2011 in review - Parramatta Eels

2011 was never going to be a great season for the Parramatta Eels.  With an eventful off season, one could contend it was doomed from the start.  The real signs of Parramatta's 2011 damnation came well before kickoff...

A fateful day late in September 2010 saw the Eels' board sack coach of two years, Daniel Anderson with over a year left on his contract.  The same off season saw a few other untimely departures, with Parramatta backline duo Timana Tahu and Eric Grothe Junior adopting a similar attitude on contracts to that of that the Parramatta board, both walking out on their contracts prematurely.  In Anderson's place, New Zealand coach, Stephen Kearney was given charge of his first NRL team.  This came after Parramatta captain of nearly a decade; Nathan Cayless played his last game for the club to put the on field side under new management.  The 2011 captaincy was given to the obvious choice of Nathan Hindmarsh.  And that was where clear logic in team selection ended for the Eels.

2011 Comings and Goings
Losses: Nathan Cayless (retired), Eric Grothe Junior (retired), Krisnan Inu (Warriors), Kris Keating (Bulldogs), Feleti Mateo (Warriors), Tim Robinson (Sea Eagles), Timana Tahu (released), Jonathon Wright (Bulldogs).
Gains: Paki Afu (Bulldogs), Jordan Atkins (Titans), Cameron Bruest (Raiders), Eni Folau (Brisbane Easts), Chris Hicks (Warrington Wolves), Casey McGuire (Les Catalans Dragons), Reni Maitua (suspension), Brad Murray (Roosters),Billy Rogers (Storm), Chris Walker (Les Catalans Dragons), Carl Webb (Cowboys), Paul Whatuira (Huddersfield Giants).

Several of Parramatta's 2011 gains came from so far left of field they hadn't played topflight Rugby League in a while and what resulted was a lot of these buys also not playing much top flight rugby league for Parramatta.  From the 12 gains listed above, there were 61 first grade appearances between them in 2011 including outlier McGuire with 21 appearances.  With about a dozen 2011 games between them, Walker, Webb and Whauira pulled the curtains on their careers during the season.  Joining the transit, Rogers left the club mid season after a handful of first grade games, following the lead of Parra junior Anthony Mitchell who transferred to the Roosters mid season.

The stand out recruit was easily Reni Maitua, who since returning from suspension proved to be a weapon for the Eels. Maitua first came into the first grade side in round 17 named in the number 6 jersey after golden child Daniel Mortimer was given the punt, before moving to his preferred position in the back row.  This began a sub transit lounge in the halves positions with coach Kearney experimenting with those positions throughout the latter half of the season.  What the transit situation, coupled with annoying injuries and cringe-worthy recruitment meant for the Eels was a mediocre season for Parramatta with plenty of close misses.

The first half of the season saw Parramatta miss an opportunity to stay in touch with the top 8 due to inconsistent performances and experimentation with the line up.  Mid-season, Parra finally appeared to have found a winning formula, it unfortunately was not