Celebrating 75 Years: The Moments that Made the Eels

Nathan Smith looks at the Parramatta Eels’ top five moments to celebrate their 75th anniversary…

The 12th of April marks the Parramatta Eels’ 75th-anniversary of playing top-flight rugby league in Australia. In such a great span of time, there are countless significant moments to consider. We will try and condense this into the five biggest moments of the club’s storied history.

5. The first match (1947)

On April 12 in 1947, the hard work of both Jack Argent and Jack Boyle was realised when the Parramatta Eels ran out to contest the Newtown Jets at Parramatta Oval. Both men were passionate about giving the local district a team and through their tireless efforts, such as introducing a Leagues club to raise funds for the football team, the foundation for the Parramatta Eels’ future was firmly set in place. 


4. Parramatta’s first grand final appearance (1976)

Parramatta’s first few decades were nothing spectacular. They struggled throughout both the 1950s and 60s and saw little success. However, the mid-1970s saw a transformation of their roster that would soon etch the club’s name into rugby league history. The most notable acquisition was Ray Price, whose courage and high work rate made him an instant hit at the club. They would play in both the 1976 and 1977 premiership deciders, and though the Eels won neither of these games, the team was finally primed for future success.


3. Peter Sterling debuts (1978)

On the back of two successive premiership appearances in 1976 and 1977, the Eels were onto something. However, there were still a few missing pieces. In 1978, one of Parramatta’s favourite sons made his debut, Peter Sterling. Though he initially debuted as a fullback, he soon found his way into the halves and would go down as one of the Eels’ greatest ever players. Sterling helped steer the Eels to four premierships in the 1980s and is the face of the club’s golden era.


2. Jack Gibson signs as the coach (1981)

Some might say that Jack Gibson’s arrival was the most important in the Eels’ history, more-so than any player. Certainly, it was a watershed moment. On the back of a successful stint at the Sydney Roosters, where he helped guide them to two premierships, Gibson arrived at the Parramatta Eels in 1981. His arrival saw immediate success: the Eels would go on to win the 1981, 82 and 83 premierships, and so his name was forever etched in Parramatta’s history as their greatest ever coach.


1. Parramatta wins their first premiership (1981)

“Ding dong, the witch is dead.” So said Jack Gibson after the Eels broke a three decade premiership drought to win their first title. Decades after playing the Newtown Jets in their first-ever match, they would face once again on the 27th of September 1981, for the premiership. The Eels would go on to win 20-11 and finally complete a lap of honour at the Sydney Cricket Ground. With the pressure of getting their first title off their shoulders, the Eels would go on to win a few more in that decade, which remains their most successful period as a club.


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