Parramatta Eels 2021 Season Preview
TK's take on the Parramatta Eels:
-Team contains some of the best players in the NRL. Gutherson, Dyl Brown, Moses, Matterson, Nathan Brown, Junior Paulo and Campbell Gillard are all elite players that would make the majority of starting line ups. The spine is one of the best in the NRL.
-Great coach in Brad Arthur. To take the team from cellar dwellers to the consistency of the past two seasons is a great tribute to his coaching ability.
-Forward pack. One of the most skillful packs in the game, the ability of the big men like Paulo and Matterson to use the ball is one of the most impressive aspects of their game. Some key recruits have strengthened their forwards significantly. Towards the end of 2020, players such as Mahoney and Lane declined in their output in comparison to the first half of the season. Mahoney will be under pressure to perform in 2021, his back up in 2020 was Ray Stone who is a backrower, but new recruits Joey Lussick and Nathaniel Roache are good buys. Lussick gained great experience in his stint in the English Super League with Salford which includes a grand final and Challenge Cup appearance. The other great buy is Issiah Papali'i who is an international with New Zealand and will push Lane for the starting spot. Bryce Cartwright if he adapts to the Eels system and culture could also be a potential steal of the year.
- Backline depth. While their forward pack is arguably the best in the NRL the backline is a major concern. Losing both Jennings brothers leaves a huge hole in the three quarter line while some subdued performers from their wingers Sivo and Ferguson leaves a lot to be desired. Waqa Blake is volatile being either the best or worst centre in the NRL while Michael Oldfield and Tom Opacic have an opportunity to be a starter in a top line outfit but have not had consistency at the first grade level. Yet to replace Jai Field and Jaeman Salmon which is unusual given the injuries to both Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown in recent seasons.
- Centres. A great opportunity for a possible cheapie to replace Michael Jennings in his centre position. While Arthur opt for a more experienced player like Oldfied or Opacic or a left field rookie like Haze Dunster who is an impressive young player on the rise.
- Bench utility. Another decision to be made by Arthur is the structure of his bench utility. Will he continue with Ray Stone who can cover back row and hooker or will he go with a specialist hooker in either Lussick or Roache to play a 15-20 minute role while ultimately will take minutes from Mahoney and hurt fantasy coaches. The other alternative is a back utility which would see Mahoney play the 80 minutes.
VERDICT - Finals bound. The health of players like Gutherson and Moses will determine whether the team pushes for the four or are at the back end of the eight. I'm really concerned about their depth in the backs however they have significantly strengthened their forwards, which includes the most depth in the back row of any club and two really good back ups which should push Reed Mahoney to hit the next level.
Where do you see the Eels finishing in 2021?