Today the Pirtek Parramatta Eels and the Northern Territory Government have launched a 4-year partnership that will display the impact Rugby League can have not just as a major sporting spectacle but also as a vehicle for positive community outcomes.
This partnership is made up of 4 major pillars –
1. NRL Trial match to be played in Alice Springs each year.
2. NRL Premiership match to be played in Darwin each year.
3. Sports Development – Elite pathways and Participation
4. Community engagement and programs
In each of the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons, the Eels will play an NRL pre-season trial in Alice Springs and an NRL Premiership match in the capital city of Darwin.
For each of these trips the playing squad will spend extended periods working within the community promoting participation, healthy lifestyles and combating anti-social behaviour.
Pirtek Parramatta Eels Interim CEO Matt Phelan cites genuine engagement as the key to a successful relationship between the club and NT.
“This will not be a fly in fly out scenario, we will be involved all year long in Community programs, Rugby League and Touch Football participation as well as the development of existing elite player and coaching pathways.
“We are committed to providing both resources and knowledge to grow the game in the Northern Territory.”
This partnership celebrates the incredible reach of the Parramatta Eels fan base, which according to an independent NRL survey, is made up of 565,000 avid supporters. Parramatta Eels Chairman Steve Sharp describes the partnership as a huge positive for both the club and the game.
“To be able to use our club for the greater good of the game - but also to make a real difference in the lives of people less fortunate - is a huge privilege.
“It will not mean taking a game away from Parramatta Stadium, as we are committed to playing a minimum of 8 games there each season for the next 3 years. Instead, this is about assuming our responsibility to promote Rugby League and to help the community.”
One of the key goals of the partnership is attracting more families to the Northern Territory by providing national events. Northern Territory Minister for Sport, Hon. Matt Conlan believes that through the Eels-Northern Territory partnership, the Territory will have a team to call their own.
“This is a great day for the sport of rugby league and the Territory,” Mr Conlan said.
“Today’s announcement is the first time the Northern Territory has partnered with an NRL club to deliver a long-term future of premiership NRL games in the NT.
“While these games are important to the Territory, this agreement goes much further than just NRL games and will also deliver significant benefits to our community over the next four seasons, all year long.”
The Eels will be involved in initiatives that will directly cater for the needs of the people of the Northern Territory, including the importance of numeracy and literacy and “Closing the Gap” between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians.
Chair of the Rugby League Indigenous Council Hon. Linda Burney has offered her full support for the partnership.
“As we all know, Rugby League is an inherent part of the Indigenous culture. With the Parramatta Eels on board with the NT Government, eager to provide healthy, positive, male role models for our youth in the Territory.” Burney said.
“With an NRL Premiership match being played in Darwin; Sports Development programs and an NRL Trial match to be played in Alice Springs each year, it’s a wonderful outcome for all concerned.
“The National Indigenous Rugby League Council would like to congratulate everyone for all the hard work that has been done in achieving this brilliant partnership.”
Rugby League was first played in the Northern Territory in 1938. In 2013 there are over 2,000 registered players, 71 teams and 15 clubs.
Today’s announcement is especially significant for Pirtek Parramatta Eels halfback Luke Kelly. Born and raised in the Northern Territory, Kelly played all his Junior Rugby League from the age of 4 to 16 for the Katherine Bushrangers.
“The opportunity to return home to the NT, playing for the Eels in the NRL is incredibly humbling. It doesn’t seem that long ago I was running around in the Katherine Junior Rugby League so to return as an NRL player is a bit surreal.
The NT Government is particularly keen to use the Eels as a vehicle for its Strong Men-Strong Leadership community initiative.
The program is designed to provide men in the Northern Territory with strong role models, and the Government believes the Eels can deliver key messages to combat issues in the community such as alcoholism and domestic abuse. Kelly enthusiastic about the positive social impact the team can have in the NT.
“I know I can speak on behalf of all the boys when I say that we are very much looking forward to getting some hands on involvement in the various community programs that the club will be taking part of.” Kelly said.