2017 was a brilliant season for the blue and golds from Sydney’s west. Unfortunately, they were bounced from the finals across two weekends, however qualifying for the top four is a brilliant stepping stone to hopefully ending the longest premiership drought in the NRL.

Not only were on-field results much improved but the club seems to FINALLY have its cards in order off the field also. The board is settled, off-field issues were almost non-existent and the club managed to hold onto the large majority of their side.

Semi Radradra has left for ‘greener’ pastures (that’s a money joke) but the club has covered his loss by bringing prodigal son Jarryd Hayne back to where he undoubtedly played his very best football.

Clinton Gutherson has a breakout year and became everybody’s second favourite player. Bevan French continued his ascent to stardom. Manu Ma’u established himself as the game’s most feared man, while Nathan Brown had a breakout season that very few saw coming.

Recruitment Grading: C

In terms of the impact, it’s as simple as Semi is out and Hayne is in. Hayne will likely slot into a centre position pushing Brad Takairangi into the forwards. Jennings and French have two other back-line positions stitched up while Gutherson will slot back into the fullback when fully fit. To be honest, the Eels, having finished fourth last season, really didn’t need to work too hard on recruitment. They signed Moses last season and replaced Semi with Hayne, thus really completing a side capable of a premiership charge.

Star Player: Corey Norman

Parra has a multitude of stars; Moses, Gutherson, Jennings, Hayne, but for mine, Corey Norman is the main man. He had a brilliant 2017 season although had a few quiet games and will be looking to ensure 2018 doesn’t follow a similar pattern. A few years ago he was mentioned as a future Origin half for the Maroons, and with Thurston and Cronk moving on, there is a spot next to Michael Morgan available. Norman’s ability to create something out of nothing will beautifully compliment the more consistent Moses. Given the freakish try-scoring ability either side of the 26-year-old, he could be looking at a huge tally in try assists in 2018. This will be the season he finally realises his incredible potential.

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Strength: Freakish abilities

Gutherson, Hayne, French, Norman. Those are four of the game’s most electric stars who can create something out of absolutely nothing. For all the grief Hayne will cop, this is still a two-time Dally M medal winner with game-breaking abilities like few others. Clint Gutherson’s injury probably ended the Eels’ premiership hopes after his ridiculously brilliant start to 2017. Mitchell Moses adds a degree of calmness to the team and will be brimming with confidence following an electric World Cup campaign. Despite playing almost 250 NRL games, Michael Jennings is still only 29 and has plenty of highlight reel moments ahead of him.

Weakness: Belief

This may sound like a bit of a cop-out but can the Eels allow themselves to win a title? Ask Sharks fans how it feels to constantly be reminded of how long it has been without lifting the premiership trophy. That creates pressure within itself. I guarantee you that if the Eels go on a tear and win a few games in a row that the media will jump straight on this narrative. Brad Arthur and his coaching staff have to block this out. Arthur is an experienced and intelligent man so I don’t feel like this will hinder the club but it’s hard for people not to get caught up in the excitement of talk of ending a long drought.

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Prediction: 4th

This was tough. Across three drafts of the predicted table, I had Parramatta placed in three different positions. For the record, they were fourth, fifth and sixth.

The Eels look a step below the big three sides, the Roosters, Cowboys and Storm, but look almost a top eight certainty. I have them just edging the likes of the Panthers and Sharks into that valued fourth position.

From there, anything is possible. Finals footy has thrown up some massive upsets, including the Cowboys fairytale run just last season.

The Eels have all the talent required to go deep into the finals. Moses and Norman combine to create a brilliant halves partnership. Between them, there is nothing they can’t do. Norman has all the flair and Moses the skills.

Perhaps the fact that neither hooking option really stands out as a ‘must pick’ looks a slight weakness. The Eels forward pack is strong but probably lacks the skill set of their Cowboy, Rooster, Storm and Shark counterparts.

The Eels will be tough to beat in 2018 but I just can’t see them ending that title drought just yet. A lot will depend on how Jarryd Hayne settles in.


