is that their future is not with the Eels. This is not a head in the sand comment. The reality is that the Eels can never keep every talented player. However, if the club allows two of its three current Australian Schoolboys players to leave, and comes very, very close to losing the third, the message is crystal clear that our club doesn’t value achievement.
How does this play out with the families of these players? Do they feel any love from the club? What lessons do the managers learn? Word travels quickly in the rugby league community. As you may have figured by the tone of this piece…the current word is not positive.
Secondly, the impact on junior development staff cannot be ignored. There are huge numbers of people, including volunteers and part time staff, who passionately dedicate their time to the young players in the Eels system. We can guarantee readers that there are many who are devastated by the current exodus. How will this play out should the departures not abate?
Impact On The NRL Team
There will probably be minimal impact this year given that this is an area in which the club has excelled in recent times. However, should the cause of the departures not be addressed, the piper will ultimately have to be paid. The club will be reliant on external purchases to maintain a strong roster and historically we have simply been unable to compete against the glamour clubs and their superior TPAs in this regard.
Maybe we can match other clubs. Is there a problem in trying to do this?
It is a problem if you’re basing your philosophy on being a development club but spending your resources on addressing significant shortfalls in pathways players. If we are choosing this path, then we need to establish a better recruitment system and stop spending significant time and money on players that we won’t retain.
The Big Question – Who Is Responsible?
Without question, the Eels processes have become very slow and very measured. It should be mentioned that this has proven beneficial when re-signing elite NRL talent but by the same token you can’t use one tool for every job. Parramatta’s inflexible negotiating approach has clearly not proven to be so wise with the junior elite.
Young talent such as Stefano Utoikamanu, Oregon Kaufusi, Dylan Brown and Reed Mahoney have been allowed to remain unsigned after November 1. The Eels could not, nor should not, have matched the Tigers offer for Stefano. But they need not have got to this stage. The talented prop could have been locked up for less money earlier in the year.
At this point, the other three are yet to commit for 2021 and beyond. Our concern is that Kaufusi will be the next to leave as rivals circle the talented bookend. Given that the talent pool below the NRL squad has been greatly diminished, the future is not as bright as it should be.
Has somebody dropped the ball?
Have we got the processes wrong?
Supporters deserve answers beyond “we couldn’t match the offer”. Because, if you get your processes correct, those bigger offers don’t come into play as often for the incumbent club.
We await a statement from the club, particularly from the Head of Football.
The Cumberland Throw
Good article, saying a lot of what @Delboy has said
So the juniors we have lost are:
Etu Vinny Lui
It’s not a good thing those juniors leaving however one consideration and we don’t know yet, is what were their contract offers?
We can only have 6 development contracts each year or its a top 30 contract.
If other clubs have offered development contracts for say 2021 (or 2020), it’s pretty difficult for us to match if we have already identified who we want.
We have Hollis / Hughes / Duggan (think they are only 19 this year) / Schneider / Fonua training with the NRL https://www.parraeels.com.au/news/2...players-and-young-faces-join-2020-pre-season/)
Considering they are all eligible for the 20’s this year (except Fonua I think) and the first 3 have 2 years left that’s already potentially 4 development contracts (haven’t included Davis as he is 24) for 2021 (that’s 4 players 21 or younger). Only leaving potentially 2 spots for development contracts.
Obviously they may be top 30 next year opening up more development contract spots.
However its pretty difficult to make a call so soon on who to keep if other clubs are “raiding” our juniors and offering development contracts. It’s a pretty big call to make, do we match them? Or stick to our “process”?
What do we do to keep them? The development contract system basically means it’s almost impossible to keep any more then 6 promising juniors at a time.
Additionally I wonder if setting up our own NSW cup side has also had an effect on our junior retention this year? We now have the ability to sign up some “older” players with probably similar NRL potential as those juniors.
Yes, but surely there is a list of who we have elected to keep ? Each year we have SGBall players moving into Flegg and Flegg players becoming ineligible. So it’s not surprising that dozens of players would be involved in the churn.
