Ladder Position: 4th
Points For: 496
Points Against: 457
Top Try Scorer: Semi Radradra (22 Tries)
Home Record: 8 Wins, 4 Losses
Away Record: 8 Wins, 4 Losses
Finals Record: 2 losses
Highlight of the Season
Round 21, 28-14 win against the Brisbane Broncos
This was Parramatta’s first match of the season without in-form fullback Clinton Gutherson and boy did they handle it well. Buy of the season Nathan Brown stepped up, with mid-season recruit Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman tormenting Brisbane either side of the ruck. They hauled in a Broncos side who ran the show for the first 14 minutes and raced into a 12-0 lead. The Broncos only had a two-point advantage at the break, something that was flattering given that the Eels’ attack was slicing through them at will.
The second half continued with the Eels momentum only building further and their forwards laying the platform for the crafty halves pairing of Norman and Moses to lay on tries for the outside backs. In the end, Parramatta finished with an 88% completion rate and a comfortable win over a fellow top four competitor.
Moses really proved himself as the answer to the Eels’ halves headache that had been hanging over the club for years and the Eels went on their merry way to a top four finish.
Lowlight of the Season
Semi-Finals Week 2, 24-16 loss to the North Queensland Cowboys
They were dismal earlier in the season in a 44-10 romp at the hands of the Roosters, however it was last night’s match which will sting the most and was their most disappointing outing all year. None of their plays stuck, and all of their tries bar Semi Radradra’s were scored quite fortuitously. They committed knock-on after knock-on, with their discipline also letting them down.
Brad Arthur summed it up himself saying:
“It was disappointing that we didn’t go out on our own terms. If we’d lost but played well, it would be easier to take but that second half was our worst 40 minutes all season.”
Their second half left them with no chance. The side couldn’t turn that potential into points unfortunately as their exquisite attack failed to show up, coming from the side that thumped the Broncos 52-34 only a month ago.
Not a single player really stood up, with even Radradra having a quiet outing despite scoring a length of the field try. Something to work on for next year is the difference between their best and their worst.
What Went Right
Their combination play has been a real feature this season, particularly after the acquisition of Moses. The number seven threw two inside, no-look balls in different games that had viewers flabbergasted at the niche skill. Parramatta’s link up and support play is almost unparalleled by any other side and their back rowers are so fast for their size. Arthur’s training regime saw them all at peak fitness and punching through opposition teams regularly.
On 12 occasions they led their competitors at the break, going on to win on nine occasions. Their ability to close out games will certainly give them confidence going into next season.
Any time someone went down injured, another played admirably stepped up in their place. Norman was replaced by Gutherson, who also filled Bevan French’s shoes at one stage more than capably with some stellar performances. Cameron King was another standout at the back end of the season. His resolute defence, along with his intelligent scoots catching the markers out, were just two of the impressive aspects in his game.
What Went Wrong
Although their season was eventually ended by the Cowboys, Parramatta often struggled in games against team at the lower end of the NRL ladder.
Another key to their undoing this season was Parramatta’s ill-discipline, with a few of their forward pack lucky to stay on the field at times this year. It proved costly at the business end of the season as they gave away silly penalties to keep the ball at the wrong end of the field.
They will be better for their run in the finals however some harsh lessons were learnt. Discipline and ‘keeping things simple,’ as Tim Mannah put it in last nights post-match press conference, was the difference between winning and losing. If they want to go better next season, then they must learn to use their attack as their best form of defence rather than giving away silly penalties.
Stand Out Player
Nathan Brown’s first season at Parramatta stamped his authority on the game. He doesn’t always grab the big headlines but is arguably as good as any other forward in the game right now. Just imagine if him and Sam Burgess were still at the Rabbitohs together!
He was signed with no real expectation despite being a consistent performer at South Sydney but he has almost doubled his average run and tackle numbers this year, also winning Parramatta’s official player of the season. For a big man, his adept hands and late offload added another dimension to a deadly Eels attack. Should New South Wales pick their team on form then Brown has to be set for a State of Origin appearance.
This could easily have been given to Gutherson or Radradra but the Brown’s rise into becoming one of their most damaging players sees him edge it. He would slot straight into any starting side in the competition.
Before last year, Daniel Alvaro didn’t look a forward who would roll his sleeves up and get through the hard stuff. One year on and his moniker has completely changed, with Wally Lewis declaring that his absence was a massive loss to the club. He is a no-nonsense forward who can churn out 100 metres a week and has come of age this year, making 25 appearances.
He has a keen eye for an offload and can forge a strong partnership with the rest of the young Eels pack for the coming years. He has the potential to be the club’s next Mannah if given the chance while he could well be competing for international honours if he keeps continuing at this rate.
Recruitment for 2018
PLAYERS IN – Kane Evans (Roosters), Mitchell Moses (Tigers)
PLAYERS OUT – Isaac De Gois, Jeff Robson (retired), Bureta Faraimo (Hull), Jamal Fogarty, James Hasson (released), Semi Radradra (Toulon), Kelepi Tanginoa, Alex Twal (Tigers)
Parramatta have recruited wisely. Moses was an important mid-season acquisition whilst Kane Evans will join from Sydney Roosters to add more physicality to their aggressive pack.
Moses was a revelation at half-back and if Evans can also stay fit then they could both flourish under Arthur in 2018.
They can take plenty of positives from 2017. Now Moses is at the club they have a halves pairing of controlling a game and taking them all the way. Alongside that, they have unearthed some genuine superstars of the future in French, Moeroa and Gutherson. All of them came of age this season while plenty of other players have upped their game, bringing a new mentality to the club. They are better placed to tackle the 2017 campaign, despite losing Radradra, and should be able to reach the preliminary finals next season.
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