    • Is this the team that you think will make it to a GF in 2018 WoodChook?

      Jarryd Hayne’s pre-season struggles

      “Jarryd Hayne has reportedly been battling through a tough NRL pre-season in his first campaign back with his old club Parramatta – even losing to coach Brad Arthur, 43, on an obstacle run.”

      There is also a photo of Brad Arthur’s son (13 years) beating Jarryd Hayne in an earlier pre-season run. It looks like “Buffet Boy” is in trouble! LOL

      • the good ole media sucked you in on that one πŸ˜‰ (again)
        From the reports I read (from reliable sources) was that BA and his son finished in the top 10 of approx. 40 participants but, as is their wont, all the media attention focused on just the one player, JH, who was beaten. No mention of any of the others, just one player…its a beat up.
        Most recent reports from training indicate that he is working hard, the weight has dropped (but not from the rump apparently) and he is working back to his explosive power. Also need to remember he was never an endurance athlete, his was always about explosive power through the legs and hips – he’s a sprinter not a stayer.

        • “explosive power through the… hips”

          That may be a poltically correct way of saying that Hayne has a “barge ass” bily but I think that the exponential growth in Hayne’s girth has more to do with an increased intake of buckets of KFC than any actual power.

          As for the veracity of the story about Hayne, well remember it happened on the Central Coast not far from where I live. I’m not saying that it’s true, but I’m not saying that it’s not either.

          Never let tge truth get in the way of a good story billy, or a punchline. πŸ˜‰

        • any opp to put the slipper in hey πŸ˜‰
          cos we know you souths boys love nothing but sitting round in slippers and dressing gowns reminiscing of the glory glory days bahahahaha

        • “we know you souths boys love nothing but… reminiscing of the glory glory days”

          Like 2014!!! How far back do you have to go old mate? And does the VHS tape still work? Assuming you can still find a working VCR!! Bahahahahahaha πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

        • hahahaha – put your pipe, slippers and robe away, you obviously haven’t heard of youtube where you can find all this stuff
          who needs a vcr – but then again you may need to go back to the old 8mm black and white movies for all the days pre 2014

        • “you obviously haven’t heard of youtube”

          Neither have Parra supporters, judging from the “Which club has the most social media fans?” story recently. Parramatta Eels Youtube stats = ZERO! I guess they must be using old videotapes and VCRs after all. Bahahahahahahahahahahaha

    • Which team would win (be nice)?

      In all honesty, for me this season it will be a battle between the Roosters and the Cowboys. Both teams have incredible firepower and can win the title. I’ll be very surprised if any other team wins the comp this year.

  1. Eels are the big smokey for me. Last year really proved they are a great team and also dealt with alot of injuries managed to stay up for the year. Big question mark is obviously Hayne who from all reports is struggling with pre season training. They lose Semi also who is a massive loss and not easily replaced, he won them games on his own during 2017, and they will really really miss him if the replacement on the wing doesnt provide what Semi could. As much as I want to place them lower than I will its too hard to look past the gun halves pairing and agressive forward pack.

    My Eels preview
    Best player: Moses
    Best buy: Evans
    Finish: 4th

    Ps. I dont think Hayne will go good at Parra and I dont think he will be in the first grade side for long, expecting to see him run out for reserves during the middle of the season.

    • I’d be extremely surprised if Hayne doesn’t hold a spot, and not just because I’m a Parra supporter.

      He will be playing for his future $’s, and the difference in $ terms between an in form Hayne and a poor form Hayne would run at $500-700k a season.

      He’s back at Parra, with something to prove, and Parra has a strong lineup around him.

      I’m still on the fence as to whether we should have brought him back, but I think he’ll hold his own at worst, and could seriously surprise on the upside.

      • Hayne is not and will never be again an elite player. However he is still good enough to deservedly hold down a first grade spot.i would play him in the centres.

