The Cumberland Throw

Eels 2017 Season Review – Ready To Fly

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”       – Henry Ford

 

Back in 2016, when off-field dramas had many believing that the world was caving in on the Parramatta club, the on-field performances of the football team gave supporters hope for the future.

This season, the Eels needed to deliver with a finals appearance, or risk the previous year being labelled a false dawn.

For the majority of the NRL public, Parramatta probably overachieved in 2017. A top 4 finish via a 16/8 season record both emphasised and consolidated the growth achieved under Brad Arthur’s coaching. The foundations are now well and truly set. It’s time to take flight.

Here’s how I saw the season:

 

Highlights

 

* Broncos X 2 – Parra couldn’t have been any more impressive in their two victories over Brisbane. A disciplined defensive 28 to 14 Round 21 result featured a second half shut out of a side littered with offensive talent. In contrast, the Eels unleashed their own attacking arsenal in the Round 25 encounter, running out victors to the tune of 52 to 34.

* Bulldogs Round 17 – How does a one point (golden point) win over a team that failed to qualify for the finals register as a highlight?

Winning in golden point via Mitch Moses.

For mine, the ability to win ugly has been sadly lacking for the blue and golds. On that scale, this was a delicious monstrosity. And wasn’t that field goal from Moses so damned sweet!

* Consecutive Years Of Resilience – Season 2016 saw the league world acknowledge the Eels football department (players and staff) for their ability to perform in spite of the off-field dramas. Yet all of that would have meant little had the team not displayed the same on-field resilience in 2017. With a raft of significant injuries, and precious little advantage given (see penalties section below), a top 4 finish was testimony to a club establishing a new identity.

* Young Talent – Take a bow Brad Arthur, Anthony Field and Joey Grima. Without ignoring the  contributions of all of the coaches, (especially Luke Burt, Scott Jones and their staff) BA, Grima and Field have significantly changed the talent identification and development systems at the club. The SG Ball and 18’s National Title were the exclamation points in a season which also included a Harold Matts Grand Final Qualifier and an NYC Grand Final appearance. The establishment of the JETS program overseen by Joey Grima, and involving BA, Steve Murphy and Peter Gentle took the club to new levels of junior investment this year.

Lowlights

 

* Rounds 3 to 6 – Consecutive losses to the Titans, the Sharks, the Warriors and the Raiders had the fans worried about how or when the club would turn their season around. There were few positives to be found in these matches.

* Round 10 vs Roosters – Almost every KPI was shown little respect in this embarrassing 48 to 10 loss. Plenty of lessons were learned.

* Semi-final vs Cowboys – It’s a shame to include the final game as a lowlight but Brad Arthur said it best – “we didn’t get to finish the season on our own terms. The second half was our worst half of the year.”

Gutho is already working on 2018.

* Round 20 injury to Clint Gutherson – Despite the fine form displayed by Bevan French, then Will Smith, there remains little doubt in my mind that the injury to Clint Gutherson was ultimately a crucial blow to the Eels Premiership chances. We were very good in his absence, so consider how much better we would have been with his involvement.

 

Big Ticks

 

* Nathan Brown – This bloke was undoubtedly the buy of season. Relentless in his carries. Brutal and workaholic in defence. There were no quizzical faces when Brown claimed the Ken Thornett Medal for 2017.

Brown’s big season was predicted in this pre-season training report.

* Mitch Moses – His addition to the roster in Round 11 was arguably the springboard into a successful back end to the season. The richly talented half will only improve with a full pre-season under his belt. I’m looking forward to more imperious passes in 2018.

* Cameron King – With Isaac De Gois playing no part in the season, the Round 15 injury to Kaysa Pritchard opened the door for Cameron King’s debut in the Blue and Gold. The talented rake quickly established a reputation for faultless delivery of the football and professional 80 minute displays. Formerly a highly decorated junior star, King is now getting the opportunity to fulfill his potential.

Concerns

 

* Replacing Semi Radradra – Semi is a unique talent and few players are capable of those 100 metre tries. The result of his departure will impact our experience on match days.

Semi – a unique talent.

Supporters will be more sedentary next year, with fewer reasons to suddenly jump to their feet. However, a winger will take his place, and plenty of tries will still be generated by those on the inside. I expect Semi’s replacement will still feature on the top try scorers list.

* Wenty – When you have a top 8 for a 12 team competition, you have to be travelling pretty ordinarily to not qualify for the finals. Unfortunately this was the case for Parramatta’s feeder team. I lost count of the number of formidable leads given up by the Magpies in the last 20 minutes of matches throughout the season – none more frustrating than their season-defining penultimate match against Newcastle. When called up to first grade, the players performed admirably. But for Parramatta’s resilient club culture to be fully realised, the Wenty team needs to step up to the plate in 2018.

