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Parramatta Eels season preview

Parramatta Eels season preview

Tue, Feb 21, 2017 - 12:00PM
By Chris Kennedy‌‌, ‌NRL.com

We could spend thousands of words sifting through the wreckage of what went wrong for the Eels in 2016 but that would be fairly boring at this point.

At the dawn of a new season, let's instead acknowledge that the club has a drastically overhauled governance structure which should hopefully end the endless board-level, faction-driven bickering and infighting and self-interest that has been a hallmark of Parramatta off the field for so long.

They have a new CEO in Bernie Gurr who is widely regarded as one of the best operators in the business and an outstanding coach in Brad Arthur – along with a talented and power-packed roster with plenty of depth. There was plenty of optimism among long-suffering Eels fans last year – but could cautious optimism in 2017 be better placed?

All 16 NRL club season previews for 2017

Gains and losses

Gains: Jamal Fogerty (Burleigh Bears), Siosia Vave (Sea Eagles), Nathan Brown (Rabbitohs), George Jennings (Panthers), Josh Hoffman (Titans), Suaia Matagi (Panthers), Frank Pritchard (Hull FC), Kirisome Auva'a (unattached), Will Smith (Panthers)

Losses: Tyrell Fuimaono (Rabbitohs), Michael Gordon (Roosters), Kieren Moss (Bradford), Anthony Watmough (retirement), Kieran Foran (Warriors), Luke Kelly (Rabbitohs), Danny Wicks (retirement), Vai Toutai (released), Mitch Cornish (Roosters)

What we know

Under Arthur, the Eels won enough games to have qualified for the finals but for their salary cap penalty last year. Their recruitment has been excellent, their depth is outstanding, and most of the players who were responsible for their on-field over-achievement last year are still at the club. They have arguably the best forward pack they've had in a decade – including their 2009 grand final season – and lead playmaker Corey Norman's name now belongs among the NRL's elite. 

 

 
Rookie watch

Alex Twal is a hard-working young front rower who has had a few outstanding seasons at NYC level, though with the Eels' power-packed prop rotation he may need a few injuries to get a debut. Local junior Troy Dargan and former Burleigh Bear Jamal Fogarty are a pair of talented playmakers and winger Honeti Tuha has been a prolific try-scorer in the lower grades. 

Depth

Top-notch. If everyone at the club is available, the Wentworthville Magpies would be fielding a virtual all-NRL backline and forward pack. Premiership-winning centre Kirisome Auva'a, premiership-winning forward David Gower, boom prop Dan Alvaro and NRL regular Peni Terepo are among those – along with the above-mentioned rookies – likely to miss out in a full-strength Eels 17. The club has three NRL-calibre hookers on the books but arguably just the one first-class playmaker in Norman. If he goes down it could be disastrous; last year's breakout star Clint Gutherson is set to start at five-eighth with veteran Jeff Robson plus Dargan and Fogarty the other halfback options.

Fantasy bankers

Norman ($460,000) is the club's most expensive player in Fantasy. He became a genuine Fantasy option in 2016, powering through tons of kick metres and churning through attacking stats. Manu Ma'u ($428,000) is the best of the club's forwards and could be more effective than last year after off-season clean-up surgery. Semi Radradra ($373,000) is one of the most expensive wingers in the game and for good reason, powering through tons of metres, tackle breaks and tries.

Crystal ball

The sky's the limit for the Eels – IF things go smoothly. If off-field ructions stay away and if Norman stays fit then top four isn't beyond them. Barring disaster they're certainly good enough to make finals so we'll tip them to land in the bottom half of the eight – let's say seventh.

All 16 NRL club season previews for 2017

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