        • I agree Hayne is a centre now but if he piles on any more kilos they can put him in the front row! If Hayne continues to grow then, like that children’s story “A Fish out of Water”, there soon will not be a position or jersey big enough to hold him! At the rate of his current increase, he is on track to make George Rose look like Usain Bolt before seasons end. George Rose, what a footballer. Now there was an athlete! πŸ˜‰

      • I’m over the moon that Hayne is back home, I wish other Parra fans would share this excitement. I realise he comes with baggage, but we’re talking about a 2 time Dally M medal winner that has a point to prove. He isn’t just going to lay down and fade away, he is a champion. He’s back playing for the club that he loves, watch him fire!

        • Gotheeels, I hope you’re right, and as per above, I can see that potential.

          I’m also concerned he could go too hard, for personal glory. Maybe a solution is along the lines of, “a try assist is worth 2 tries”, especially if French is running next to him.

    • Hayne has never had a good pre season. The reports focused on a 5km obstacle course in which Hayne came last. Who cares? Has anyone reported how he is going in athleticism and power? He will be playing centre, not fullback and will be required to work in power bursts. Yes his fitness will need to improve, but he doesn’t need the athletic ability he would at fullback.

      Hayne will be fine come season start and will hit his straps a few rounds in when he gets some match fitness. On top of that he is coming back to a team that doesn’t need him like they used to. He has everything to play for and everything to prove, i believe he will work within the team and try to restore his reputation.

    • A Smoky? You have to be kidding, I guess none of you saw the easy run they had. They had 6 from 8 at home in the end playing teams that were awful all year like Souths, Wests and Canterbury which they struggled to beat!

      Where are the 24 tries from Semi Radadra coming from? Their Captain doesn’t play more than 20 minutes a game, Norman is totally overrated, Evans couldn’t even make the starting 13 at Easts.

      When they come up against teams like Melbourne, Easts and North Queensland they just couldn’t compete.

      • Correction :
        They were the ONLY team to compete against MEL in the finals.
        Same ol manly fan unable to show true colours due to cheating scandals, poor recruitment and bleak future.
        How sweet it is !!

    • wow holmesy, I am impressed – positive words about our fine club πŸ˜‰
      On the whole and to be brutally honest, eels need to be better, a fair bit better, than 2017. The skill, talent and heart were there for all to see at various times during the year but the inconsistency from week to week and even half to half had me throwing remotes at the TV. That is the key aspect that needs to improve, all the other elements are there.
      A mobile, hard working pack, creative halves, brilliant backline and a smart tactical coach who bleeds for the club.
      I still feel we are one big man (i.e. tall and big, not a Vave short and fat kind of big) short that will allow the pack to compete favourably with likes of Cowboys, Storm and Roosters.
      Its a big year for:
      Norman – he needs to step up from his form of 2017, he may have been hampered by injury at stages last season but his general fitness didn’t seem to be on the same level as past years. If he doesn’t take the next step up, his time at the Eels may not be as long as he hopes with Gutho, Hayne and Smith all breathing down his neck for a halves spot.
      Redemption story of the year:
      Hayne – the prodigal son will pull his head in, focus on football and gradually build his form across the season and play a starring role in an epic finals run, not so much reminiscent of 2009, but more 2014 SOO.
      Player of the year:
      It will be titanic battle within the club between Brown, Moses and the King for player of the year honours. I tip Moses to edge out the King purely on number of games played, due to Gutho’s delayed start to the season.
      Improver of the year:
      Alvaro – will step up and own the starting front rowers spot and play big minutes every game. May come at the expense of Mannah.
      Thanks for the memories:
      Scott – played a big part in the clubs turn around on the field but sadly will be forced to retire mid-season due to a chronic injury.
      Hoping for a big year and eyeing off a top 4-5 spot.

      • “I am impressed – positive words about our fine club”

        Do you like curry billy? I favour curry myself, or should I say, “curry favour”? LOL

        • “I favour curry myself but I don’t curry favour!” Aaaah, it was on the tip of my tongue but I lost it and it came back after I hit post. There are no mulligans in delivering a punchline billy, sadly. It is an unforgiving world for those who suffer from “premature anticipation” of a laugh!

