With the season opener just around the corner we look at how the Parramatta Eels will go in 2018.
Parramatta have some key signings and fans will be hoping they take the next step to winning the premiership.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Jarryd Hayne (Gold Coast Titans), Tony Williams (Cronulla Sharks), Jaeman Salmon (Cronulla Sharks), Kane Evans (Sydney Roosters)
Bureta Faraimo (Hull FC), Kelepi Tanginoa (Manly Sea Eagles), Isaac De Gois, Jeff Robson (retired), Semi Radradra (Toulon rugby), John Folau, Cody Nelson, James Hasson, Rory O’Brien, Frank Pritchard (released).
Panthers (A), Sea Eagles (A), Sharks (H), Tigers (A), Panthers (H)
WHAT TO EXPECT
The Eels will have high expectations in 2018 after last season’s top four finish. They have minor changes to their roster, relying on the continuous halves combination and keeping their backline injuries to a minimum. If they maintain last year’s quality, the Eels will have another top four finish.
Coach Brad Arthur has a nice headache picking his backline – with most of the backs being able to play multiple positions – though Jarryd Hayne will be a key player in 2018. Hayne will play in his now familiar centre position; Parramatta will be hoping the former Dally M winner plays to a higher standard than with the Titans. If Hayne fires, Parramatta will be premierships contenders, but if the Hayne Plane doesn’t take off the opposition could exploit it.
The Roosters’ Kane Evans has bolstered their forward pack and upgraded one the most underrated squads. Evans will bring more ferocious running to the front row and strong carries, a great option either starting or an impact player off the bench.
Parramatta’s draw is difficult in the opening rounds, playing six away matches in the first 10 rounds while playing Manly, Sharks and Panthers twice in that time. They’ll want to capitalise on the Origin period, playing four home games (and the bye); if the Eels can start well, the back end of the season is an easier task. With four of the last six fixtures at home against strong opposition, Parramatta will want to be high in the top eight going into the latter rounds or they could fall short of their expectations.
Top Tryscorer – Bevan French
Top Pointscorer – Mitchell Moses
Club Player of the Year – Mitchell Moses
WHERE WILL PARRAMATTA FINISH?
Parramatta will have much confidence going into 2018, with a successful rebirth from their salary cap nightmare. The easier draw later in the season will have a huge bearing; if they dominate the early rounds, they could finish top four. They will rely heavily on their forwards matching the rest of the heavyweight teams. With the two key signings in Hayne and Evans they should improve.
Parramatta to finish third.