The Parramatta Eels might have put on an attacking masterclass against the hapless St George Illawarra Dragons last Sunday evening, but it's not time to get excited just yet.

While fans have every right to wonder what might be in what is potentially the final year of Parramatta's premiership window, thanks to the exits of Isaiah Papali'i, Reed Mahoney and Marata Niukore at the end of the year, this is a script we have seen play out before.

There can be no denying just how well the men in blue and gold have started the year.

Like an absolute house on fire in fact, winning three of their first four, the only shock being a tight game dropped by just two points to the Cronulla Sharks during the Shire-based club's return home.

It has been their free-flowing attack which has been a highlight, scoring 32 points against the Gold Coast Titans in Round 1, 28 against the Melbourne Storm in Round 3 and 48 against the aforementioned very ordinary Dragons during Round 4.

It's a trend which could continue given their upcoming draw too, and will only likely increase the excitement surrounding the blue and gold.

Over the next four weeks, they play the Titans (again), Wests Tigers, Newcastle Knights and North Queensland Cowboys, before facing a couple of more serious challenges in the Penrith Panthers, Sydney Roosters and Manly Sea Eagles which should give us a much better idea about where Parramatta are at.

Still, they have already dealt with the Storm and were competitive on an emotional homecoming evening for the Sharks in the Shire - this early in the season, they are undoubtedly positive signs for Brad Arthur's side.

What has potentially been even more positive than the actual on-field results is the way Dylan Brown has been playing.

Graphic showing Dylan Brown's stats over the first four rounds of the 2021 and 2022 season. (Credit: Cameron Grimes, Zero Digital Media)

After a horror 2021 season, where he simply didn't have any impact, he has started the new year in wonderful form and single-handidly drove a stake through the heart of the Dragons last Sunday.

It's form he needs to continue though, because it improves everyone around him. From Clint Gutherson not needing to do all of the creativity, to Reed Mahoney moving back into a more customary dummy half role, and Mitchell Moses being able to use his running game as a selective weapon rather than the normal - it's critical to Parramatta's success that Brown continues playing the way he has been.

The forward pack have also been better. Isaiah Papali'i was the star of the show last year, while Junior Paulo was also fantastic, but Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Nathan Brown have stood up in a big way to start the season.

It has left the Eels near enough to the top of the table and on top of their form, but it's also a script we have seen play out before, and for that reason, we need to see a lot more against the top teams to start writing up the Eels fairytale stories.

You only need to look at the last three seasons to know it has all ended in heartbreak more often than it hasn't for the team with the NRL's longest premiership drought.

So bad has their run of being knocked out in the semi-finals become, Brad Arthur so very nearly lost his job over the off-season just gone, before eventually re-signing.

Most clubs would love to finish in the semi-finals three years in a row, but for Parramatta, they have the roster to go further - and yet haven't been able to find a way to go the extra step.

Whether it's coaching or roster, it simply doesn't make sense that this talented crop of players haven't, at the very least, been to a grand final, let alone a preliminary final.

The history is a fickle read for Parramatta fans.

2021 will live fresh in the memory, having been four and zero at the start of the season, only to go on a six-game losing streak during the second half of the year before being bounced out in the semi-finals.

They can certainly blame injuries, with Mitchell Moses and Reed Mahoney both missing a crucial chunk of time, and Mahoney the finals, but they should have had a double chance and not been left in a scrap with the Panthers during Week 2 of the finals.

2020 saw the club start the season at four and zero as well, before they went on to lose three of their last seven during the regular season - but that included two very unconvincing wins over the struggling Tigers and Warriors at the time, as well as recording similarly unconvincing victories over the Sharks and Bulldogs just before the run of seven began.

That was followed with a semi-final exit, losing the knockout fixture 38 points to 24 against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, their defence simply faltering when it mattered most.

2019 was maybe the worst of the lot. They won three of their first four and continued excellent form through the first half of the season, but fell apart just before September, losing two of their last three.

They then thumped the Broncos to the tune of 58-0 in the first week of the finals, running up 50 points, only to then lost 32-0 to the Storm the following week and have their season come crashing down.

There are plenty of worrying, now three-year long trends for Parramatta.

This year feels different, but the same comments were made last year. This is their fourth year in a row at the top of the table though, and while the external pressure on the club to make it count will be immense, there is no guarantee the Eels are going to find the magic formula.

At the very least, Parramatta's expectations need to be put on hold until after Magic Round, when they will have played Penrith and the Roosters in back-to-back weeks, but ideally, they should be able to fly under the radar for much of the season based on the history.

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  1. As an Eels fan I’m not worrying about the finals after only 4 rounds but why wouldn’t I enjoy watching the team doing well to start the season. Its a lot better than being beaten week after week and there are still 20 regular season games to watch. Is it our year? Who knows, but I didn’t buy season tickets cause all I want to watch is the finals. All I’m thinking about this week is the upcoming game against the Titans with an eye on the Easter Monday game because I can’t wait to get back to CommBank stadium. Every year we end with a long off season which is painful so lets not wish the season away so early and enjoy the footy we have now.

  2. I don’t accept 2021 being a repeat of the usual script.

    Klein absolutely cruelled any Eels premiership chances by incompetent adjudicating in the loss to Penrith which saw us miss the GF play-off.

    The 2 point margin which the Panthers won on, was off a so-called ‘high’ tackle penalty conversion for what was clearly on the chest, and their was the miss on Moses being taken out in play in an attacking run which could easily have been sin-binnable = play on.

    I know pundits have said ‘well they should have been good enough to overcome this’.

    Rubbish – to lose a close game with this gross ineptitude speaks more to Ashley Kleins performance on the night (or rather lack of) than that of the Eels.

    2021 is a ‘what could have been’ for me.

  3. Agreed, dont need to pump the brakes on anything. Aspiring writers seem to think that we believe we will win the title every year. Either that or its clickbait material, but in any case, enjoy the season for what it is. Great to be winning, and go with the flow. So no Scott, no need to pump the brakes on anything.

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