 

Penalties

 

Originally, I was including this under the concerns section. However, given the enormous impact that discipline plays in match results, it necessitated a section of its own.

The raw data speaks for itself. Across the season proper and the finals series, the Eels won the penalties on 9 occasions. The greatest differential in the team’s favour (+3) came from a 9/6 penalty count in the Round 21 clash against the Broncos. One count was drawn.

In contrast, the penalty count was lost on 16 occasions, with the greatest differential (-8) ironically coming from a 2/10 count in the return clash against the Broncos in Round 25. Significantly, 8 matches featured a minus 3 or worse differential.

In total, the Eels received 147 penalties, and conceded 179.

The concern for the Eels does not lie with the penalties conceded, as this averages out to less than 7 per match. In these days of referees “managing” matches in preference to enforcing rules, the counts are generally low.

However, alarm bells ring when penalties awarded comes under analysis.

In 5 halves of football, the opposition were considered perfect with the Eels failing to receive a single penalty. (Parramatta were adjudged without fault on one occasion – the second half of the finals loss to the Cowboys! Go figure…) In a further 9 halves of football, the opposition conceded only 1 penalty.

With just on 27% of their season halves of football featuring opposition teams considered to be virtually free of indiscretions, the Eels coaching staff obviously face the challenge of finding ways to earn penalties in 2018.

Wish List

Kane Evans – Confirmed 2018 signing

 

* Impact Prop – Parramatta are well served with great toilers in the prop position – most significantly through the likes of Tim Mannah, Danny Alvaro and David Gower. Players like Suaia Matagi and Siosaia Vave have added impact moments throughout the season, but the addition of a game breaker would bolster the Eels Premiership credentials. Peni Terepo has always threatened to be that prop, but injury greatly impacted his season this year. Perhaps Kane Evans will fill the bill, but I’d feel more comfortable with a block-busting inclusion to the pack.

 

* X Factor – At the risk of heavy criticism, I would consider the return of the prodigal son – Jarryd Hayne. I was appalled by his rejection of the club in 2016 and his subsequent comments. I also believe that this Eels team has grown immeasurably without him. Do the Eels need him? No. Could he add to Parra’s prospects next season? Consider this – the Eels have lost their X factor in Semi. They will do fine without him, but they won’t have anyone who could single-handedly produce a game changing moment. That person is a man who has been lost away from the Eels. Hayne has a legacy to repair and he could only do that in one place. I’d take the risk.

2018

 

Without disrespecting any player who took the field in the preliminary final against Melbourne, if Bevan French and Clint Gutherson were part of that clash, the Eels arguably get the result. But what-could-have-beens don’t win you matches and a bloke like Will Smith produced a career high performance to almost get the team across the line. Accordingly, supporters would be buoyed by the development of the whole squad and the return of quality players for 2018.

At this stage, Kane Evans remains the only addition to the club’s roster for next season. As only Jeff Robson and Isaac DeGois are confirmed as departures, a 30 man squad should see a couple of signings announced post season.

I remain confident of the Eels capacity to play finals football again next year. I’ll save any grander predictions for the pre-season.

 

Personal Highlights

 

This has been a massive year for me. I’ve had the opportunity to witness the Eels journey from the first day of pre-season training, through to virtually every field session of 2017, and all bar a couple of away fixtures.

It’s difficult to top the trip to Melbourne for the preliminary final. To be a part of an incredible Eels presence in another state, then to watch the team leave nothing on the park in their quest to overcome the might of the Storm, was definitely the highlight (despite the result and poor officiating).

TCT has ventured into new territory with our “Tip Sheet” interview series and I’m proud of the trust placed in our site by Eels staff. We are in a privileged position to be able to share great insights from the football department with fellow Eels supporters and will continue to do so. The players, coaches and staff have been very generous with their time this year. It’s indicative of the value they place on members and fans.

Thanks to all of my fellow TCT contributors. It’s a big task to produce original content for the entire year, not just a season, and to do so for passion not pay.

My gratitude also to our readers, including those who’ve shared their opinions on our posts. Your replies are not only the basis for further discussion, they often prompt ideas for future posts.

 

Make sure you keep following us here at The Throw. There’s no off season for us as we strive to provide Blue and Gold news 52 weeks a year.

Eels forever!

Sixties

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Manginina
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Manginina

Thanks fir the outstanding review.
Sixties I will certainly keep following TCT, checking the site each day just in case!

Michael Formosa
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Michael Formosa

Great review just like they have all been. A massive massive No from me about Hayne. There is no one in our team I would give their spot to him. I think is too slow and would cost too much to play wing.

