2022 review: Parramatta Eels

COMP NRL
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The Eels came into season 2022 off the back of three consecutive top 6 finishes - but they had not made it past week two of the Finals since 2009.

Pressure, and expectations on the club to again finish in the top 6 were high, and the Eels' loyal fanbase was desperate to see their beloved club make a deeper run into Finals footy.

Parramatta began their campaign in 2022 in unconvincing fashion; despite winning 4 of their opening 5 matches, they struggled to put opponents away (the Titans eventually succumbed 32-28 in round 1, but they should have been put away much earlier). Indeed - the two shining lights for the Eels were a Golden Point victory over the Storm at AAMI Park, and a 48-14 victory over the Dragons.

The Eels would then win only 2 of their next 5 (one against the Panthers, the other against a struggling Knights team), and would hand the Tigers their first win of 2022 while also succumbing to lowly Canterbury on Queen's Birthday.

After round 10, the Eels won 10 of their last 14 games (including defeating a Cleary-less Panthers, the Storm for the second time in 2022, the Raiders in Canberra, and scoring 42 points against the Bulldogs, and 53 points against Brisbane).

The Eels finished the 2022 regular season in 4th position, having won 16 of 24 games, with a for and against of 119.

They lost to the Panthers in week 1 of the Finals 27-8, defeated Canberra 40-4 in week 2, then the Cowboys 24-20 in the Grand Final Qualifier (after some dubious forward pass calls that favoured the Eels - thought an argument could be made that the Cowboys should not have lost that game, as they were leading 20-8 after 52 minutes).

Against all odds, Parramatta managed to make the 2022 NRL Grand Final, where they were handily defeated by the blistering Panthers side to the tune of 28-12.

Turning point

The form of Shaun Lane; in 2022, Lane mustered 26 matches, scored 2 tries, made 7 line breaks (and created 14 line break assists), offloaded 38 times, made 767 tackles at 92.7% efficiency, ran for 3,388 metres (an average of 130 metres per game), and made several clutch plays (one of the standouts being the charge-down against the Cowboys in the Grand Final Qualifier that swung momentum back the Eels' way).

What worked

The Eels thrived when their monster forward pack was able to steamroll their opposition; it created space for Mitchell Moses to control the game, and the Eels benefitted greatly from that.

Junior Paulo, and Reagan Campbell-Gillard had monster seasons, both being selected for representative honours.

Moses was able to force 21 dropouts, kick for an average of 428 metres per game, and keep the Eels' scoreboard moving.

What didn't work

Conversely, in matches where possession was less than even, the Eels struggled.

Parramatta's big forward pack relies on aggression, and collision; they are not well-suited to defending for long periods of time, and they get fatigued.

Several of the Eels' losses in 2022 were really a result of their opposition playing simple, mistake-free football, and starving the Eels of possession, making them work hard in defence, and tiring them out.

2022 results

RndDateDayOppositionVenueCrowdRank
1Mar 13thSun 4:05pmHGold CoastW32-28CommBank18,2117th
2Mar 19thSat 5:30pmACronullaL16-18Pointsbet11,4598th
3Mar 26thSat 5:30pmAMelbourneW28-24AAMI Park15,6916th
4Apr 3rdSun 6:00pmHSt Geo IllaW48-14CommBank19,7113rd
5Apr 9thSat 7:30pmAGold CoastW26-20CBUS14,4784th
6Apr 18thMon 4:00pmHWests TigersL20-21CommBank28,3364th
7Apr 24thSun 2:00pmANewcastleW39-2McD. Jones25,1693rd
8Apr 30thSat 7:00pmH NNorth QldL4-35Darwin10,0175th
9May 6thFri 8:00pmAPenrithW22-20BlueBet21,5484th
10May 15thSun 4:00pmA NSydneyL24-31Suncorp40,1356th
11May 20thFri 8:00pmHManlyW22-20CommBank18,7786th
12May 29thSun 4:00pmACanberraW28-20GIO16,2445th
14Jun 13thMon 4:00pmACanterburyL4-34Accor20,1846th
15Jun 18thSat 7:35pmHSydneyW26-16CommBank21,7576th
16Jul 2ndSat 7:35pmASouthsL12-30Accor10,1026th
17Jul 9thSat 7:35pmAWests TigersW28-20Leichhardt13,2146th
18Jul 15thFri 7:55pmHWarriorsW28-18CommBank12,2796th
19Jul 21stThu 7:50pmHBrisbaneL14-36CommBank11,0177th
20Jul 29thFri 7:55pmHPenrithW34-10CommBank26,9126th
21Aug 5thFri 7:55pmAManlyW36-204 Pines17,1345th
22Aug 12thFri 7:55pmHSouthsL0-26CommBank22,9587th
23Aug 20thSat 3:00pmHCanterburyW42-6CommBank26,4515th
24Aug 25thThu 7:50pmABrisbaneW53-6Suncorp30,3715th
25Sep 1stThu 7:50pmHMelbourneW22-14CommBank23,7584th
QFSep 9thFri 7:50pmAPenrithL8-27BlueBet21,8634th
SFSep 16thFri 7:50pmHCanberraW40-4CommBank29,1344th
PFSep 23rdFri 7:50pmANorth QldW24-20QLD C.B.25,3724th
GFOct 2ndSun 7:30pmA NPenrithL12-28Accor82,4154th

