The Parramatta Eels made a third straight finals appearance, however, as has been the case over the past few years, they failed to go beyond a semi-final. Ultimately, the club would be happy with the season that was, yet disappointed to fall short of a preliminary final appearance.
2021 Club RecordEmbed from Getty Images
Competition Points: 32
2021 Player AchievementsEmbed from Getty Images
Most Tries: Maika Sivo (17)
Most Points: Mitchell Moses (146)
There’s plenty for the Eels club, and its fans, to be pleased about this year, as the 2021 season marked their third straight finals appearance. Further to this, the club has not been out of the top eight in any regular round of NRL since 2018. For a team that has spent the better part of the past decade languishing at the bottom of the table, it’s a welcome return to consistency.
The Eels were generally consistent throughout the year and switched between the third and fourth position on the table throughout. The back end of the season saw them fall into a form slump that would ultimately destroy their chances of finishing in the top four. Beyond that, the 13+ scorelines being put on them during this several-week period saw Brad Arthur’s position as coach questioned, and the Eels’ chances of a premiership all but ruled out.
Round 24 saw the Eels convincingly topple the reigning premiers, the Melbourne Storm, 22-10. Their season was back on track. After resting a large majority of their side for the final week of the regular season, the Eels would win their first finals match since 2019 against the Newcastle Knights 28-20. After being bundled out with two straight losses in 2017 and 2020, it was a positive sign to see them winning when it counted.
At the beginning of the year the club, and its fans, demanded a preliminary final appearance. After two straight semi-finals losses, it was time for the club to take one step further. They would play the Penrith Panthers in a semi-final that most suggest was close to the game of the year. Let’s cut to the chase – it wasn’t to be for the Eels, losing by a single penalty goal. Their performance, however, was a whisker away from victory and demonstrated the toughness, desire and ability the playing group has. It was a lost semi-final, yet, it was impossible to be disappointed in the manner of the loss.
Parramatta had hands down made the buy of the year in the signing of young forward Isaiah Papali’i. On a bargain contract, he averaged 150 metres a game, scored 14 tries, and made 109 tackle breaks across 25 appearances. He regularly featured in various teams of the week and was integral to the Eels’ successes throughout the year. Beside him in the middle were the likes of Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard, who cemented themselves as some of the game’s best middles. Captain Clint Gutherson was his usual, hard-working self, while Mitchell Moses was able to find another leg during the finals series, which is something he’s been criticised of not being capable of in the past. Finally, the debut of Will Penisini has been the cause of plenty of excitement for Eels fans. In his short time playing, he’s justified a lot of the wraps that have surrounded his junior career. The increased prevalence of Eels juniors in the squad, such as Penisini, is an important step in the club’s search for long-term success.
The most glaring area for improvement for the Eels is the attacking work of Dylan Brown. Though he has an unquestionable work ethic in defence, he managed only three try assists throughout the year, leaving a lot of the heavy lifting to both Moses and Gutherson. The obvious solution is to give Brown permission to roam around the field, rather than restricting him to one side. He is a natural ball runner and suited to sniffing around for opportunities, rather than taking on the same edge to limited success. There’s a clear need for depth in the hooking role, with Reed Mahoney’s absence throughout the finals series a clear problem for the side. Mitch Rein has been linked and would be a handy inclusion. For the most part, the Eels have proven they have the forwards to match it with the best of them, and with the continued development of some of their younger backs (such as Penisini and Haze Dunster), should be in for another strong 2022. The goal? A preliminary final as the bare minimum.
NothingButLeague Player of the Season – Mitch MosesEmbed from Getty Images
Try Assists: 28
Kick Metres: 9,164