Peter Ronald Johnson
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Peter Ronald Johnson

Sixties, excellent review as usual and thanks to the whole TCT yeam for their excellent coverage during 2017.
Looling at big forwards is Willis Meehan on the books in 2018?

Thanks

Peter Ronald Johnson
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Peter Ronald Johnson

We will definately miss Semi but I remember thst said about Fat Hayne and we survived and thrived since.

Trouser Eel
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Trouser Eel

It was a great ride. I experienced things this year that I never thought would be in the realm of possibility. It was a disappointing end but after such shining performances throughout the year, it’d be a hard marker who’d complain.
Thanks for your commitment and that of the TCT team. I’ve enjoyed your comments and insight all year.

Pou
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Pou

I agree it was a great season and I’m filled with confidence for the future. 2018 can’t get here quick enough.

Rob
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Rob

I disagree with the comment that we don’t have a ‘gamebreaker’. I consider Gutherson to be that player every day of the week. Also, on his day, so can Bevan French be.

Mitchy
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Mitchy

Ahh great read Sixties; its a little deflating still tbh. But the off season will rekindle this. Agreed about the sentiments and i am somewhat waiting for the teams to settle and hope like hell we get a big prop. We need one if not two. I am concerned about the size and have been for a while but we played v well this year but still lacked forward impact at times. We have to improve the roster, and that’s it. You cannot rely on the forwards being as consistent as to me an injury here or there and we… Read more »

Achilles' Eel
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Achilles' Eel

It was an impressive year and well worth the wait. The club is in good hands now and I look forward to bigger and better things to come. If you had told me in the beginning of the year that Parramatta would make it to the second week of the semi-finals, I would have been incredibly stoked. Of course, once there I was expecting nothing less than a Grand Final victory – selfish and inconsiderate fan that I am! Oh, and don’t worry about Semi. I am putting together a Semi Radradra Retrieval Squad (SRRS). I picture it as a… Read more »

EggTart
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EggTart

Outstanding review Sixties. The TCT team have gone far and beyond as always to bring the supporter base such an in depth coverage of our great club and all that goes on in such a passionate and more importantly professional manner. With 2016 now a distant memory, we can all look forward to reaching some amazing heights in 2018 and beyond as the leaders of our club look to build on the great work that was achieved in 2017. Looking forward to the fact our 6 and 7 are going to have a full pre season under their belt which… Read more »

Gazzamatta
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Gazzamatta

TCT content was and is outstanding. As an Eels fan for 53 years I must say 2017 season was one of my favourites. Yes the footy was good but the daily commentry provided from sites such as TCT has provided so much more than just the game experience.
I cant wait for next season. Thanks to everyone involved.
PS. No to Hayne from me.

John Eel
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John Eel

Just as a point of interest. We played two losing games in the finals series against the two GF teams. Worst of all we had the GF winner nailed really.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Great season wrap up Sixties, agree with everything you have said including your comments on Hayne. I honestly believe he can return to his best if he was back at his beloved Eels! BA would not allow him to undo the change in culture at the club and I think Hayne will embrace the opportunity to win a premiership at the club he loves! I can’t wait for next year already and look forward to seeing the team grow even more than this year. Also, think we we will pick up a few of unexpected signings in the off season.… Read more »

Jimmy Corbo
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Jimmy Corbo

Nice wrap up Lads, as I have said previously I love your work, be it via the website or interacting via Twitter. As others have said, if you gave us a Top 4 finish at the start of the year we would have been ecstatic, however the exit from the finals certainly left a bitter taste. To borrow a boxing analogy, styles make fights and I think we had the style to trouble the Storm, granted they are a much better side than we are but funnier things have happened, maybe an opportunity lost, a great year nonetheless. Looking forward,… Read more »

Hearndo
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Hearndo

In regards to Hayne, i’d like to see the club take him at the right price and play him on the wing. I think having Gutho at fullback with Hayne and French on the wings would be a formidible backline with plenty of X-factor. I’ve been a bit hesitant to support the return of Hayne, but Semi’s absence opens for his return. Hopefully he wants to play for Parra enough that it ignites his form again.

MattL
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MattL

Thanks for a tremendous year.
Re. Hayne: I wouldn’t sign him, but if BA thinks he can get value, you’ve got to back that decision as he doesn’t muck around.

Rowdy
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Rowdy

Great season review Sixties and plenty of interesting comments to digest too. I agree 100% with Hearndo. Gutho at fullback, Bevan French on the right wing and Jarryd Hayne on the left wing. That’s strike power unequaled in the NRL and bucket loads of X factor! Imagine the options for Corey and Mitch when they take the ball to the line knowing these three are looking for a good ball to just blow the game apart with skill, speed or strength. It would make it very difficult for opposing teams to mark up more than one on one on either… Read more »

Rowdy
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Rowdy

Working between our halves and these back three!