The Cumberland Throw

The Eels Roster – A Further Analysis

Recently, I’ve written and spoken about the evolution of Parramatta’s NRL roster. In doing so, the changes since 2017 have been referenced.

However, there’s an amazing statistic that I seem to have overlooked.

Only two players from the current squad have registered over 100 NRL games with the Eels. Just Clint Gutherson and Michael Jennings can lay claim to that honour, and a huge cloud now hangs over whether Jenko will add to his tally.

It’s a reflection of the revolution of the playing ranks since the 2018 wooden spoon season.

Here’s how the current 27 players line up when it comes to years and games with the club, along with their path to the Eels. Please note that Nathaniel Roach is not listed as he remains on a Development Contract at this point in time.


Player Eels since Eels Games Background Notes
Waqa Blake 2019 30 Penrith Mid season 2019
Dylan Brown 2019 34 Pathways
Nathan Brown 2017 71 Tigers/Souths
Reagan Campbell-Gillard 2020 21 Penrith
Bryce Cartwright 2021 Nil Penrith/Titans
Haze Dunster 2019 1 Pathways
Blake Ferguson 2019 39 Sharks/Raid/Roosters
Clint Gutherson 2016 109 Manly
Keegan Hipgrave 2021 Nil Titans
David Hollis 2021 Nil Pathways Dev 2020
Sam Hughes 2020 Nil Pathways
Michael Jennings 2016 105 Penrith/Roosters
Oregon Kaufusi 2018 23 Pathways
Shaun Lane 2019 47 Dogs/Warriors/Manly
Joey Lussick 2021 Nil Manly/Salford Eels NYC 2014/15
Reed Mahoney 2018 56 Eels NYC
Ryan Matterson 2020 19 Roosters/Tigers Eels pathways to 2015
Mitchell Moses 2017 83 Tigers Eels/Tigers pathways
Marata Niukore 2017 56 Warriors junior
Michael Oldfield 2021 Nil Manly/Roost/Souths
Tom Opacic 2021 Nil Broncos/Cowboys
Isaiah Papali’i 2021 Nil Warriors
Junior Paulo 2013/19 99 Pathways Raiders 2016-18
Jordan Rankin 2020 Nil Titans/Tigers/ESL Mid season 2020
Maika Sivo 2019 46 Penrith CC
Will Smith 2017 37 Penrith
Ray Stone 2018 19 Eels NYC


Just seven players can trace their NRL history with the Eels back to 2017. Of those only Clint Gutherson, Michael Jennings and Junior Paulo were with the club in 2016.

Junior Paulo

Big Junior has the earliest debut with the Eels – 2013. However, the Origin prop departed the club during 2016 and did not return until 2019. It should also be noted that Paulo will crack 100 games with the club in his next appearance.

Don’t misconstrue the relatively low number of games with the Eels as a lack of experience in the squad. Ten first grade players have reached that sweet spot of 100 NRL games on their resume, with Shaun Lane just five games short of that mark.

But here comes the most salient point.

Though the top 13 looks quite established, their combinations are still comparatively new. The spine of Gutherson, Moses, Brown and Mahoney have not played two full seasons of games together. As they continue to build their experience as a unit, and as they enter their second year of specialist coaching under Joey Johns, their effectiveness will continue to grow.

Furthermore, key forwards such as Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson have only played 21 and 19 games respectively with the Eels. They too, and especially Matterson on the edge, will benefit from greater familiarity with their team mates in the coming season.

Of course, the great unknown remains the new additions.

Haze Dunster

As things stand, nine players are yet to pull on a top grade jersey for the club. Haze Dunster only has one NRL appearance to his name. When the roster is finalised, we can expect a further 3-4 players to fall into the category of zero experience with the club. That injection of new blood represents almost fifty percent of the NRL squad.

Additionally, a further 10 pathways players have been involved in their first preseason, be they development contracted or at the next stage of their pathways experience. It’s certainly a nod to the caliber of young players that hold the key to the Eels future, and adds to the youthful energy at Kellyville.

Will that level of change be beneficial to the Eels campaign in 2021?

The more conservative analysts might rightly suggest that Parramatta are still twelve months or more away from optimum combinations or career sweet spots. Should injuries strike, that level of understanding and communication that exists with regular team mates would drop and the Eels are short on players with that level of familiarity.

New face – Bryce Cartwright

Alternately, one could take the perspective that the influx of new faces had become essential for the Eels to take the next step.

