SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 15: Michael Jennings of the Eels celebrates scoring a try during the NRL Elimination Final match between the Parramatta Eels and the Brisbane Broncos at Bankwest Stadium on September 15, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Pre-Season Prediction: 14th

Actual Finish: 5th

Highlights:

– Home ground advantage: Even prior to the opening of their incredible, new stadium, the Eels beat the Sharks at home.

Few will forget the afternoon Bankwest opened after a full house watched The Eels whack the Tigers 51-6.

Even fewer will forget the first finals game hosted at the new stadium.

In between both 50+ point scoring games the Eels would lose only twice at home all season. They even won an away game at Bankwest against the Tigers.

That home ground advantage made up for unimpressive road form and shapes as a huge key moving forward.

– Return to finals: After finishing a shocking 16th last season, it was very important that the Eels became finals relevant.

Finishing fifth allowed the Eels to host a finals match, and boy did they take advantage of their familiar surroundings!

Surely no one, not even the Eels biggest fan, could have predicted the 58-0 win over the Broncos.

The 11 try rout in front of a jam packed Bankwest was the stuff dreams are made of … For those wearing Eels colours.

What a way to announce your return to finals footy.

– Try scoring stars: The Eels had no trouble finding the line in 2019.

Only the Storm and Roosters bettered their tally of 101 tries for the season.

Maika Sivo topped the NRL tally with an incredible 22 four pointers, including some genuine highlight reel efforts.

Ferguson and Jennings bettered a try every two games strike rates. Gutherdoj scored 8. That’s incredible potency across the backline.

Low Lights:

– Storm damage: The Eels will look back on 2019 with a smile, minus their two trips to the Victorian capital.

Their season ended after a 32-0 thumping in the second round of the finals, but it was only half as bad as their 64-10 loss in round 9.

96-10 across two games makes for some awful, awful reading. Yes it is the Storm but Premierships usually go through the purple Haze.

– Missed tackles: Incredibly the Eels missed 901 tackles despite their success. Only the Panthers missed more tackles.

Scarily they missed 100 more tackles Than the 16th placed Titans.

They had two of the “top” six missed tacklers in Moses and Reid.

Certainly not the end of the world but a worrying stat all the same.

– Handling errors: This stat can be misleading as the Roosters topped the errors list while the Titans had the least amount, but 275 errors still sticks out.

Only the super attack minded Roosters had more.

There were many frustrating moments where the Eels had a roll on only to surrender possession with a pushed pass or dropped ball.

This is definitely something to work on over the off-season, although hopefully won’t come at the expense of expensive football.

Star Player: Mitch Moses

The Eels number seven had a career best year which culminated in being named the Dally M halfback of the year.

Moses topped the try assist list with 25. He also had the most kicking metres across the season with 9413. He had over 2000 more than former halves partner and 2018 halfback of the year Luke Brookes.

Moses name was mentioned in the Origin discussion, something that will again likely be the case in 2020 if he can continue his form.

Season Grading: B

Despite the way the Eels exited the competition in Melbourne, 2019 was an incredible season for those in blue and gold.

Returning to the finals after a horror, wooden spoon “winning” season, the Eels restored pride in the famous jersey.

Michael Jennings turned back the clock, Manu Ma’u was an absolute beast, youngsters Reed Mahoney and Dylan Brown became important members of the lineup.

King Gutho reclaimed his crown after an indifferent return from injury. He even earned an 18th man role for the Blues for Origin.

There was still the odd horror performance, and their error/missed tackle numbers were dire, but you can’t take away from a brilliant season.

Sivo and Ferguson are arguably the best wing combination in the game. They’re absolutely the most fun to watch.

I had them 14th. They finished a game and points differential outside the top four.

Brad Arthur and co can be very proud of their 2019 effort. Pride has been restored and expectations will be high for 2020 and beyond.