One year after reaching the NRL Grand Final, the Parramatta Eels are facing the prospect of missing the finals and need an absolute miracle if they are to make it.

After losing four key players - Reed Mahoney, Isaiah Papali'i, Oregon Kaufusi and Marata Niukore - in the off-season to rival clubs, Brad Arthur admitted on Tuesday that it was difficult to see the players leave.

“You're changing combinations, changing players. We had a lot of players that were here for four or five years in our systems and structures and knew exactly how we did things. When you bring in new players it takes time,” Arthur said via Fox League.

“It's not an excuse, you asked the question, it's just the truth. You can't keep them all.

“We would have loved to have kept everyone. Penrith would have loved to have kept everyone.

“It's not nice losing players that you spent a lot of time with and developed and then go off to other clubs and they're helping other clubs.

However, one player could return back to the club soon and would make a real difference to the club's forward stocks and on the edge of the field.

That individual is Wests Tigers and New Zealand international second-rower Isaiah Papali'i.

Papali'i joined the Wests Tigers at the beginning of the season but has had to endure a terrible start which is likely to see the club clinch their second wooden spoon in consecutive seasons.

Signed by ex-Tigers coach Michael Maguire on a three-year deal, there were reports last year that he was considering backflipping on the deal after Maguire was sacked by the club.

“There's just way too much noise about Isaiah Papali'i at the Wests Tigers heading back to Parramatta,” News Corp journalist David Riccio said on NRL 360.

“Time will tell and the ability of Benji Marshall to smooth the waters of the Wests Tigers early next season will be key to that.

“So too Stefano Utoikamanu. He's the Wests Tigers front rower who has clauses galore in his contract to get out.

“Watching that space closely and knowing the relationship Papali'i has got back at Parramatta, I'm not ruling it out that he goes back.”