Crikey Sports introduces Nick Tedeschi who writes for Punting Ace with his weekly From The Couch article  — “one of the most popular rugby league pieces anywhere.”

Punting Ace’s Nick Tedeschi writes:

There is something very odd going on out Parramatta way. To those of us with a primary school understanding of mathematics, the numbers don’t seem to add up. Not on the field and certainly not off the field.

This year Parramatta have embarrassed the Eels jersey with only one win in the opening month of action. All is not lost but the crisis the Eels find themselves in seems somewhat dire. Losing to a Cronulla team that suffered thirteen straight defeats is one of the more humiliating losses Parramatta or any club could ever endure. To do so with a team chock full of internationals, representative players and rising stars only further highlights the extent which the Eels are underperforming this year.

The back page of Tuesday's Daily Telegraph
The back page of Tuesday's Daily Telegraph

A quick look at the Eels roster this year raises a few suspicions about not only the problems underlying Parramatta’s underperformance but how close are the Eels to reaching their salary cap?

To the salary cap first. How can this Parramatta team possibly be under the salary cap? Last year they made the Grand Final and then purchased Origin prop Justin Poore, dual international Timana Tahu and country back rower Shane Shackleton. Their worse losses were fringe first graders Todd Lowrie, Joe Galuvao and Kevin Kingston, the latter who was allegedly prepared to play for nothing but could not be afforded by the Eels.

Poore signed for what is believed to be around $350,000 per season. Tahu is reported to be on $300,000 a season. Shackleton is on a minimum of $150,000 a year and likely closer to $200,000. Since last year’s Grand Final loss, Parramatta have re-signed Jarryd Hayne ($500,000) and Daniel Mortimer ($250,000) to new deals. On top of that they have decorated international Nathan Hindmarsh ($300,000 minimum), the retiring Nathan Cayless ($400,000), Eric Grothe ($180,000), Fuifui Moimoi ($250,000) and Luke Burt ($180,000) plus the highly touted quartet of Krisnan Inu, Joel Reddy, Kris Keating and Feleti Mateo who are all on a minimum deal of $150,000 with Inu and Mateo on at least $200,000.

To my count, Parramatta are spending in excess, using conservative estimations, of $2.9 million for ten players and it is debatable whether they are even the ten highest paid players at the club. The Eels then this week have made sounds about making a play at the most expensive player in the game, Johnathan Thurston, who has a price tag of around the $700,000 per season mark. And this is on top of making offers to re-sign Mateo, Grothe, Keating and Inu.

I understand the concept of back-ending deals and I also accept that there are many intricacies in paying players and negotiating contract but it seems Parramatta have some exceptionally creative accountants because to anyone on the outside looking in, the Eels are not sticking to parameters of player wages.

And now, with Parramatta performing so abysmally this year, CEO Paul Osborne has decided to suspend negotiations with Mateo, Grothe, Keating and Inu, all of whom the club are trying to keep for 2011 onwards. Negotiations, Osborne implies, will not reopen until the Eels start performing on the paddock. Osborne’s stance, despite the fact he is regarded as somewhat of an eccentric loose cannon, suggests there may be some deeply engrained attitudinal problems among the players at the club.

There are certainly some very highly paid players not putting in. Perhaps Osborne needs to look at the players he is signing and the long-term security he is giving them when he wants some answers as to why Parramatta are once again providing little more than misery and disappointment to the Eels faithful.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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