Parramatta Eels 2017 Season Review

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In the aftermath of the club's salary cap fiasco, the hitherto high-flying Eels were hit with a cap penalty of a loss of 12 competition points, as well as the club's accumulated for and against tally being reset.

The effects were compounded by being told to shed players to fall under the 2016 competition's cap in order to begin playing for points again, which resulted in the losses of Junior Paulo, Ryan Morgan, and Nathan Peats - and that was only the beginning, with captain Kieran Foran being released mid-season due to personal issues.

And yet despite all the self-inflicted setbacks, the club finished the season with 13 wins - enough to make the Finals, bar for the 12-point penalty.

Parramatta powerbrokers and fans, then, had solid reasons to put their faith in the club to finally break their Finals drought heading into season 2017.

How it unfolded

  • Round 1 saw the Eels playing at Brookvale against the might of the Manly Sea Eagles, where the Eels ran out solid (if unspectacular) victors 20-12.
  • Round 2 and Parramatta travelled to WIN Stadium to take on the Dragons, and romped home 34-16 winners.
  • The Eels then lost four consecutive games, losing 26-14 to the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium, 20-6 to the Sharks at ANZ, 30-18 to the Green Machine at GIO, and 22-10 to the Warriors at Mt Smart.
  • Round 7 saw the Eels beat Wests 26-22.
  • Five days later, the Eels beat Penrith 18-12 at ANZ in unconvincing fashion.
  • For round 9, Parramatta defeated the under-strength Cowboys 26-6, then were demolsihed by the Roosters 48-10 in Round 10.
  • Parramatta then travelled to Canberra, and suffered a 22-16 defeat.
  • In two consecutive weeks, the Eels then beat South Sydney 22-16, and the Warriors 32-24.
  • The Cowboys once again demolished the Eels 32-6 in round 14.
  • Round 15 saw the Parramatta club begin to build some momentum, winning six consecutive games from round 15 to round 22, with 2 byes thrown in for good measure. They defeated the Dragons 24-10, the Bulldogs 13-12 in Golden Point, the under-strength Storm 22-6, the Tigers 17-16, the Broncos 28-14, and the Doggies 20-4.
  • Newcastle ambushed the Eels in round 23, springing an upset 29-10 victory.
  • To end the regular season, the Eels beat the Titans 30-8, the Broncos 52-34, and the Rabbitohs 22-16. The club finished in 4th position, and would play Finals football for the first time in almost a decade.
  • Their first assignment was to travel to Melbourne, to tackle runaway Minor Premiers Melbourne; the club fell just short, losing 18-16. The following week, they faced the Cowboys at ANZ, and suffered a 24-16 defeat, to definitively end their 2017 campaign.

After an unacceptably long time without playing October football, the Eels were able to reach the lofty heights of Finals football and, despite their meek exit in straight sets, displayed plenty of positive signs heading into 2018.

Mid-season signing Mitchell Moses was an inconsistent revelation at 7 for the Eels, and was able to display enough improvement in his game to fire a warning to rival clubs that he is only just getting started, and that fans should keep an eye on him. Moses was responsible for two of the most ludicrously ballsy passes one will ever see this season, and none was more impressive than his pass to Will Smith in the Qualifying Final against for Smith to score a much-deserved try. Instead of trying to describe the pass, this reviewer highly, strongly encourages you to watch the footage - it was arrogant, breath-taking, lucky, and simply brilliant.

The club's biggest weakness has been their workmanlike forward pack; while the pack is mobile, fit, and agile, the lack of sheer brutality and size was at times a handicap to the Eels. When larger forward packs got momentum, the smaller, more aggressive Eels pack was often unable to stop the roll-on and regain the upper hand.

A finish inside the NRL top four is considered a resounding success for any club in the NRL - but this achievement is especially impressive when factoring in the unavailable personnel: Bevan French, Clinton Gutherson, Corey Norman, Isaac De Gois, Kaysa Pritchard, Peni Terepo, and Josh Hoffman all missed substantial parts of the season through injury, and yet the club was still able to find an extra gear to finish fourth. When considering that, at the time of his season-ending injury, Gutherson was at the top of the Dally M points scoring, it's particularly commendable to see a club lose a player of that calibre, and still finish in the top four.

With an inexperienced and young squad, 2018 promises to be a strong year for the Parramatta club.

The Good

The round 11 mid-season signing of Mitchell Moses.
While he did take some time to find his feet in the new structure that he was now a part of, and while his defence will always be a talking point among fans, Moses displayed confidence (often over-ruling his more experienced halves partner Corey Norman), skill (throwing some stunning passes), and a newly refreshed attitude, and became Parramatta's go-to man when they needed something to happen.

Given Moses' youth and inexperience, it is only logical to assume that his attacking game will continue to evolve as his confidence grows.

The Bad

Losing a player through injury is never an outcome that coaches or fans are happy to accept - but losing a player who was the best player on the field, and in a Final, and to have that player not return for the remainder of the match, is a huge blow to the club's chances of winning, and that's exactly what happened in the Qualifying Final against the Storm with Tepai Moeroa.

Moeroa was dragging defenders with brutal charges, and hitting attacking players like a freight train; he almost single-handedly rattled the Storm's cage.

However, after going off for an HIA, and not returning to the field, the Storm were able to find their groove, and grind out the win. Moeroa's loss was felt in a big way.

