Parramatta chief executive Bernie Gurr is hopeful of being able to announce a major sponsor in the near future for the Eels and says with some salary cap room to spare the club is still in the market for a couple more signings ahead of 2018.
In an update to The Cumberland Throw podcast, Gurr spoke on a wide range of topics, providing major business updates while also speaking of the club's transition from the dark days of the 2016 salary cap scandal and administration overhaul to being able to leverage its prominent western Sydney brand to become a real powerhouse of the west.
"2017 was always going to be a transition year for our club. We had a lot of rebuilding to do. We had to rebuild trust, we had to demonstrate stability," Gurr said.
Gurr said after 2016, fans were sick of the factionalism and wanted a united club.
"Parramatta's reputational damage in the marketplace is significant. We've therefore had our problems this year getting commercial traction but I really felt from about halfway through the year we were starting to get better traction in that area," he said.
"It's a very crowded corporate marketplace. I take full responsibility for the fact that we don't have a major sponsor; that comes under my mandate. We don't have one."
Gurr flatly denied rumours the club was pricing itself out of a sponsor, adding the club had realistic expectations.
"We've been very realistic, we understand the market, we have not overpriced the major sponsorship – it's just an incredibly difficult environment in Australia for sports and entertainment sponsorship packages," he said.
"We think longer term we are still in a very good position. We're disappointed we didn't get someone this year but we're working on a couple of options at the moment and we hope to get some good news out in the next month or so."
On the player recruitment front, Gurr confirmed there was cap space still available for 2018.
"Semi Radradra is a big loss for us but you've also got to remember we're also going to see over the next two or three years the maturity of our young players," he said.
"Mitchell Moses, Nathan Brown, Clint Gutherson, Bevan French, Cam King, Kaysa Pritchard. We're starting to build that core of young players where you have enough of those young players in the prime of their careers so if we can keep them then cherry-pick some players to plug in with them from the top, then coming from the bottom be very committed to our development programs… that's at a very broad level our plan.
"We're not signing players just to sign players because we have some salary cap available."
Gurr acknowledged fans could get impatient waiting for the next big signing announcement.
"We have a lot of recruitment discussions internally… Peter Sharp is our recruitment manager, we have continual discussions with [coach] Brad [Arthur], we've got a good scouting group," he said.
"You've got to be crystal clear on what you have and we've inherited some legacy contracts that are still in there and we're looking forward. We still have a little bit of money left for 2018 so hopefully we'll go out and sign a player or two before the commencement of 2018."
One of the previously confirmed 2018 signings, former Roosters and current Fiji World Cup prop Kane Evans, was a result of those processes.
"We thought we needed another front-rower, we needed a bit of a different body shape you might say, he's a bit of tall timber and a terrific kid, he's only 25, he doesn't have a huge amount of miles in him because he's played principally off the bench," Gurr said.
"He can be a starter if his pre-season demands that he should be a starter. Either way we'll see the very best football of Kane's football here at Parramatta."
On a range of other topics, Gurr also said:
• A high performance training centre was a realistic long-term goal but was not on the cards in the next three to four years as the club continues to repair its finances
• Trainer Ronnie Palmer has left the club with a new head of conditioning to be appointed for 2018
• The club has extended its Intrust Super Premiership arrangement with feeder club the Wentworthville Magpies for another two seasons
• No discussions were yet underway regarding coach Brad Arthur's contract, with the popular mentor already locked up until the end of 2019
• The club in 2017 knocked back a chance to take an additional home game on the road because the home fans deserved to see their team at least 10 if not 11 times per season – an arrangement Gurr doesn't anticipate changing when the redeveloped Parramatta stadium is ready in 2019
▪ The club has extended its million dollar plus partnership with the Northern Territory government, taking one match to Darwin for the next three years.
Gurr also spoke in-depth about the impressive on-field efforts of the senior team in 2017 and of his support for Arthur. You can listen to the full podcast at The Cumberland Throw website.