Best Players

The Eels' most valuable player must surely have been Shaun Lane; he consistently threatened to break the line, was a tireless worker in defence, and his ball-playing kept the opposition in two minds.

He was complemented aptly by Mitchell Moses' kicking game - at times, the Eels' pack struggled to get out of their own end, and it was through Moses' powerful kicking game that they were able to make metres without the ball.

Rookies

The Eels did not debut any rookies in 2022; however, former Canterbury bench forward Ofahiki Ogden played 2 games off the bench (making his club debut) in rounds 22, and 23.

2022 player stats

PlayerAgeAppTGFGPtsBinOff
ARTHUR, Jakob20141--4--
BLAKE, Waqa272212--48--
BROWN, Dylan222811--44--
BROWN, Nathan29141--4--
CAMPBELL-GILLARD, Reagan29283--12--
CARTWRIGHT, Bryce2710------
GREIG, Wiremu221------
GUTHERSON, Clinton2828158-76--
KAUFUSI, Oregon23281--4--
LANE, Shaun27262--8--
MAHONEY, Reed24288--32--
MAKATOA, Makahesi2924------
MATTERSON, Ryan27234--16--
MOSES, Mitchell28267952220--
NIUKORE, Marata26193--12--
OGDEN, Ofahiki262------
OPACIC, Tom28197--28--
PAPALI'I, Isaiah242810--40--
PAULO, Junior28261--41-
PENISINI, Will202810--401-
PERHAM, Hayze2364--16--
REIN, Mitch322------
RODWELL, Ky234------
RUSSELL, Sean2013--12--
SIMONSSON, Bailey24203--12--
SIVO, Maika281613--52--
STONE, Ray2532--8--
27 players25.9628121103269220

Looking ahead

Parramatta lost a lot of star power at the end of 2022 - Isaiah Papali'I, Reed Mahoney, Marata Niukore, Ray Stone, Tom Opacic, and Oregon Kaufusi are all leaving the club.

Some of those players have been replaced - the Eels will welcome Josh Hodgson to the side in 2023, pinched J'maine Hopgood from Penrith, and nabbed Jirah Moimoisea from Newcastle.

The core of the Parramatta team remains unchanged for 2023 - fullback, and skipper Clint Gutherson; halfback Micthell Moses; five-eighth Dylan Brown; starting props Junior Paulo, and Reagan Campbell-Gillard; and Shaun Lane on an edge.

Penrith have demonstrated that the formula to success under the new rule changes is to utilise big, strong outside backs to take early hit-ups in the ruck, to take some pressure off their forward pack.

The Eels do boast Maika Sivo, but his involvement rate is rather low; Clint Gutherson is a skilful ball-player, a reliable defender, and a solid support player, but lacks the elite power to break tackles; and the other winger (likely to be Bailey Simonsson) features speed, and agility, but not much power.

Parramatta must involve their backline more in doing the ruck out work, if they hope to be a chance of being a genuine threat in 2023.

Time will also tell whether the signing of Josh Hodgson pans out - there is no doubt about his skill, and leadership qualities, but the biggest concern will be his ability to remain fit.

Given the roster disruptions from personnel leaving (as well as Ryan Matterson being unavailable for the first 4 weeks of the 2023 competition), it isn't unreasonable to see the Eels finishing in the lower end of the top 8 in 2023.

2023 Round 1 side

at the time of writing

1. Clinton Gutherson (C)
2. Maika Sivo
3. Will Penisini
4. Waqa Blake
5. Bailey Simonsson
6. Dylan Brown
7. Mitchell Moses
8. Junior Paulo (C)
9. Josh Hodsgon
10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard
11. Shaun Lane
12. Jack Murchie
13. J'maine Hopgood

14. Mitch Rein
15. Jirah Moimoisea
16. Bryce Cartwright
17. Makahesi Makatoa


Statistics: Rugby League Project