Prominent former Eel Peter Sterling generally only adds his opinion when he is passionate about something, when Sterlo speaks almost all listen and the well respected former half has declared his support for the new Ray Price and Eric Grothe ticket for control of the Eels.
Sterling’s ability as an astute and straight talker is well known, he smartly and quietly parted company with the Channel 9 Footy Show as the programming became a little stale and struggled for ratings; it was ultimately a masterstroke by Sterling and his departure saw the shows ratings plummet even further.
It seems Sterling has a similar feeling about the current Parramatta Eels board of directors – who must surely be nervous for the first time in years, as the groundswell of media coverage and public scrutiny continues around them.
Speaking in support of the rebel ticket, Sterling said the comments relating to Grothe and Price lacking business nous was a desperate attempt by existing directors and the aging CEO Denis Fitzgerald to keep a grasp on the old guard.
There are few in Rugby League circles that respect Denis Fitzgerald, however it seems when it comes time to vote the Eels faithful haven’t been active enough – meaning things have remained stale and without any future roadmap from the old guard. The rebel ticket is hoping for a strong turnout and will surely want the complete voting process monitored and double checked after allegations of abnormalities in relation to suspisciously registered names and voters.
“The one thing that has really disappointed me is where people said Ray and Eric had experienced unsuccessful business careers,” Sterling confirmed.
“What does that mean? Does it mean they can’t put bread on the table for their families? I don’t think any comment could be further from the truth. I thought those comments were particularly harsh.
“No one could ever question their passion or work ethic.
“The last thing in the world this ever needed to be was personal.
“The most important thing is that everyone who is running is doing so out of the right motivation. I’m looking at who is best individually – I think there needs to be some change.” Sterling said.
Sterling also said he will only be backing portions of the new 7-man challenging ticket, however he made it known it was definately time for some changes.
Reigning emperor Denis Fitzgerald has also enlisted former star players of his own to sing his praises, with bookends Peter Wynn and Bob O’Reilly pledging support for the struggling leader.
“I just can’t see how (the rebels) are going to improve the place,” O’Reilly said.
“We might not have won a premiership for a while but we’ve been in a position to do so about 6 or 7 times. Denis can’t do it himself. It’s up to the players once they get that close.”
But apart from the lack of premierships in the last 20 years, it seems most of the Parramatta faithful are concerned at the poor financial management from Fitzgerald and his team, not to mention the damaging comments the outspoken veteran comes out with on an almost monthly basis.
Sterling said the financial management of the current team needs to be “taken into account”. Losses around the $20 million mark were flagged this week regarding failed investments in other sports teams and a rent-poor property development, Baker’s Mews.
“Everything has to be taken into account – there’s been a lot of money lost out of that club,” Sterling said.
“Denis has probably been the driving force behind a lot of those decisions. He’s always said the buck stops with him for every club decision. The question now is when the buck will stop.
“I can understand how this could be seen as an anti-Denis Fitzgerald thing – but I’ve always prefaced everything I say about Parramatta by admitting I don’t have a great relationship with Denis.”
On the football front, Sterling said recruitment needed attention.
“It’s a bit of a shame at the moment, with the side finishing 11th last year,” he added.
“I’ve got a big wrap on Daniel Anderson as coach, but we lost six or seven players of first-grade standard and I think the only one we’ve picked up is Kevin Kingston.
“I’m not sure if there’s a great cause for optimism for 2009. There’s areas that need to be addressed like recruitment and retention. With the pressures of poker machine taxes and smoking laws on the licensed club, there needs to be some decisions made.”