The forgotten players: Parramatta Eels

The forgotten players: Parramatta Eels

This is the 15th article in the series that looks at some of the forgotten players from your favourite club.

The Parramatta Eels entered the competition in 1947 and have had over 800 players don the blue and gold since day one.

My first rugby league memory is watching the Eels at the flint hard Cumberland Oval dust bowl with my father sometime in the very early ’60s. I can’t remember much of the game other than the fact that Ken Thornett was playing that day, so it was probably 1962.

Apart from Thornett, and his brother Dick, there are almost too many Parramatta club legends to mention: Ray Price, Mick Cronin, Peter Sterling, Ron Lynch, Brett Kenny, Bob O’Reilly, Ron Hilditch, Nathan Hindmarsh, and so it goes on.

But in among those legends were plenty of Eels players who you may have forgotten.

Here’s a team made up of players who may have faded from your memory who represented the club from the mid ’60s.

1. Phil Mann Possibly the tallest fullback ever, at over two metres, Mann was an Eels junior and son of Parramatta stalwart Bruce Mann. Phil “Spider” Mann played 55 first grade games for the Eels in his eight-year career with the club, scoring 20 tries. Declining form, injuries and the arrival of a host of new players at the club led to a couple of years in reserve grade, and eventually saw him retire at the end of the 1983 season. He then headed to Port Macquarie for a successful stint in both coaching and club administration.

2. Len Stacker Stacker was one of the first wingers happy to mix it with the forwards when he got the chance and, not surprisingly, ended up in the pack following his time in first grade. A hard and skillful player, and also a useful goal kicker, he played 23 games for the Eels across the 1966 and 1967 seasons. After hanging up the boots, he went on to a successful coaching career, including coaching first grade at both Penrith and Wests.

3. Barry Rushworth Rushworth hailed from Lithgow in country NSW and was selected from there to not only represent NSW, but also join the 1963 Kangaroo Tour of England and France, playing in just one Test match on the tour. He joined Parramatta for eight seasons commencing in 1964 and played 104 first grade games for the club. He was one of the best centres in the game on his day, and one of his favourite plays was the chip and chase.

4. Gary Pethybridge Pethybridge was a Parramatta junior and a high quality centre. He made his first grade debut for the Eels in 1970 and had 31 games with the club before heading to St George for three years, where he was ultimately badly injured during the 1974 season. Out of the big time for three years following this injury, he then made a successful comeback with Penrith in 1978 before retiring for good in 1981. He also played one game for NSW.

An Eels fan cheers

5. Brett Plowman Plowman was a big unit and could play either in the outside backs or in the forwards. After six seasons with the Broncos he came to Parramatta in 1994 and played 23 games for the club over the next two seasons.

6. Ivor Lingard Lingard was a clever half who began his top level career in England before joining the Eels in 1964, where he played 104 first grade games for the club over the next seven years.

7. Graham Murray Murray was one of the most skillful halves ever to play the game, which belies the fact that he only played 89 first grade games in his eight-year career. The first 46 of them were with the Eels across the 1976 to 1980 seasons. However it was coaching where he really made his mark, coaching a total of 390 first grade games, both here and in England, and six Origin games for NSW.

8. Matt Goodwin Every team needs a player like Goodwin: hard, tough and with a big motor. He came to Parramatta after a successful seven-year stint with Penrith, but injuries restricted his first grade performances with the Eels to just 26 games across the 1990 and 1991 seasons.

9. Kevin Kingston A skillful player with a high work rate, Kingston first hit the big time with Cronulla before coming to the Eels in 2009 for just the one season, playing in 19 games. He then headed to the Panthers.

10. Adam Ritson Ritson was an Australian Schoolboys representative who showed signs of being the next big thing, and was called up to first grade with the Sharks in 1993 by coach Arthur Beetson at just 16 years of age. He moved to the Eels in 1996 but played just 11 more games before his career was cut short at the age of just 20 when he suffered a brain injury following a John Lomax tackle. Fortunately he recovered from the injury but didn’t play again.

NRL generic

11. Peter Peters Well before his career in journalism and the media, the imaginatively named Peter Peters was a fairly useful player in his day. He began his career in the top grade with the Eels in 1968, playing 11 games for the club that year, before heading to Manly in 1969 for the rest of his career and premiership success.

12. Andrew Langford Langford had the talent to play many more than the 40 first grade games he played over five years with the Eels, but it wasn’t to be. He made his first grade debut in 1989 and left the big time at the end of the 1993 season.

13. Keith Campbell A local junior, Campbell had eight years with Parramatta after making his debut for the club in 1968. He was big and powerful, had loads of pace, and was also a very good goal kicker. He played 111 games for the club. He had a break-out year in 1971, playing two games for NSW and one for Australia.

14. Daniel Mortimer Mortimer was a very good hooker or half who made his first grade debut for the Eels in 2009. He was one of their better players that year, but neither he nor the Eels could replicate that form in the next couple of seasons. Mortimer left the Eels for Roosters at the end of 2011 having played 48 games for the blue and gold.

15. David Solomona Solomona was a top flight forward who had the size, power and ball playing skills to trouble any defence. He left the Roosters to join Parramatta in 2001 and played 57 games for the Eels over the next three years. In all he played 279 first grade games, both in Australia and the UK, in a 14-year career. He also played 13 Tests for NZ and seven for Samoa.

16. Trent Robinson The well known Roosters coach came out of the St Gregory’s College system and debuted with Wests in 2000. His Parramatta career kicked off in 2002 and can be summed up in just one game, because that was all there was.

Trent Robinson

17. Henry Perenara The big back rower was born in NZ and made his first grade debut for the Warriors in 2000. He played 72 first grade games for five clubs in his eight-year career, including 11 for the Eels in the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He also played one game for NZ and since retirement from playing has established himself as one of the leading referees in the NRL.

Some other players who may have been forgotten, or at least wish they were, include the innovative winger Paul Carige, who was run out of town after the 1998 preliminary final loss, the fumbling Neville Glover, and the rapid Lee Oudenryn.