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2022 Parramatta Eels Team Preview

As the National Rugby League season draws closer, we look at how the Parramatta Eels will go in 2022.

2022 PARRAMATTA EEL SQUAD

Jakob Arthur, Waqa Blake, Dylan Brown, Nathan Brown, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Bryce Cartwright, Hayze Dunster, Clint Gutherson, Wiremu Greig, David Hollis, Oregon Kaufusi, Shaun Lane, Sam Loizou, Reed Mahoney, Makahesi Makatoa, Ryan Matterson, Mitchell Moses, Solomone Naiduki, Marata Niukore, Ofahiki Ogden, Tom Opacic, Isaiah Papali’i, Junior Paulo, Will Penisini, Hayze Perham, Ky Rodwell, Mitch Rein, Sean Russell, Bailey Simonsson, Maika Sivo, Ray Stone, Josh Tuipulotu.

KEY SIGNING

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Bailey Simonsson is one new face that will add spark to the Eels’ performances. A tall, fast winger is always a valuable asset to any team. His finishing, which at times, the Eels have not been fantastic at, will add plenty of points to their attack. With Haze Dunster out for the year, his value to the team is only all the more important.

Mitch Rein (Gold Coast Titans, 2022), Bailey Simonsson (Canberra Raiders, 2024), Josh Tuipulotu (2023)

KEY PLAYER

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The halfback of any team is always going to be the one that shoulders the burden of expectation. Parramatta’s halfbacks have had this expectation emphasised on them since the departure of the great Peter Sterling over three decades ago.

Parramatta’s halfback, Mitchell Moses, had one of his strongest seasons to date in 2021. Across 22 matches, he scored 146 points, kicked for 9164 metres and was by far the dominant half with 28 try assists.

Most notably, perhaps, is the fact that he made his State of Origin debut in place of the injured Nathan Cleary, which offered him valuable ‘big game’ experience. Furthermore, Moses had one of his strongest finals’ series to date and was able to play in a tough, uncompromising manner that many have accused him incapable of.

Moses is poised to bring the key learning experiences from last season’s campaign into his game and feature heavily in the Eels fortunes throughout the season.

PLAYER TO WATCH

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Parramatta has often been accused of failing to sufficiently develop pathways from its junior system to first grade, which has thus seen countless Eels players find success outside of Parramatta. It’s a refreshing change, then, to feature a Parramatta junior as one of the key players to watch in 2022.

Will Penisini has had plenty of raps on him for a while now. For a bit of context, he was selected for a Rugby scholarship at the prestigious King’s School at the end of year seven, and by year nine, was touring Europe alongside Roosters’ prodigy Joseph Suaalii. By all accounts, the youngster dominated much older European players over the twelve weeks overseas.

It’s no surprise then that he settled in quickly at first grade level in 2021. Only 19 years old, he scored two tries, created 12 tackle breaks and ran for 649 metres across five games. Now a guaranteed member of the run-on team, he is set for a big year in 2022.

DRAW

Titans (H), Sharks (A), Storm (A), Dragons (H), Titans (A), Tigers (H), Knights (A), Cowboys (H), Panthers (A), Roosters (Magic Round), Sea Eagles (H), Raiders (A), Bulldogs (A), Roosters (H), Rabbitohs (A), Tigers (A), Warriors (H), Broncos (H), Panthers (H), Sea Eagles (A), Rabbitohs (H), Bulldogs (H), Broncos (A), Storm (H)

PREVIEW

For the Parramatta Eels in 2022, there is one clear non-negotiable: they must achieve more than a semi-finals appearance. This hurdle has been their downfall in the 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021 finals series – to fall in the second round of the finals again will be considered an outright failure.

Parramatta’s line-up is close to identical to the one that ran around last year. One should expect, then, that they will be comfortable playing alongside each other and understanding each other’s roles in the team.

Dylan Brown is a player that will need to improve this season. Now in his fourth season of NRL, he has enough experience under the belt to share the burden of creativity with Moses. Though one cannot question his efforts, he ultimately had only two try assists to his name in 2021, a terrible stat for any half.

Finally, the dreaded term “premiership window”. You hear it a lot in regards to a team being in an optimal position to take out the big one. This window is usually considered shut when player movements start to happen. Well, the Eels are losing a few key players at the end of 2022. The big one is Reed Mahoney, who to date, has been an integral part of their spine. Does the window close? That’s a 2023 question, but there is no doubt, they are in a very strong position to break their premiership drought this year and would not want to squander it.

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