2022 NRL Grand Final - Panthers v Eels
CONSTANT FIXTURE: Clint Gutherson has made more NRL appearances than any other fullback since 2019. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Just in case you're one of the two NRL fans who haven't yet heard, the Eels currently sit rooted to the bottom of the table on the back of a zero and two start to the 2023 season.

If social media is to be believed, Parramatta fans should write off 2023 while the club should be booking early Mad Monday celebrations.

The same Parramatta Eels who, just over five months ago, ran out onto Accord Stadium in a grand final. Written off after two losses to begin the season.

Truthfully I believe there to be a fair amount of jest in comments saying the Eels season can't be salvaged, but there are also a vocal few who very much believe it.

A quick look at the matter of the Eels defeats will show you that they would be, by far, the "happiest" of the three teams entering Round 3 without a win.

A golden point loss to the Storm, in a game they really should have won, was compounded by a four-point loss to the Sharks this past Friday evening.

Parramatta played well in both games and with a little bit of luck could be sitting 2-0 where social media would be calling them Premiership favourites.

Ok, yes, the Eels face a very difficult run of fixtures over the next three weeks, but to proclaim they're already as good as a zero and five start is jumping the shark.

They travel across Sydney to play old rivals the Sea Eagles tonight at Brookvale. Manly were very good in Round 1, but it's a small sample size considering their horror 2022.

We haven't seen how teams react to the bye just yet. The Dragons won but given they enjoyed the "week off" in Round 1, it just extended their pre-season by another week.

Despite entering as underdogs, there is every chance the Eels come out tonight and put Manly away. The complexion of their opening month changes with one result.

I'll admit that the Round 4 fixture against fellow 2022 grand finalists Penrith looks daunting on paper.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 02: Dylan Edwards of the Panthers makes a break during the 2022 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the Parramatta Eels at Accor Stadium on October 02, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

That said, Parra beat the Panthers twice last season. It's worth remembering that the Eels put Penrith to the sword to the tune of 34-10 last time they met at Commbank Stadium. Yes, Nathan Cleary was sent off but the blue and golds were well on top.

It's worth remembering that Brad Arthur's men will welcome back Ryan Matterson for the Round Four clash. His absence has been felt in a big way after his comical suspension.

Shaun Lane has also been absent throughout the opening stanza of the season due a broken jaw. His return date it set for Round 6. His return will immediately make the Eels far more dangerous.

Even if the sky does fall on the club and they enter their Round 5 fixture against the Roosters winless, Easts have hardly hit any great heights this season.

They were soundly beaten by the Dolphins prior to struggling to a most unimpressive win over the Warriors.

The Roosters host the hottest rivalry game in the competition tomorrow night when they play Souths. Given their bye in Round 4, they'll have just the won more game to hit form prior to the Eels clash.

Following this Round 5 clash, the Eels fourth out of five to take place on Thursday night, Parra's fixture list becomes so much easier.

The Tigers, Bulldogs, Broncos (at Commbank), Knights, Titans and Raiders are all very winnable games. I see no reason the Eels can't win all six.

Even if the worst-case scenario comes to pass and they lose their opening five games, something I just can't see eventuating, they could just as feasibly sit at six and five through 11 rounds.

I guarantee you sides will start dropping games that they're expected to win, and perhaps two or three sides apart, this will land the Eels in mid table.

Mitch Moses, who has been close to Parra's best across the opening fortnight, would surely have sorted his contract out by then. He's been brilliant despite the supposed distraction so I can only imagine he'll continue that trajectory after the expected re-signing.

NRL Rd 6 - Raiders v Eels
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 17: Mitchell Moses of the Eels offloads the ball during the round six NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Parramatta Eels at GIO Stadium on April 17, 2021, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images)

It is natural, and fun, to write teams off early in the season but the Eels have the squad to go on a mid-season run and make up any potential lost ground.

Even without the departed Isaiah Papali'i and Reed Mahoney, this Parra outfit are too strong to not be there come the business end of the season.

Having just confirmed his re-signing, the Eels believe they have their man in Brad Arthur. It seems like a long time ago now but he oversaw a Grand Final less than six months ago.

NRL fans have too short a memory.

King Gutho hasn't even played overly well yet. I can't remember the last time he was kept quiet for three weeks in a row. I'm willing to go as far as to predict a big performance against his old side tonight.

Then there's the Eels all star middles. Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard have won their battles and won't lose many this season.

J'maine Hopgood has been an incredible signing. He probably relegates the aforementioned Moses to his side's second-best in both Week One and Two.

Throw in the previously referenced Matterson and Lane and the Eels pack is a top three in the competition.

Having tipped the Eels to finish comfortably inside the eight in the pre-season, despite the slow start, I'm still more than comfortable.

I've seen very little across the opening two weekends to suggest they can't right the ship very quickly.

1 COMMENT

  1. I make it a rule to never look at the table until the end of round 3.

    Sample size for assessment of a team is too small when they have played only a couple of matches.

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