Parramatta's results are not the only thing to improve after Ricky Stuart moved on, with the bottom line also in a better state after the club slashed at least A$1.4 million (NZ$1.5m) from its football expenditure since his departure.
The Eels have been the big improvers this year, emerging as genuine finals contenders after earning the wooden spoon in the past two seasons.
The rise was all the more remarkable considering the results have been achieved on a fraction of last year's budget. Under Stuart, the Leagues Club grant to the football club blew out to A$7.5m (NZ$8.3m) to cover the costs associated with running and preparing the side. It's projected those costs will fall by a seven-figure amount this year.
Under replacement coach Brad Arthur and his staff, the club would arguably get more bang for its buck.
Some of the expenses incurred under Stuart - which have subsequently been scrapped or delegated to in-house staff, included:
- Almost A$200,000 (NZ$221,000) on a video analyst and related costs;
- A$80,000 (NZ$88,000) on a part-time sports psychologist;
- A$35,000 (NZ$39,000) on accommodation and other costs associated with 'mini-camps', such as a stay in Nowra.
However, the most significant saving was the reduced expenditure on coaching staff. Stuart was on a base contract worth about A$800,000 (NZ$880,000).
Even if Arthur triggered a number of performance bonuses, his wage for this season was considerably less than half the amount of his predecessor.
In addition, the club has turned the head coaching roles for feeder club Wentworthville and its under 20s side from part-time to full-time without going further into the red.
Parramatta's clash with the Stuart-led Canberra on Saturday night would be one of the grudge matches of the year, with much at stake for both sides.
The Eels played the Raiders twice in their run home and could take a significant step towards the finals if they can win both. Should they do so, they would likely hand over the wooden spoon to the Green Machine, making Stuart the only coach to finish last in consecutive years at different clubs.
Stuart would escape the ire of Eels supporters after the club shifted the home game from Pirtek Stadium to TIO Stadium in Darwin.
While Parramatta were saving money off the field, the same cannot be said on it.
As a result of Stuart's infamous cleanout of the roster, the blue and golds were shelling out more than A$750,000 (NZ$827,000) this season to players no longer on the books. The situation has limited the club's ability to recruit new talent as it was already at its salary cap limit for next year.
Eels officials believed poor roster management, stemming to well before Stuart's time at the club, has left them without the ability to chase marquee names despite the recent retirements of stalwarts Nathan Hindmarsh, Nathan Cayless and Luke Burt.
"We are keen to look towards the future and we are certainly pleased with the small but significant steps made by the club this year on and off the field," an Eels spokesperson said.
Stuart infamously gave about a dozen players their marching orders last year via a slide on an overhead projector. Reni Maitua (Canterbury), Jacob Loko (Canterbury), Daniel Harrison (Manly), Jordan Latham (Manly), Cheyse Blair (Manly), Jake Mullaney (Salford), Matt Ryan (Wakefield Trinity) and Brayden Wiliame (Newcastle) were still deriving at least some of their income this year from Parramatta. The club has only 21 players in its top-25 roster due to poor planning with the second-tier and NRL salary caps.
Stuart took some of the credit for Parramatta's resurgence during an interview with the ABC in May.
"I'm happy when I see Parramatta winning because I know I did the right thing there and I know I did a good job," Stuart said at the time.
"That's not taking anything away or being disrespectful to their coach, Brad Arthur, he's doing a really good job and I compliment him.
"But I like seeing them play well and I like seeing them win because the decisions I made there are decisions I have to make here in regards to the balance of a team, the quality of player ... in rebuilding a football team, there are two things that have got to happen: one is time and two it's big decisions."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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