Club loyalty certainly isn’t what it used to be, and now the salary cap, ineffectual contracts and the lure of the almighty dollar means that players change clubs on a regular basis.
Sometimes, fans are happy to see a player go, like Tony Williams, but losing a top player when they’re in their prime or a prospect with loads of potential is no fun at all, particularly when you see that player lining up for the opposition in the following season.
In this, the seventh article in this never-ending series, I’ll pick a team of the best players who got away from Parramatta since 2000.
The only criteria are that the player named must have made his debut for the Eels, left the club after 2000, and then played with another NRL club, rather than just retired or headed to obscurity in the ESL.
(Details in brackets are the year the player debuted for the Eels and the number of games played for the club.)
1. Adam Mogg (2002, 9 games)
Mogg was a very talented player but never really had many opportunities in his one season with the Eels, and it was no surprise to see him join the Raiders in 2003. Better times were ahead for this little moggie.
2. Pat Richards (2000, 37 games)
After a strong debut season at just 18 years of age, Richards struggled to gain traction at the Eels and was eventually told to look elsewhere by Parramatta coach Brian Smith. So, off he went to Wests in 2004, and won a premiership with them in 2005, notching 20 tries along the way.
3. Krisnan Inu (2007, 78 games)
Inu was a Parramatta junior, debuted at the age of 20, and was selected in the NZ Test team soon after. He joined the Warriors in 2011 and has since become a real rugby league journeyman, now playing with his eighth club. Just an average first grader.
4. Willie Tonga (2002, 40 games)
He managed just eight first grade games in his first stint with the Eels in 2002-03, and then really hit the big time after moving to the Dogs in 2004, playing for Queensland and Australia, winning a premiership, and being named as the Dally M centre of the year.
Definitely one who got away from the Eels, although he did return for an injury-riddled three-year stint in 2012.
5. Ashley Graham (2002, 41 games)
Graham looked the goods and was having a solid season in 2003 until he broke his leg. He never really regained his form with the Eels after that injury, and was released early in the 2006 season to join the Cowboys, where he had a successful eight-year career.
Parra’s loss was North Queensland’s gain.
6. Blake Green (2007, 6 games)
Green debuted for the club as a 20-year-old in 2007 and showed enough in his limited opportunities to be signed by Cronulla the following year. He ended up playing 270 games for a total of nine clubs in his career, and formed a reputation as a very good ball player. A junior worth keeping.
7. Tim Smith (2005, 71 games)
Smith really hit the ground running at Parramatta and looked to have the world at his feet until discipline and mental health issues got in the way.
He left the club in 2008 and his career then flatlined. Perhaps the Eels could have done more to keep him on track, or maybe his issues were too big to overcome? A player who fell through the cracks.
8. Jeremy Latimore (2009, 7 games)
Latimore was one of those players every club needs, a solid worker who always gave his best. He left the Eels in 2010 after limited opportunities in his debut season, but really wasn’t missed.
9. PJ Marsh (2000, 108 games)
Marsh left the Eels twice, firstly in 2002 for the Warriors after Parramatta were beaten in the 2001 grand final by Newcastle, and after returning to the club in 2005, he left to join the Broncos in 2008. Just a good club player.
10. Jason Cayless (2000, 24 games)
Cayless debuted as a 20-year-old and became a regular first grader in 2001. He was picked up by the Roosters in 2002 and never looked back, winning a premiership that year and becoming a regular in the NZ Test team.
A big bopper who got away from Nick Politis.
11. Andrew Ryan (2000, 73 games)
He was the Eels rookie of the year in his debut season and began his NSW Origin career the following year. Salary cap pressure saw him move on to the Bulldogs in 2003, where he established himself as one of the best back rowers in the game and a Bulldogs legend.
12. Brett Delaney (2005, 18 games)
Delaney was a strong player, whether in the backs or the forwards, but limited opportunities saw him leave the Eels for the newly formed Gold Coast in 2007. A player who never realised his potential in the NRL, but he eventually had a long and successful career in the ESL.
13. Feliti Mateo (2004, 89 games)
Mateo had just the one game with Parramatta in 2004, had a season in England and then returned to the Eels for a five-year stint in 2006.
When he left the Eels at the end of 2010 he was still playing pretty good football, and he had another six years in the NRL with both the Warriors and Manly. A loss, but hardly a big one.
All in all, the Eels don’t have too much to regret.
Andrew Ryan and Nathan Cayless certainly should have been retained.
Feliti Mateo would have provided their attack with much more variety, Blake Green could have been their answer in the halves, and Pat Richards was also a talent worth hanging on to a bit longer.