The Parramatta Eels is a professional rugby league football club from Australia that is based in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta. They compete in the National Rugby League (NRL) competition, which is the premier rugby league competition in Australia. They also have teams in lower grade rugby and often win premierships in their various other grades.
The Parramatta Eels have a long history in the game and are integral to the fabric of Australian rugby football. The district history with the game started way back in the early 1900’s and culminated in the beloved team that fans are so passionate about today.
The Parramatta Eels were founded in 1946 but the history of the game stretches back to long before that time. Rugby union and rugby league was player in the early 1900’s throughout the district, following the formation of the Parramatta Rugby League club in 1879. When the Sydney competition was formed in 1900, the Parramatta joined up with the Western Suburbs club and began to play some of its matches at Cumberland Oval. Rugby league became popular in the district following the formation of a Parramatta competition in 1910. Pressure started to mount around Parramatta for a local club to join the New South Wales rugby league premiership began in the 1930s. A formal proposal was put to the league in 1936 but the proposal was rejected by all the clubs except for the Western suburbs. Parramatta’s entry into the league was put on hold by World War II. The club was admitted into the premiership in 1946.
Parramatta had a slow start in the league, taking thirty years to reach a Grand Final. They made their first Grand Final in 1976 and then again in the following year but they lost on both occasions. Once they found their footing however they were highly successful. The 1980’s was the strongest period for the club. They won four premierships and made five Grand Final appearances during the decade. The 1980’s was the clubs Golden era, and so far has been the decade of their only premiership titles. The 2016 salary cap scandal saw them being stripped of their 2016 Auckland Nines premiership.
Parramatta’s biggest victory margin in their history was a 74-4 match against the Sutherland-Cronulla Sharks in 2003 and their biggest defeat was 0-68 losing match against the Canberra Raiders in 1993. The clubs largest ever attendance record was 105,583 spectators at Telstra Stadium in 1999. Their biggest ever home crowd at Parramatta Stadium was 27,243 against the Sydney Rabbitohs in 1986.
The Parramatta player with the records for the most points scored in the club is Mick Cronin, with 2001 points between the years of 1977 and 1986. Mick Cronin also holds the record for most points in a single season, with 282 points scored during the 1978 season. Player Luke Burt holds the record for the most tries (111) between 1999 and 2012.
The Parramatta Eels made a loss of almost $4 million in 2018, although this was an improvement on the $10 million loss in the previous financial year. The club is in the process of redeveloping its home ground and as a result have some considerable costs attached to their business at the moment. The club relies on food and beverage, ticket sales and merchandise and their Leagues club for cash flow. The club also has considerable assets to its name.
The Parramatta Eels rugby league football clubs home ground for most of their history was Cumberland Oval (later renamed to Parramatta stadium. The stadium was rebuilt for the 2019 season and the team now plays at Western Sydney Stadium, on the original site of Parramatta Stadium.
Rugby league matches were played at Cumberland Oval from the early 1900’s. When Parramatta was admitted to the NSWRL in 1947, they chose the site to be their home ground. The club’s first match was played at the grounds in a match against Newtown and was defeated 34-12 with 6000 spectators looking on. Cumberland Oval remained the home of the Parramatta Eels until 1981, when the team played their last game against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles and later that year secured a premiership trophy. After winning the games, fans of the club set fire to the grounds, which were soon to be demolished as a celebration of the win.
During the years of 1982 to 1985 whilst they waited for Parramatta Stadium to be builts, the Parramatta Eels played at Belmore Oval, which was the home ground of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at the time. Following construction completion in 1985, the club played their first game at the new stadium against the St George Dragons. The capacity of the stadium was originally 30,000 but this was reduced in 2002 to 21,487.
The biggest crowd to attend a game at Cumberland Oval was a crowd of 22,470 spectators in a match against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 1971. The biggest attendance at Parramatta stadium was during the first year of completion, in 1986, and saw a crowd of 27,243 NRL fans turn up to watch the Parramatta Eels go up against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in a 12-all game. The biggest crowd the stadium has drawn with its current capacity was a crowd of 21,141 NRL fans in 2006 in a match played against the Wests Tigers.
The new Western Sydney Stadium has a capacity of 30,000. The first matched played at the venue was between Parramatta and the Wests Tigers. Whilst the venue was being built, Parramatta played some games at the ANZ stadium.
The teams current coach is Brad Arthur, a professional rugby league coach who previously played for the Parramatta Eels junior league. His coaching career began at only 22, when he coached the Batesman Bay Tigers. Brad Arthur is currently set to be the head coach of the Parramatta Eels until 2021, after receiving an extension on his original three year contract.