  2. Also Storm to me are not a top 3 team anymore as you said. They have lost a number of their best forwards and Cronk too.

    • We hear the same thing every year and yes Cronk is arguably their biggest ever loss. But each year Bellamy proves everyone wrong. I would be surprised if they didn’t make the top 4.

      • Cronk is a massive loss but the Storm have been preparing for this for some time now… Brodie Croft, Ryley Jacks, Cameron Munster, Brandon Smith, Jahrome Hughes. Gen-Next is here already tommy. The Storm machine won’t skip a beat, wait and see and after a brief stint as assistant coach following retiring from the game Cam Smith will take over as head coach of the Storm and it will be business as usual.

  3. If we, and we’re extremely likely to, run Hayne in the centre I think we should run Taka’s off the bench. I’d still run Hayne on the wing and Taka’s at centre, but that’s looking very unlikely.

    Given we don’t have the biggest / strongest forward pack, running Taka’s off the bench effectively covers a utility role (given the versatility with our starting squad), and a fourth forward, to take some pressure off.

    I’d also be putting Edwards “on notice” for his spot, as much as I think he’s a very talented player, about his on field discipline.

  4. I believe if BA switches Will Smith to Hooker and Smith works on his defence it could turn out to be a masterclass. BA also has lots of faith and hope for Kane Evans and believes he could become an elite forward and as much as i doubt it he said the same thing about Nathan Brown last year and now Brown is one of hardest working players in the league and may feature for the blues if his form continues. If Evans can follow his footsteps and turn into a hard running dangerous ball handling forward Like Fifita or Bromwich (Which is what BA wants to turn Evans into we’re a definite chance of meeting Roosters or Cowboys in the final. I expect Norman & Moses to become even stronger and turn into the new Morgan, Thurston deadly duo. If Gutherson recovers well and play the rest of the season injury free he will be a contender for Dally M. And by the looks of it Tepai Moeroa has been working hard in pre season and looks set to have a breakout year. Also youngsters like Stone, Salmon, Leleisiuao have been impressing and have a good chance of debuting if player casualties fall their way and when these guys do expect to see the future of Parramatta at display.

    Strength: Ability to switch momentum and go on a lethal attacking streak

    Weakness: Weak forward pack that can get outplayed from the big clubs such as Roosters, Cowboys, Storm, Sharks etc.

    Player Of The Year: Clint Gutherson

    Most Improved: Tepai Moeroa

    Rookie To Watch: Ray Stone

    Predicted Finish: 3rd

  5. Punch the sky with bloodied fists
    When we hear the whistle blow

    • You must be a butt hurt manly fan unable to show your true colors due to your suckhole team.
      Still fighting the cheating charges ?
      What happened to the 1.5 mil you were bragging you had to spend ?
      Hahaha. You cant even afford Newys rejects.

      • Don’t really like the eels but you would have to be a idiot not to like gutho, he is a gun where ever he plays.

  6. Anything less than top 4 for my parra will a disappointment , yeah the loss of semi is huge but youre kidding if you dont think eels have points in em with players like gutho, french , jennings and hayne , and like every year you never know of young bloke coming through being a star , only big weakness is in the front row imo evans is a good pickup though best player:moses to step up most improved: alvaro hopefully for our go forward predicted finish:3rd only worry is finals footy parra have to improve , their obviously not to use to the pressure of finals with few players with experience with big games

    and the story must be told
    that if you cut us open

    • Well done fatkid. A variant of the ballad stanza and the abxb rhyme scheme. I hope you are paying attention Rabbits? The bar has been raised. Hop to it Rabbits, start typing.

      False alarm Rabbits! It’s just the Parramatta Eels team song. For a moment there fatkid I thought you were ZT’s new poet laureate. The title is still your Rabbits. Rest easy. πŸ˜‰

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