2013 Record: 5 wins from 24 premiership games (last placed)
5-year record: 39 wins from 120 premiership games (32% win record)
Arrivals: Will Hopoate, Lee Mossop, Nathan Peats, Corey Norman, Justin Hunt, David Gower, Brenden Santi, Toby Evans, Evander Cummins, Liam Foran.
Departures: Reni Maitua, Cheyse Blair, Jake Mullaney, Pat O’Hanlon, Matt Keating, Taulima Tautai, Matt Ryan.
Coach: Brad Arthur
Fixtures to start and end 2014
First five fixtures: Warriors (H), Roosters (A), Eagles (A), Panthers (H), Broncos (A)
Final five fixtures: Raiders (H), Bulldogs (H), Sea Eagles (H), Knights (A), Raiders (A)
Frustration is one word Parramatta Eels fans could use to describe the last few years at their club. Two wooden spoons with two different coaches and a near miss in 2011. Continuing disharmony at a board level. The burden on Jarryd Hayne to carry the team continued as he struggled with injury. Conceding fifty points or more on four occasions last season. Fans expect better.
The departure of Ricky Stuart and return of Brad Arthur could be the start of the rebuild Parramatta so desperately need after the retirement of club legends Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt. Arthur was the coach for six matches in 2012 following the departure of Daniel Anderson.
It’s hard to attract the quality to clubs that continue to sit at the bottom of the table and which have not had consistency in coaching staff. The Eels have bucked that trend with the prized signature of Will Hopoate after a two year absence from the National Rugby League. With fourteen tries in his twenty-two appearances for Manly, Hopoate provides much needed firepower out wide. No disrespect to Ken Sio who’s been the top tryscorer with the club in the last two seasons. Hopoate will be pressing for a New South Wales Origin jersey and I get the feeling that he will get a cult-following.
Parramatta have also managed to pick up the handy Corey Norman. Norman played fullback exclusively for the Brisbane Broncos in 2013 after playing in his preferred position of five-eighth the season before.
“I didn’t play in the halves last year, so the opportunity to play in the halves down here was a big factor in [my decision],” Norman told the Parramatta Eels website in November.
“It’s definitely my favourite [position] – I played fullback this year but I’m not a big fan of that, so I’d rather be in the halves!”
One player to watch is the English import Lee Mossop.
“He’s [Mossop] a solid prop, nothing outstanding but very reliable. Good signing for Paramatta. Good defender and strong going forward. Should do well”, nothingbutleague UK writer Oliver Roby says.
Mossop was to be joined by another English International in Gareth Hock on a two year deal but walked away from the deal to remain in Super League with Salford.
On top of these three signings Parramatta have also picked up Nathan Peats, Justin Hunt, David Gower and Liam Foran. Fringe players looking for an opportunity to play regular NRL.
There’s no doubt that Jarryd Hayne still remains the key to any Parramatta Eels success. His performance in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup bought back memories of 2009 where he was part of the Grand Final side that lost to the Melbourne Storm.
The burning question remains as to whether Parramatta will continue to show patience with Chris Sandow as he enters the third of a four year contract. It’s well documented Sandow’s off-field problems that saw him enter rehab and this has affected his game. At this stage you would have to think the Eels will continue to persist with Luke Kelly after making eighteen appearances at halfback last season.
As for Parramatta’s 2014 aspirations. I can see the Eels having a better season helped by some fresh faces and Jarryd Hayne returning to some kind of form. It might take some time for Corey Norman and his halves partner (whether it’s Sandow or Kelly) to form a good combination. And they have the nucleus of building a successful team with the development of players like Peni Terepo and Vai Toutai. I’m not sure the Eels are ready to tackle finals football in 2014, but they will produce better on-field performances.
additional information provided by Mary Konstantopoulos and Oliver Roby.