Parramatta Eels under-20s look to bright future after Holden Cup loss

So close: Parramatta Eels under-20s players look on following a Manly Sea Eagles try in the 2017 Holden Cup grand final. Manly scored late to snatch a 20-18 win. Picture: NRL Photos
So close: Parramatta Eels under-20s players look on following a Manly Sea Eagles try in the 2017 Holden Cup grand final. Manly scored late to snatch a 20-18 win. Picture: NRL Photos

A last-minute loss in the Holden Cup grand final will not detract from a “fantastic season”, according to Parramatta Eels under-20s coach Luke Burt.

Parramatta finished fourth and won through to the club’s first under-20s grand final but a 79th minute try allowed the Manly Sea Eagles to snatch the 20-18 victory. 

“All in all, I was very proud of the season they’ve had,” Burt told the Courier.

“At one stage in the middle of the year, we were on the verge of not making the eight. So to finish fourth and end up in a grand final was a huge thing.”

The Parramatta district has long been a strong nursery for NRL talent. 

The under-20s side was also quite a young side with 23 of the Eels 37-man squad able to play in under-20s again next year. 

This includes 17-year-old halfback Dylan Brown, who was the youngest player on the field in the Holden Cup Grand Final and scored the opening try.

After also leading the SG Ball side to a national championship last year, Burt said Brown has a big future ahead of him.

“He is so composed and level-headed, and if he keeps his head down, he’s got a bright future,” he said.

“He’s only just turned 17 in June so he’s potentially got another three years in under-20s but I don’t think he’ll be there that long.

“He’s a couple of years older football wise than his age is and he’s a great person away from the field as well, which I think is important.”

With a similar team coming back next season, Burt is confident the side will be contenders when the Holden Cup shifts to a state-based competition from 2018. 

“We’re a very young squad and inexperienced to under-20s football so to do what they did is amazing and next year the confidence and what they got out of this year is going to be unbelievable for them,” he said. 

“If everything goes well, we’ll be at the pointy end of the season again next year.”

Sea Eagles 20 (Tevita Funa, Bilal Maarbani, Blake Andrews, Keith Titmuss tries; Tevita Funa 2 conversions) defeated Parramatta Eels 18 (Dylan Brown, Denzal Tonise, Greg Leleisiuao tries; Dylan Brown 3 conversions).