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  • 05:37:24 AEST
  • Friday, 21 September 2018
Parramatta Eels Mitchell Moses 090318

Parramatta Eels NRL 2018 season preview


King Arthur and the Prince of Parra

Key Ins: Kane Evans (Roosters), Tony Williams (Sharks), Jarryd Hayne (Titans)

Key Losses: Isaac De Gois (retired), Semi Radradra (rugby union), Jeff Robson (retired)

 

Overview

After several years of turmoil and off-field drama, 2017 marked a turning point for patient Eels fans who witnessed their team make the top eight for the first time since 2009. Following a slow start to the season, the signing of Mitchell Moses from the Tigers in round 11 sparked the side into gear as they went onto win 11 of their next 14 games to finish in the top four. The Eels made the unenviable away trip to Melbourne in week one of the finals, where they produced a Herculean performance to come within two points of knocking off the form side of the competition. This effort led many to believe that Parramatta were the only team capable of keeping the Premiership away from the Storm, however a spirited Cowboys outfit quashed their Grand Final hopes only a week later.

There is plenty to be excited for in 2018. The ‘blue and gold’s’ favourite son, Jarryd Hayne, is home and the fans are pumped - and so they should be. Hayne finds himself in a competitive team and will have to train hard and perform well on and off the park to push for his beloved fullback jersey. With a plethora of talent available to fill the fullback roll, coach Brad Arthur is likely to keep Hayne in the centres for the season.  

Coach Brad Arthur has a 50% win strike rate since taking over the reins in 2014 which may not seem flash, however if you consider the off-field issues he’s had to deal with over the past four years, it’s a heck of a record. Now in his fifth year of full-time NRL coaching and boasting an impressive roster for 2018, you’d expect his record to improve significantly. 

 

Player to watch: Bevan French is blessed with elusiveness and outstanding mobility, attributes that have seen him score 28 tries in 29 NRL games. With a full pre-season under his belt and the backing of Arthur to start in the number one jersey, French looks set for a big year.

Key Player: Mitch Moses resurrected a flat-lining Eels in 2017 after struggling to show consistency at the West Tigers since his debut in 2014. Moses looked like a different player wearing the blue and gold jersey and his combination with Corey Norman was nothing short of breath-taking at times in the back-end of last season. Season 2018 shapes as a pivotal year for Moses and don’t be surprised if he finds himself in the running for Dally M honours. 

 

Outside backs rating: 8/10

The Parramatta outside backs will have a different look this season due to the loss of try scoring machine, Semi Radradra. It’s easy to forget how unstoppable Radradra was at times last season, however his off-field problems provided an unnecessary distraction to the team in 2017. Kirisome Auva’a will start the year on the wing but is likely to make way for Clint Gutherson, who is due to return from injury in round 3. Gutherson had an outstanding season in 2017 and his return will be a welcome sight for Eels fans.

Hayne will be determined to recapture the form that had him rated as one of the best players in the NRL before his code switch to the NFL, whilst centre pairing Michael Jennings brings a wealth of experience and can break open a defensive line with ease.

Forward Pack rating: 7/10

The Eels have the most underrated pack in the competition, with a lack of flair compensated by an abundance of desire. The front row of Daniel Alvaro and Tim Mannah know their role, run hard and make plenty of tackles. Manu Ma’u and Tepai Moeroa in the second row are strong ball runners who lead from the front, whilst lock Nathan Brown was a standout last season and was awarded Parramatta’s player of the year. Brown offers much needed aggression to the Eels pack and was rewarded for his form in 2017 by recently signing a three-year contract extension with the club.    

Spine rating: 9/10      

Bevan French (Fullback), Corey Norman (Five Eighth), Mitch Moses (Halfback) and Cameron King (Hooker) are the most exciting spine in the competition. They were outstanding towards the back end of last season and will only strengthen this year after having a full pre-season together. At 26 years of age, King has only played 34 NRL games but will get the job done for coach Arthur. He will be pivotal in giving his halves good service out of dummy half, whilst getting through a mountain of defensive work in the middle of the field. Giving Arthur comfort will be the fact that there is plenty of cover in key positions, with the likes of Hayne and Gutherson able to shift into fullback and five-eighth if required.  

 

               

Bookies' Verdict

Our Verdict

Top 8

$1.50

Morals. Take the $3 for a top four finish while you're at it.

Premiership

$12

$8

2018 Prediction

7th

4th

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