With under a week to go until the NRL kicks off, we lay down an extended preview for each club. Below is a look at the Eels.
The 2019 season was always going to be a year of resurgence for the blue and golds after a horror 2019 which saw them finish in 16th position and pick up the wooden spoon.
Although they would ultimately exit the competition to the tune of a 32-0 whipping in Melbourne, 2019 can be seen as a huge success.
They finished 5th and hosted a semi final, destroying the Broncos 58-0 in front of a capacity home ground. That is what the Eels will take out of their season, rather than the way it finished.
Bankwest Stadium became an absolute fortress very quickly.
Predicted Best Player: Mitchell Moses
2020 is the year of the Eels halfback. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I have Mitch Moses winning the 2020 Dally M medal. He’s that good.
He has all the weapons in front and outside of him, a quality young number nine and a half compliments him rather than overrides him.
Moses had a brilliant 2019 and made his rep debut in his player of the tournament role at the 9s for Australia. I wouldn’t rule out a different colour rep jersey coming his way before too long.
An ace kicking game, a world class running game and the ability to put his fullback into space makes him very dangerous. Him having two best wingers in the game on the outside doesn’t hurt either.
Predicted Top Scorer: Maika Sivo
The top try scorer race is always a fun one. Truthfully it doesn’t mean too much but it’s always enjoyable. Last season a young rookie by the name of Maika Sivo won it with a final day hatty. Exciting stuff.
This season, I don’t see a close race. I think the hulking Eels winger goes absolutely ballistic in 2020 and tops the try scorers list for the second time in two seasons.
He’s had another off-season, albeit a disrupted one, and if he can stay fit and distraction free, I see no reason he can’t post another 20+ try season.
Funnily enough it’s his opposite winger who may pose the biggest threat in Blake Ferguson. They could realistically both cross for 15+. It will rain points at Bankwest.
In a word, Huge!
Manu Ma’u exits the club after a brilliant return to the game, replaced by a younger, faster, more creative option in Ryan Matterson.
Reagan Campbell-Gillard is a monster in despite an average 2019 season. He will add an extra weapon from the bench and brings rep experience as well as his talents.
These two forwards pretty much complete one of the best rosters in the current game. Perhaps they’re a little light on out wide, however their NSW Cup side was beaten in extra time in last year’s decider suggesting there’s plenty of depth there.
2020 Final Position: 1st
I went back and forth on this but, on paper, the Eels look like the most well rounded and most talented roster in the NRL right now.
They have an elite level halfback, probably the best forward pack in the game, a very clever fullback, young yet brilliant nine and six, and the two best wingers in the code. Their bench is also outstanding and Brad Arthur is a very clever operator.
There are weaknesses, as with every side, I don’t love the centre pairing and Gutherson isn’t going to give you a Tedesco season, but Mitch Moses and co are ready to rise to the top in 2020.
There will be plenty of comments questioning my sanity and probably even more suggesting that they will choke, but I just can’t see a side, 1-17 each week winning more games than the blue and golds.
Sivo is a try scoring freak, Ferguson is going to run for 200+ metres always every week, while that forward pack is simply fantastic. If Mitch Moses gets any kind of space he’s going to lay on an insane amount of tries.
They hold the game’s most obvious home advantage right now also.
The Eels are going from wooden spooners to Minor Premiers in the space of two seasons.