In our first season preview for the 2019 National Rugby League season, we look at the Parramatta Eels’ chances.
The Parramatta Eels will be hoping their winning ways return as they move to their new stadium in 2019.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Kirisome Auva’a (retired), Kenny Edwards (Catalans Dragons), Cameron King (Featherstone Rovers), Suaia Matagi (Huddersfield Giants), Corey Norman (St George-Illawarra Dragons), Beau Scott (Retired), Tony Williams (released).
Penrith Panthers (Away), Canterbury Bulldogs (Away), Sydney Roosters (Home – ANZ), Cronulla Sharks (Home – ANZ), Canberra Raiders (GIO Stadium).
WHAT TO EXPECT
It’s an understatement to say that Parramatta’s 2018 campaign was poor. While prodigal son Jarryd Hayne returned to the club, the Eels finished at the wrong end of the ladder. His off-season drama and exit from the club – along with Dragons-bound Corey Norman – allows Brad Arthur to start rebuilding the club. Success needs to come early, otherwise the coach who kept the club together during one of their most difficult periods in history could be on the chopping block.
The 2019 season is full of opportunity with some handy recruitment and a couple of rookies from 2018 looking to hold down a first grade spot. There were positive signs in the game of Reed Mahoney, who will challenge with Kaysa Pritchard for the hooking role. Marata Niukore looks made for the top grade with some good performances in his debut year. A return to their new stadium in the heart of Parramatta (Bankwest Stadium/Western Sydney Stadium) will be a huge boost after being homeless since the end of 2016.
Leadership will be important in the Eels’ climb up the ladder. With Tim Mannah likely to start from the bench, Nathan Brown’s role in the starting line-up becomes important. Brown made the most metres of any forward for the club in 2018, despite only playing 15 games. The pre-season has been unkind as he suffered a setback in the off-season with a knee injury. Brown is one player who can lead the way through his actions on the park. Mitch Moses will be the most influential player in the side, but will have to shoulder twice as much responsibility after Norman’s departure. Whether Jaemon Salmon or the highly regarded Dylan Brown get the first crack at five-eighth will be the talking point in the pre-season. Moses is keen to be partnered by Brown for the opening round of the season.
On the recruitment front, Sydney Roosters premiership player Blake Ferguson makes the move out west. With 102 tries in 192 NRL games, Ferguson will become a pivotal part of the Eels’ leadership team as they look to recover from a horror 2018. Junior Paulo returns to the club after three seasons in the nation’s capital and will add some beef to the pack. Shaun Lane could be the surprise packet. It was a breakthrough year in 2018 at Manly, cementing a regular first grade spot for the first time in his career. Dangerous close to the line, Lane now has three years to prove that he can become a regular sixty minute player. It seems the Eels are still looking at recruitment late in the off-season, with George Burgess knocking back an offer with the club during the week.
Parramatta face a difficult draw to start the season with two away games to the Panthers and Bulldogs, before facing defending premiers Sydney Roosters at ANZ in their opening home game. Cronulla may be their best chance of victory in the first five. It took seven rounds in 2018 to record their first win. A repeat in 2019 would see them as contenders to win the dreaded spoon for a second straight year.
Top Tryscorer – Blake Ferguson
Top Pointscorer – Mitch Moses
Club Player of the Year – Shaun Lane