What Worked

Parramatta boasts some wonderful talent in the second row, featuring players like Manu Ma'u, Kenny Edwards, and Tepai Moeroa, and the Eels were at their best when using their back-rowers to create time and space for Norman and Moses to then set up their outside backs.

What Didn't

The Eels' lack of the prototypical modern day prop forward hurt their defensive wrestle, and the lack of a genuinely big bopper to make metres rucking the ball out hurt, as well.

Best Players

Nathan Brown and Clinton Gutherson kept the Parramatta ship steady and afloat all season long.

Brown, in particular, had a spectacular season; while his talent is plain to see, it was his temperament that many thought would prove to be his downfall, but somehow, coach Brad Arthur managed to get Brown's mind focussed week in and out, and he delivered staggering figures on a weekly basis. It was often murmured that, despite Brown's relatively small frame, he would not look out of place wearing a NSW jumper, given his fine 2017 season.

Gutherson arrived at the Eels in 2016 having already suffered one major injury in his time at Manly, and many wondered whether he would make it. His 2017 season must certainly have shut his critics up, as he amassed several Dally M points - to the extent that, at the time of his season-ending injury, he was leading the Dally M Medal points. That's how good his season was going.

Disappointing Players

Siosia Vave was expected to fill the big jersey of Junior Paulo, and while he had a handful of passable games, he did not display any real consistency. His hit-ups varied between "going through the motions" to "runaway freight train", and his defence, though acceptable, was lazy, and at times, insipid.

Lower Grades

Intrust Super Premiership NSW

The Wentworthville Magpies suffered from a seemingly revolving door policy in regards to their playing personnel, and their on-field results reflected as much; players were in one week, out the next, and the fabric of the side was constantly chopping and changing, and it all culminated in the Maggies missing the top 8 altogether.

Holden Cup Under 20's

Parramatta's NYC team went on a golden run to make their maiden Grand Final.

However, the NYC side was stacked with players still eligible for SG Ball, and they eventually succumbed to the bigger, older, more experienced Manly side in the Grand Final.

Looking ahead

Kane Evans has the build of your prototypical modern day front row forward - tall, heavy, and with explosive speed and agility for a big man, it is indeed very exciting to see how he improves a hard-working, but small, pack. Evans certainly lacks for nothing in attack; he can break tackles, and pop offloads, on a regular basis, and has often broken the line for the Roosters in plays which led to tries. Given his height and build, he should be able to help in the defensive wrestle, too.

But 2018 will also see the Parramatta club lose one of its superstars in Semi Radradra, as he heads off to French rugby union. It is often said that no player is irreplaceable, but Radradra would be the closest thing to that; often pulling out 90 metre tries from nowhere, regularly returning the ball back from kicks for 20 metres, and making big defensive plays, the big Fijian lad will be sorely missed, and whoever takes up his jersey will have huge shoes to fill.

Norman and Moses, each a year older by 2018, will have had the benefit of a full off-season together; Gutherson and French, key linchpins in the Eels' attack, will have recuperated from injury, and will be raring to go in 2018; the much-maligned, but often under-rated Parramatta forward pack will be bolstered by the addition of Kane Evans, and desperate to show that 2017 was no fluke.

The NRL is the toughest competition in the world, and there are no guarantees, but this reviewer sees a very bright 2018 season ahead for the Eels.

2017 Results

1
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 12
Parramatta Eels 20
W
2
St George Illawarra Dragons 16
Parramatta Eels 34
W
3
Gold Coast Titans 26
Parramatta Eels 14
L
4
Parramatta Eels 6
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 20
L
5
Canberra Raiders 30
Parramatta Eels 18
L
6
Warriors 22
Parramatta Eels 10
L
7
Parramatta Eels 26
Wests Tigers 22
W
8
Parramatta Eels 18
Penrith Panthers 12
W
9
North Queensland Cowboys 6
Parramatta Eels 26
W
10
Sydney Roosters 48
Parramatta Eels 10
L
11
Parramatta Eels 16
Canberra Raiders 22
L
12
South Sydney Rabbitohs 16
Parramatta Eels 22
W
13
Parramatta Eels 32
Warriors 24
W
14
Parramatta Eels 6
North Queensland Cowboys 32
L
15
Parramatta Eels 24
St George Illawarra Dragons 10
W
16
Parramatta Eels 0
BYE
17
Parramatta Eels 13
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 12
W
18
Melbourne Storm 6
Parramatta Eels 22
W
19
Parramatta Eels 0
BYE
20
Wests Tigers 16
Parramatta Eels 17
W
21
Parramatta Eels 28
Brisbane Broncos 14
W
22
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 4
Parramatta Eels 20
W
23
Parramatta Eels 10
Newcastle Knights 29
L
24
Parramatta Eels 30
Gold Coast Titans 8
W
25
Brisbane Broncos 34
Parramatta Eels 52
W
26
Parramatta Eels 22
South Sydney Rabbitohs 16
W
Finals Week 1
Melbourne Storm 18
Parramatta Eels 16
L
Finals Week 2
Parramatta Eels 16
North Queensland Cowboys 24
L

By the Stats

36
Competition Points
16
Matches Won
0
Matches Drawn
8
Matches Lost
496
Points Scored
457
Points Conceded