IMRAN GASHKORI | Sports Journalist | [email protected]
9 December, 2014. 19:55
Today, after years of close association, The Parramatta District Rugby League Football Club has formally entered the inner sanctum of the Hillsong Church – they are now owned by them.
This is the first time a professional sporting team in has been bought by a religious organisation and is what some describe as a bold strategy towards growing both club and church memberships, as the two communities become one.
Former player and Parramatta royalty, Nathan Hindmarsh, spoke to the Betoota Advocate today about the feelings amongst fans and past-players
“Look, they haven’t done too well over the years. Not since I left”
“A lot of people have said for years that Parramatta needs God. It’s pathetic… Sticky Ricky [Ricky Stuart] f**ked everything up in the space of twelve months. One year of bad coaching and we lost more games than ever before, we lost more fans than ever before – and worst of all, we lost a LOT of money. Hillsong are here to help with that. I’m not saying I’m happy about it, but it’s really all we have got.”
This has been long-time coming, 2009’s Grand Final confirmed the clubs spirituality as many though it was literally God that had gotten them there. Not to mention the well-known relationship between Hillsong and the actual players. Current captain, Tim Mannah, is a die-hard member of Hillsong and says he couldn’t be happier about the new ownership
“I am so freaking stoked, all my mates that I play footy with and all my mates that I sing and clap with are coming together as one! This is better than the time I got married and got to finally have sex!
The holy union between Hillsong and the Eels was wedded by former Parramatta CEO Paul Osborne, a senior member of the congregation. A resident of the Hills District, Osborne leveraged contacts within the church to organise last year’s NRL mission to Rwanda where players helped build an orphanage for genocide victims.
The relationship between the two communities rose to the point where Hillsong founder Brian Houston now watches games from the team enclosure, while his eldest son Billy has joined pre-match prayers in the dressing room.
An excited onlooker at yesterday’s training run at Parramatta, Billy said the Houstons were life-long Eels fanatics.
“Dad used to take me and my brother (Keith) to the home games when we were children,” Ben, a Hillsong pastor, said.
“I was at the 2001 Grand Final that Parramatta lost to Newcastle, and that was pretty disappointing.”
This multi million dollar take over is set to cause great debate in Western Sydney, with Eels fans of many different faiths this looks to scuttle the clubs plans of creating an all Halal catering menu for Parramatta stadium, which has been in the pipelines for a long time now at Eels headquaters.
The new Hillsong deal means that the stadium and leagues club are to be used for Hillsong functions and large events. This is where Hindmarsh thinks things will get sticky:
“I just hope these happy clappers know what it means to be involved with a club like Parra’ – It means hard-drinking, reckless gambling, disgustingly low standards when it comes to womanizing and lots of off-field violence.
“I’m not sure they are ready for this, but I know one thing: If they try to fuck around with the culture, they’ll be as popular as Sticky. I built a career on those ovals – and I blew most of my wealth on those pokie machines. Parramatta means a lot to people like me”