Premiership Odds: (via betting.club): $21.00
Big Outs: Chris Sandow, Will Hopoate
Big Ins: Michael Gordon, Kieran Foran, Beau Scott
The Eels have had a very busy off-season at least recruitment wise. They’ve moved on two high priced yet underperforming players in Hopoate and Sandow, and have signed a world class playmaker in Kieran Foran.
Former NSW Blues Beau Scott and Michael Gordon have also joined the club, with Gordon especially filling a role that the Eels could not in 2015.
Out wide the Eels have one of the most damaging players in the game in Radradra, while young Gutherson will add enthusiasm and speed to the outside backs.
The Eels, at least on paper, have a superior side to their 2015 side. Foran’s signature is the first step in returning the club to the finals.
Key Player: Kieran Foran
Foran’s signing was a genuine statement that the Eels are no longer going to accept mediocrity. He replaces the horribly inconsistent Chris Sandow.
The Kiwi number six makes every player outside him more dangerous, while his presence will put defences on high alert.
Outside of his obvious talents, his friendship and combination with Anthony Watmough will surely reinvigorate the former test forward who had a pretty disappointing 2015.
Foran tore the house down last season once he finally sorted his future. There is no doubt that once he settles into the Eels set up, he will be one of the signings of the season. He can take the Eels to the eight.
Young Gun: Tepai Moeroa
20 year-old Tepai Moeroa is one of the best emerging forwards in the game. He earned a spot in the PM’s XI despite only playing 28 games for the Eels over two seasons.
The junior Kangaroo backrower will see plenty of minutes this season in a dangerous forward rotation. His development will be aided by Origin forwards Beat Scott and Anthony Watmough.
Offering more than just flash in the pan highlights of many fellow young forwards, Moeroa doesn’t mind putting his hand up and doing the hard work either.
With almost 30 tackles a game from the bench in his 19 games in 2015, he certainly has the work ethic to match his obvious talents.
Best Signing: Michael Gordon
Truth be told Kieran Foran is the club’s best signing in recent memory, but in Michael Gordon the Eels finally have a genuine first choice fullback.
Gordon played three years at the Sharks for two club best and fairest and his 2015 was brilliant. So good in fact that he kept Valentine Holmes out of the number one jersey.
Gordon’s positioning is up there with the very best and his ability to convert with a high percentage rate makes him a brilliant pick up.
Many teams rely on their fullback to play as a third playmaker and Gordon is very capable of that. Despite not being the quickest number one in the game he’s always there to support when needed.
Strength: Semi Radradra
Radradra did not lose too many battles last season and I see no reason he won’t record similar numbers again in 2016.
He is as close to a lock as you can get in regards to betting on someone to score over 20 tries a season.
His size, speed, strength and ability to carry defenders on his back, make him arguably the most intimidating man out wide in the competition.
Foran and Norman will use their most dangerous weapon at every opportunity. Foran’s kicking game is pretty much spot on. I fear for opposition wingers forced to mark the massive winger.
Weakness: Rest of backline
Clinton Gutherson will be one of the better value-for-money signings made this season, but outside of Semi Radradra the Eels backline doesn’t strike fear into many oppositions.
Ryan Morgan and Brad Takairangi are both big, strong, fast players, but with all due respect they’re not the most skilful or elusive backs out there.
Semi Radradra will likely score 20 tries, which is lucky for the Eels, as outside of maybe Michael Gordon, I don’t see a great deal of threat.
Foran’s presence will enable these backs a far better chance than they’ve had in years gone by under Sandow and Kelly, so perhaps they will prove us wrong.
1. Michael Gordon
2. Semi Radradra
3. Ryan Morgan
4. Brad Takairangi
5. Clint Gutherson
6. Corey Norman
7. Kieran Foran
8. Tim Mannah
9. Nathan Peats
10. Junior Paulo
11. Beau Scott
12. Manu Ma’u
13. Anthony Watmough
14. Tepai Moeroa
15. David Gower
16. Danny Wicks
17. Kaysa Pritchard
I don’t think you can use up two interchanges on Isaac De Gois, who while solid, really doesn’t offer the same level of threat as Peats or Pritchard. I’m also loathe to move Foran from his preferred position in the six, but for the good of the side he needs his hands on the ball as much as possible and a move to halfback should ensure that.
The Eels are a far better chance of ending their finals drought than in years gone by thanks to some brilliant signings and some young players with another year under their belts.
If they can stay fit, Watmough, Scott and Ma’u are one of the most aggressive back rows in the game, and a more than handy front row rotation.
Foran’s signing is a game changer while Radradra remains the premier threat out wide across the competition.
There is more than enough here to give the eight a real crack. I just don’t see their outside backs able to score enough points, while containing opposition backlines to string enough wins together to be there come September.