That’s right. No one.
The big purchase that Parramatta needed was completed halfway through the 2017 season when Mitchell Moses packed his bags and made his way over from the Wests Tigers.
That was the big purchase and that remains the big purchase. Finding a new half to partner him in the blue and gold will not fix Parramatta’s woes, in fact it could just heighten them even more.
Corey Norman still has another season under his contract to prove himself and I truly believe he can do it and, despite the position on the ladder, has been proving it in moments throughout this horrible season.
Just last week, the Eels announced the shock signing of winger Blake Ferguson on a three-year deal. He’s not Semi Radradra I know that, but he is not a bad replacement by any means.
The former State of Origin player is not only taller in height but also heavier in weight than the Fijian winger. This is height and weight that the likes of Bevan French or Josh Hoffman cannot provide on the edge of the team and has proved costly multiple times throughout the season.
With a smaller forward pack the Eels need bulk anywhere they can get it and Ferguson is going to offer that. Any off field baggage that Ferguson may carry with him aside, he is having a fantastic season.
He offers strong runs with the ball and many metres to relieve pressure from not only the halves but also Clint Gutherson at fullback. He offers experience through his 181 games at Cronulla, Canberra and Sydney as well as representative honours with the Indigenous All Stars, Prime Minister’s XIII, Country, New South Wales and Australian teams.
This is experience that players such as George Jennings and again, French and Hoffman have not been able to provide to the team. I do not want to place blame on specific players such as Jennings, French or Hoffman however statistics do not lie.
I cannot pretend they haven’t had moments of extreme weakness and obviously are lacking majorly on confidence. When you add the inclusion of a player who hasn’t been suffering all season and will almost definitely play finals football this year, it helps relieve some pressure.
So, already in the 2019 season we know that Parramatta will have a strong, powerful winger back on their edge as well as the inclusion of two powerful forwards in Junior Paulo and Shaun Lane.
Those acquisitions alone are enough to prove that next season should be very different and if it isn’t then we have a serious problem.
Now, let’s discuss Brad Arthur.
A man who has found himself under a spotlight by his fans for just about the whole season. As soon as Parramatta started the losing streak at the beginning of the season fans began questioning his authenticity as a top grade coach.
It’s been a matter that has divided fans across the league but I truly believe he deserves to be given until the end of his contract to prove himself.
It’s a funny situation actually. His contact ends as soon as the 2019 season, however it may go, or come to a conclusion at the same time as Corey Norman’s.
I say, let them both see out their contracts then decide what to do from there. If Arthur is truly the super coach that so many have called him since he took over, he will fix whatever is happening between Moses and Norman.
Already he is resolving some of the critical matters through recruitment so give him the chance to fix the halves and give the halves the chance to be fixed.
Norman has played with the Eels for four seasons now and in two of those seasons he was one of the best players to pull the jersey on that year.
He didn’t suddenly wake up when the year ticked over from 2017 and turn into a bad player. Last season both he and Moses orchestrated their team beautifully – often creating big moments from nothing.
They left the fans gobsmacked and clutching at the edge of their seats in excitement. It is safe to say that I can’t say the same for this year however, statistically he is not performing at a low level.
He leads the competition in forced drop outs with a whopping 18 and even has more try assists than the likes of James Maloney, Cody Walker, Blake Green and Anthony Milford with 11.
When you take away Ashley Taylor’s insane 16 try assists, the five-eighths exceeding his 11 are those in the top eight such as Gareth Widdop, Cameron Munster, Matt Moylan and Luke Keary with 14 and 13 respectively.
When you look at the statistics you would think Parramatta would be moving along quite nicely within the competition however, they’re still sitting nice and ugly at the bottom of the ladder. Then, when you combine Norman’s statistics with Moses’ it leaves you scratching your head even more.
The Parramatta Eels have themselves a problem however; the problem does not rely solely with the halves.
I do not in any way believe the hype that the two do not like each other and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they had slumber parties playing Fortnite and eating Doritos together.
However, they do have an ego clash on the field.
Replacing Norman with the likes of Blake Austin (as an example) however will not fix that.
Replacing Norman in attempts at solving the problems at the bottom of the ladder would be nothing but pure desperation – not very smart desperation too.
I am not an ostrich with my head buried under the sand completely oblivious to everything around me.
I know that there is a serious issue with multiple players at the Eels this season however I do not see the need to swing an axe and start chopping down the contracts of players – especially when they aren’t the only problem.
2019 will most definitely be a different season, one in which I sincerely hope will include Norman.