Parramatta will consider immediately plastering a major sponsor on the front of their jersey for their fairytale finals run if the right company is prepared to commit to the club long term.
The Eels are the sentimental favourites for the coming play-offs after qualifying for the first time since their 2009 grand-final appearance. Brad Arthur’s team has rebounded from last year’s salary cap scandal to finish in the top four after Friday night’s win against South Sydney, booking a blockbuster clash with Melbourne next weekend.
The club is on the rise after producing an exciting brand of football that has them primed as genuine premiership contenders. The blue and golds have marketable game-breakers in the likes of Corey Norman, Mitchell Moses, Bevan French and Semi Radradra and will have a new home stadium in time for the 2019 season.
However, Parramatta are still without a major sponsor and are embroiled in a legal stoush with their former backer, Dyldam. Officials are looking for a backer to take the prime real estate on the front of the jersey for next season and beyond, although an opportunity exists if the right company jumped onto the bandwagon immediately.
The Eels are guaranteed to progress to at least the second week of the finals even if they lose to the Storm, giving prospective partners an opportunity to align brands during the biggest games of the year. Such a relationship would give prospective sponsors valuable exposure if they were prepared to commit longer term.
“We are looking to do something for 2018-19, but if we can tag on something in the back end of this year through the play-offs, then we would certainly entertain it,” Eels chief executive Bernie Gurr said.“Save for Panthers pipping us on junior numbers, we are are the biggest franchise in western Sydney on every metric.
The Eels will start as rank outsiders against the Storm, but Norman said the team has the belief required to upset the runaway minor premiers.
“Top four is a very good achievement for us and the club,” he said. “No one is going to give us a chance but ourselves. We’re going to have to go down there and believe we can get the win or Melbourne will roll us.”
The Eels are one of just four teams to inflict defeat on Melbourne this season, beating the southerners 22-6 at AAMI Park in round 18.
“They didn’t have their Origin stars, but they are still a good side without them,” Norman said. “They’re even better with them, we’ll have to look at how they play this week and go from there.
“No one is going to give us a hope in Melbourne; we’re going to have to stay tight, believe, and, come Saturday, if we’re ready to go, anything can happen.”
A highlight of the game will be the clash between Fijian wingers Radradra and the Storm’s Suliasi Vunivalu. Radradra has scored seven tries in his past two games.
“He’s hitting form at the right time, Semi,” Norman said. “He’s coming up against another Fijian next week and that will be a battle in itself. It shapes to be a good one.”