A long awaited premiership!
Eels fans were rightfully excited in 2020 that their team was on track to gain their first premiership since 1986.
Parramatta were firing on all cylinders as they were able to beat premiership favourites Penrith early in the season before the Panthers went on their undefeated run to the finals.
The Eels finished in the top four, giving them their best chance of a premiership since 2009. Unfortunately, they went out of the finals in straight sets.
What do the Eels need to do to claim the long awaited allusive premiership? That is the million-dollar question many coaches over many decades have asked.
Brad Arthur has had ups and downs in his tenure as head coach. He has moved on players to enable the team to be directed by halfback Mitchell Moses.
Moses can be a polarising player. It’s hard to be judgmental of him as he always looks to put in his best effort every week.
At his best he can look like the best player in the NRL. At other times he looks like he is trying too hard and his game is riddled with mistakes.
At 26 and with 150 games experience, Moses should be coming into his best as a playmaker. He is a very talented player. When he takes the line on he is at his most dangerous, although at times he looks like he has been restrained by his coach.
Moses needs to find a balance between both a runner and a playmaker if he is to take the Eels to a Premiership.
He is supported in the halves by Dylan Brown. He, like Moses, needs to impact games. Brown is another great talent. Good hands, great footwork and very fast. Another player Arthur needs to set free. This pair have the ability to be the best combination in the game.
This is not to say Arthur should let them go out and not follow his game plan, but it is to say don’t put as many restrictions in their way to play their natural game when needed.
The Eels have a settled spine going into 2021. With Clint Gutherson at fullback and Reed Mahoney at hooker, along with Moses and Brown in the halves, they have the ability to improve on last seasons 3rd-place finsih.
Apart from the loss of Micheal Jennings and a few fringe players, the Eels squad of 2020 remains mainly intact. They haven’t signed any star players for 2021 but have signed players like Isaiah Papali’i from the Warriors and Tom Opacic from the Cowboys to fill the gaps and push for starting spots
The much maligned ball playing second rower that is Bryce Cartwright looks to have been given a chance by Brad Arthur. At his best a representative player, however he will need to find his motivation for football again. The Eels will not be able to carry anyone if they want to make a serious attempt at the title.
Parramatta have a good squad with depth. Their forwards are big, mobile and skilful. They have two of the best halves in the game, a clever workaholic dummy half in Mahoney and try scoring machines on the wings. The only weakness I see is their centres, with the loss of Jennings leaving a big hole to be filled.
The Eels have the squad to win a premiership in 2021. Brad Arthur just needs to find the game plan which gives Moses and Brown the freedom to run the ball and play with their natural instincts.