Perhaps we needs a depth chart thread once the reggies and flegg squads are announced which could highlight the ages / positions? At least it would provide some balance to the claim that *we are losing all our good juniors*.
Parramatta doesn't develop its own talent. Of the starting 13 ATM only Drown, Mahoney, Jnr and Matterson are Eels developed players.
And even then we had to go to the player market to get Jnr and Matterson back.
Doesn't seem like an efficient way of managing the cap.
Best article i have read from the TCT in a while, it can be a love in some times but it's good to see an article cutting through some of the BS.
Ping @Delboy he was spot on. Waits for the spin from Pou and others.
Lowball Juniors, let him get into the open market giving other clubs the chance to offer overs and we won't match it( huggy crew tell us do you really want to match silly overs????) . Bring back years later on big money rinse and repeat......
Welcome to Parramatta the development club.
Who says they could have been locked up earlier? Is there no chance that these players chose themselves to wait until they got some offers from other clubs?
They do have managers, correct? These managers know that they might be in demand from other clubs.
Stands to reason that their manager might be telling them “Hey let’s just wait until we see what other clubs will offer us before we sign with the Eels. Good chance you will get more money.”
We can’t make them sign, ffs.
The sky is falling!
Just a point the majority of these juniors were not looking at development contracts, they were moving into U20s, and some still,in Ball. We were always in the position of losing players but this appears to be a result of the new "committee system" on retention and contract decisions under the control of the HOF.
The interesting point would be if there is a measured response from the club, the HOF has been invisible since appointment, that's good and bad, the hope is we have better players coming through , but who knows. That's shared by most who follow the juniors, we don't have any information .
Do you reckon the departure of Mick Potter as the development coach played any part in this exodus?
What I would like is some context to this debate. We have a list of who we chose not to sign, however no list of who we retained.
Clearly the retention cohort made calls here on who they want in their depth chart and who they don’t. Criticism is only warranted IMHO when it is shown that we are worse off and that the depth chart of retentions are a poorer squad.
Yep, a response is needed , however one thing that I believe is an issue is that I don't think Field is part of the recruitment and retention discussions. Given he is the junior development and recruitment manager, that doesn't seem sensible. There are a lot of questions out there, it's not unusual to lose a few players going into Flegg, but having been around the rep system for 30 years, this is the most disturbing.
Answers needed from the HOF I believe.
No, he actually did little at that level, was mostly working with NRL and Wenty teams.
Fair enough, I had no idea. Just the timing of it all had me thinking.
Did you miss the part that it should never have gotten to this point? The same tool for every job type of process is not working at junior level. We should act much quicker with the kiddies is the point.
Here come the excuses again. Typical loser mentality that so many eels forum supporters have. I get that there are some players that won't care and will want to go to open market and test for their true value, but the majority at that level will be very happy to sign on to their junior/development club to play with their mates and stay home/surrounding that they have set up already at that age, if the incumbent club shows them the attention and love that all athletes/people crave.
By slowing down the process and holding off it make them jittery and then they start to look at their managers to make sure they are still wanted and to start getting offers just in case the incumbent club doesn't come through. Then before you know it another club seizes the opportunity and they are gone.
You snooze, you lose. No excuses!
You may think that the sky is falling, I just think that we don't know what it means to be a development club. So why kid ourselves any longer, waste so many resources, time and money and just adopt the Roosters model.
Or if we had some sense and spine we would get together with the other major NSW development clubs like Canberra, Penrith and New Castle and unite to demand the ARLC protect and/or create some kind of compensation of sorts to combat exactly this sort of thing or else we will abandon development altogether and mean it.
For mine one of the best ways to stop a lot of poaching from other NRL clubs is to make whatever they offer a junior player be counted double on their salary cap.
Tell them that if we don't get real action on this issue we will become a blood sucking leech club just like the Roosters and see how the hierarchy like that. Knowing them though, it would not surprise that they wouldn't see the ramifications for the sport down the line and still did nothing.
Separate names with a comma.