2011 Season Preview - Parramatta Eels
Rewind the clock 365 days and the Eels
were entering 2010 riding the wave of a stunning surge to the grand
final the year prior. The expectations on a stronger-looking Eels team
were immense, placing them either as premiership favourites or second
in the running for the silverware and most rugby league fans believed a
top four position was elementary. However, things didn't quite follow
the script in 2010 and what followed was a remarkable fall from grace.
The club finished in 12th spot, rumours of off-field infighting were
crippling and Daniel Anderson departed with time to run on his
contract. The on-field action was marred by poor execution and
inconsistency and a lack of effort when it mattered most.
Turn the clock forward to 2011 and Parramatta has undergone a
significant transformation personnel wise. Stalwart Nathan Cayless, the
most capped captain in NRL history, has hung up the boots on a
distinguished career. He is joined by part time winger/part time singer
Eric Grothe junior, who has been another to announce his retirement.
The topsy-turvy duo of Feleti Mateo and Krisnan Inu will don Warriors
jerseys this season, while centre Timanu Tahu has been released after a
troubled return to the blue and gold.
In their place arrive a host of elder statesmen and one forward
desperate to regain his standing in the NRL. Chris Walker, Chris Hicks,
Paul Whatuira and Casey McGuire return home from the English Super
League in a recruitment drive obviously focused on adding experience to
the roster. A few 'old heads' are vital but questions remain about
whether they can still compete at the level required. Former Cowboy and
State of Origin representative Carl Webb is another to benefit from a
show of faith from Parramatta. Although it's been seasons since his
devastating prime, Webb is adamant he hasn't reached his expiry date.
However, talk is cheap, the proof will be in the pudding (or perhaps
lack of) for Carl.
The trump card for Parramatta is the addition of Stephen Kearney. Over
the past few seasons, the Kiwi coach has installed unprecedented
discipline and consistency into the New Zealand national side and will
be striving to do the same at Parramatta. Despite it being his first
gig as full time NRL coach, Kearney already has a wealth of knowledge
to draw upon having spent time as assistant to Craig Bellamy at
Melbourne and with Wayne Bennett at international level.
Overall, there is less hype surrounding the Eels in 2011 which can only
help the side free themselves from the pressure of expectation.
Parramatta supporters will be hoping the veteran recruits can bring
stability, while Kearney needs to squeeze every last ounce of ability
from his squad to push for a top eight berth.
Player to Watch - Jarryd Hayne
It is impossible to write an article about Parramatta without
mentioning Jarryd Hayne, who is without doubt the man to again keep
your eye on. The 23-year old is the pinup of the Eels' success but also
routinely the scapegoat when things go wrong. Much like his team in
2010, Hayne looked lethargic at times but a lack of expectation this
year should allow him to clear his head and focus on footy. At his
peak, the fullback can dominate a rugby league game like few others.
Rookie to Watch - Jacob Loko