For years the Parramatta Eels have been one
of the benchmark clubs in the National Rugby League – good management, sound
finances, excellent juniors base, and a reasonable premiership record. But now, the Eels are a complete shambles,
and the Club’s executives are in public denial.

The Club’s CEO, Denis Fitzgerald,
has been talked about as a future politician. On the basis of his performance
in the last two days, he’d be a natural for federal or state politics. Admit
nothing, deny everything – even when the evidence is overwhelming.

Last year’s minor premiers are currently
running third last (second last if you exclude the Warriors who started the
season with minus points). The club told coach Brian Smith before the season started
he would not be with them in 2007. It then appointed the current Newcastle Knights
coach – Michael Hagen – to replace him next season. Last week players were
reported as fighting and arguing with one another during matches.

It gets worse. At lunchtime on Monday two
of the club’s leading players, Mark Riddell and Tim Smith, were spotted by other
players drinking at a local pub when there were supposed to be getting ready
for a ‘rehab’ session. Full at lunchtime? And the Eels aren’t in crisis?

Well they surely were then, and are today,
as by dusk on Monday coach Brian Smith packed up his whiteboard, tendered his
resignation with immediate effect. Most Eels fans will believe the resignation
came about 11 weeks too late, and certainly too late to rescue the Club’s 2006
season.

But according to Fitzgerald and Club
President, Alan Overton, there is no crisis, none whatsoever. Nonsense!

The 2006 season of the 2005 minor premiers
is almost a shot duck. Morale is rock bottom, there is ill feeling between the
players, a lack of off-field discipline, and the coach, who had a total free
hand when it came to signing players, sacking players and team selections, has
walked out after just 10 rounds.

And the mess Smith left behind has been
dumped in the lap of Assistant Coach, Jason Taylor, who was overlooked for the
job when the Eels Board opted for Michael Hagen next year!

Peter Fray

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