Emblem and Colours
Like a lot of the older NSWRL clubs founded prior to the 1980s, the Parramatta club was originally founded with no mascot or nickname associated with the club. Before the 1970s the club was only ever associated with the nickname ‘Fruitpickers’ which was linked to the orchards that were common around the area at the beginning of the 20th century. Later on, a new focus on marketing saw the club adopt a mascot and official nickname. The nickname ‘The Eels’ was first suggested in the 1960s because the name ‘Parramatta’ was an Anglicized version of the Aboriginal words, ‘Barramattagal’ which meant ‘place where eels dwell’. The nickname became official in the 70s. The clubs logo was changes in 1980 to reflect the nickname, which the old crest being exchanged for an eel design. The logo remained unchanged, despite different versions of the jersey, until 2000. Later in 2004, the logo reverted to a design similar to the one from 1980. The club also used a logo that was based on Parramatta City’s own emblem. The logo was a foreshore scene from settlement days which was used by the club until the 70s and is still featured on the junior club uniforms. In 2009 the club reverted to their original logo, with the year of their founding added, as a nod to the clubs history.
The colours originally suggested for the club were emerald green and white as these were the same colours worn by the rugby union club, however the colours were later changed to blue and gold. That colour scheme has been consistently used over the clubs history, although the shades have changed throughout the decades.
The first jersey design in 1947 was predominantly blue with a yellow hoop in the middle. The design was changed two years later to include blue and gold hoops and this jersey remained in place until the 1970s when a new design using blue and gold stripes was introduced. The design has gradually evolved ever since to become a design that is predominantly blue or gold.
The official mascots of the Parramatta Eels are known as Sparky and Sparkles. They feature heavily in merchandise and can be seen supporting the team from the sidelines at every home game. They also make regular appearances at community events.
The Parramatta Eels have some very passionate supporters, and quite a diverse fan base, owing to their district which is a melting pot of cultures. Up to 35 per cent of fans have fathers who were born overseas. The club has done a lot of research and spent a lot of time in recent years trying to grow its fan base and make for an inclusive space.
The club has some notable supports, including a number of Australian celebrities, prominent sport stars and politicians. Some notable fans include actress, Toni Collette, professional boxer Danny Green, actor Paul Hogan and Simon Pryce from the Wiggles.
In the early years following their foundation, Parramatta struggled to success on the field. They missed out on qualifying for the final in 1949. They finished last between the years of 1952 and 1961. The club suffered due to a weak playing roster and limited resources in the early years. They had few players of note during this period of time and mostly had amateur players and park footballers on the team. The club made the finals for the first time in 1962 and then followed it up by making the finals for the three seasons following. The boost in success on the field helped the club to attract some talented players. They returned to poor form in the 70’s, earning the wooden spoon in 1970 and 72. The teams first great success was in a match against Manly-Warringah in the pre-season cup final. The following year the club made it to their first Grand Final but fell short of a win. The club won their first minor premiership in 1977 and qualified for the Grand Final but lost to St George. The club qualified for the final in 1978, 1979 ad 1980, but they missed the final in 1980. The beginning of the 80s was the clubs golden era, the team made it to five Grand Final games and won four premierships in the years of 1981 t0 1986. Three of those year involved consecutive wins in between the years of 1981 and 1983. The club did not make the finals between 1987 and 1996 however. When the Super League war was in full swing, the club made the most of it and picked up a number of star players whilst sticking with the Australian rugby league. In 1997 the Eels made the finals in the ARL competition and finished third for that year. The following year they finished fourth in the competition. In 1999 the club lost to the eventual premiership winning team, Melbourne Storm. In 2000, the team finished 7th in the competition. The Eels made it to the 2001 Grand Final but the pressure of the game saw them lose 30-24 to the Newcastle Knights. The club made it to the 2005 finals but lost to North Queensland. The following year they finished in 8th place. They made it to the preliminary finals in 2007 but it became their 5th preliminary finals loss in nine year after they lost the match 26-10.
In 2009 the club experienced an incredibly uneven year, with a poor record at the beginning of the season being offset by an incredible winning streak that got them into the top 8.
Melbourne Storm came under fire in 2010 for salary cap breaches and were stripped of their premiership for 2009. The Eels were expected to make it to the Grand Finals for 2010, but ended up falling short of the top 8.
The club earned a wooden spoon in 2013 and the years following were forgettable, whilst 2016 saw them stripped of a number of competition points due to salary cap breaches which saw them come in at 4th place. The club turned it around in 2017 though and made it through to the finals. The Eels were awarded the wooden spoon in 2018. They qualified for the finals in 2019 but lost to Melbourne Storm.