Parramatta Eels

Parramatta’s off-season will be best remembered for the exit of Jarryd Hayne. The press conference would have wide ranging effects on the club.

The move left the Eels without a first choice number one, although there was plenty of excitement over the move of Will Hopoate into the custodian role.

Anthony Watmough joined the club, which would add another leader, and plenty of aggression and experience to the pack.

There was plenty expected of this Eels side, which contained attacking stars Semi Radradra, Chris Sandow and Nathan Peats.

Season Highlight: 42-12 win (Round One) over Manly

There was plenty of optimism at the club following a full off-season under Brad Arthur, and the signing of Manly superstar Anthony Watmough.

Even the most dedicated Eels fan wouldn’t have expected the 30 point drubbing their side handed out to Manly, in front of a huge home crowd on opening night.

It was the perfect start to a new season.

Unfortunately it would not last, but for that one night, the Eels were world beaters. The way they smashed Manly all over the park was a joy to watch for those wearing blue and gold.

Season Lowlight: Contract Dramas

Fans of the club were ecstatic to hear the news that Kieran Foran would be joining the club. They then had to hold their breath as contract dramas threatened to destroy the move.

It then looked as though their fullback troubles would come to an end with the mid-season shift of Michael Gordon, only for the deal to fall through.

Now the Eels are locked in a court battle with NSW outside back Will Hopoate, which could spill over well into the off-season.

I won’t go into the troubles at board level suffered at Parra, but they really need to get their contract procedures set to avoid this mess in the future.

Hopoate signed a huge money contract that may or may not be honoured. Considering the salary cap dramas, the outcome of this case could severely affect the Eels going forward.

Star Player: Semi Radradra

It’s unusual that a winger could star for a club, given their limited involvement out wide, but Radradra was the star of the show, once again topping the try scoring charts.

His brilliance went far beyond his incredible 24 tries, as his carries to work the Eels out of trouble were worth their weight in gold.

Try scoring has never been a problem for the monster winger, however other aspects of his game continued to improve in 2015.

Semi was rightfully awarded the winger of the year award at the Dally M’s, and really developed into the all-round winger this season.

With Foran and Gordon coming to the club, he should become even more dangerous in 2016.

Most Disappointing Player: Chris Sandow

This was a two horse race, although the departed Sandow pipped Anthony Watmough at the post.

Sandow, who is rumoured to be on over half a million dollars a season, jumped between NSW cup and first grade throughout 2015.

He was even shifted to fullback in a failed attempt to regain the form that saw the Eels throw big money at the talented half.

Although he did produce the odd brilliant game, it only added to the frustration of Eels fans, who needed their halfback to find consistency.

He was released from his contract and now plays in the English Super League.

Future Star: Tepai Moeroa

The Eels have plenty of young guns in their ranks, but none are more imposing than 20 year-old hulk Tepai Moeroa.

At almost two metres tall, and tipping the scales at over 110kgs, there is no reason Moeroa cannot improve on his bright start at NRL level. He certainly has the physical attributes.

His talents are such that he has was chosen to represent the PM’s XI against PNG, as well as earning a spot in the NSW emerging squad.

He will be mentored by the likes of Watmough and Scott in the years going forward, so all the ingredients are there for Moeroa to become a superstar.

Best Signing For 2016: Kieran Foran

The Eels needed a genuine world class superstar to help guide them into a new era, and in Foran they have signed just that.

There will be a mountain of pressure of the New Zealand international, but he has proven in the past he can handle almost anything, including tremendous media scrutiny.

His halves partnership with either Corey Norman or Luke Kelly (although Mitch Cornish may also be an option) will go a long way to deciding how the Eels travel next season.

How will Foran perform without his Sea Eagle supporting cast? The presence of good friends Watmough and Arthur should ease the transaction, which is a plus for the Parra club.

Outlook:

Despite off-field troubles, the Eels have managed to recruit well for 2016 and beyond. Marquee signing Foran is joined by the likes of Michael Gordon, Beau Scott and the yet to be confirmed signing of Clinton Gutherson.

Throughout 2015 the Eels struggled to find a regular number one, a role that former NSW representative Michael Gordon will fill next season.

Anthony Watmough needs to improve on his disappointing 2015. His partnership in the back row with the likes of Beau Scott, will go a long way to building momentum for their side.

Foran’s addition is obviously key, and should see the Eels improve in a big way on their recent form.

Season Grading: D+

Despite finishing 12th on the table, the reality is the Eels finished just one win off bottom spot, and six points outside the eight.

Their problems were plentiful, both on and off-field, but when it came down to it, they simply lost too many close games.

The over reliance on Semi Radradra for metres, line breaks and tries scored, needs to be eased next season, although as mentioned, there are plenty of attacking options on their way.

Nine wins in a season is not enough for any side, but considering the loss of Hayne, the stop-start form of their big money halfback and the continued troubles in head office, it could have been worse.

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