The new NRL squad members are on average about 2.5 years younger than the departing players, and bring different energies, physiques and skill sets to the squad. Remember, it’s not just by performances on the field that squad members contribute. If they can apply pressure through lower grade results, and lift the quality of the opposed sessions at training, that creates competition and improves the team’s preparation throughout the year.

And rather than the team being 12 months or more away from a title chance, the freshness of this squad might just be extending the period of any potential window.

Of course, there are still questions remaining. Three roster spots remain unfilled and they could have a huge impact on the season. Should Michael Jennings return a positive B sample, that’s another spot to be filled, not to mention the loss of a left side combination.

Every club has some level of uncertainty as they approach a new year. Maybe it’s in a key position. Perhaps they’re taking a punt on a new recruit, or juggling the egos or ambitions of players competing for a first grade berth. The Eels are no different.

As fans, we always start every season with renewed hope. And there is a genuine excitement about this Eels squad. There is stability in the top 14 – 15 players, the class of four current Origin squad members, and that influx of fresh faces. I reckon it’s a group with the capacity to use the last two years as building blocks.

I’ve said it before – bring on 2021.


Eels forever!




Images courtesy of Eels media



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John Eel

This is an interesting post Sixties. Just a couple of things. Where do you think our Spine rates in the NRL in terms of age and NRL games played. Certainly if not the least experienced, close to it. Secondly and possibly more importantly how long since either the Storm or the Roosters had a roster as young as ours. Certainly in the case of the Storm it would be in excess of a decade. The Raiders also have a roster with a lot of experience. That is not a criticism of either the Storm or the Roosters. It is an… Read more »


Good analysis Sixties. Happy with the infusion of new blood. I think Opacic debuted with the Broncos not the Titans.

Colin Hussey

Very interesting and different post sixties, makes for good analysis with a decent amount of speculation regarding the numbers of players along with futures. The big aspect for me is that the squad has gone back to a team that has a better spread of players that seemingly are younger as an overall compared to the past, especially pre the spoon year. Should MJ fail his B sample then most likely his replacement will bring the age down a bit, likewise by end of 2021, I am tipping the age will go down further. I believe that we are well… Read more »


Nice write up mate.
I really don’t know what to make of our squad for 2021 to be honest. I have real concerns over our defence in the centres considering Jenko was our only dependable defender and Waqa was terrible. If we don’t pick up a real top line centre to replace Jennings before round 1 I really think teams will carve us up on both sides.
I also think we need another big specialist prop to complete our rotation.


Your wishes will be granted. Burns and Lodge should be announced in the new year.

Colin Hussey

I for one would not like Lodge at the eels, had enough of seeing grubs with other clubs and last thing we need these days. Why would we want him here rather than going for Asiata?

Matthew Sweeney

I think Lodge has done his penance, but I just don’t think he can go up another gear, he is above a plodder but we need to aim higher. I would of thought that we are ok for props, provided hollis and Hughes live up to the boom. Maybe lodge could be ok, certainly big enuff

Colin Hussey

Its not a matter of whether he has done his penance or not, at least for me. From what I have seen of him, at the mules he has some up games but a lot more down games over all. I still come up with the aspect of WHY? are the Mules wanting to be rid of him? Their new coach wants to have a clean out of players, and having Lodge with them means he’s on big coin and blokes the prospect of getting a 2 for 1 player also, Lodge has had issues since his return to Oz… Read more »

Matthew Sweeney

I keep hearing how the speed of the game will mean the end of the big bopper,s , meanwhile they keep getting bigger.

Colin Hussey

It depends pretty much on the individual player and with the new rules to apply for this coming season, it wont take long to identify who can and who cannot make the top grade based on size alone, go back some years and 95Kg props were common, later though their sizes steadily grew in size and abilities, not all though had long careers until the bench and replacement rules came in. The same thing applies to some backline players as well, in fact I think there are some forwards that are bigger and a bit faster than some of the… Read more »

Matthew Sweeney

Thats a fair analysis.


They are big calls but I have heard that Burns and Lodge are both in deep in talks with Parra and should be announced in the New Year


I’m glad the fans don’t select the team either. I don’t particularly like the incident which brought Lodge before the public eye. But I am a firm believer in everyone getting a second chance if they are truly sorry for what they had done.
I also have confidence in our leadership being able to discern between those individuals who would be an asset to our club and those who could not. I just wonder if Lodge is agile enough to play left centre?


One of us is going to look silly re lodge , my moneys on you !!!!


Brisbane are prepared to pay the lions share of Lodge’s contract. This could be another astute purchase like RCG.
Although my only concern as mentioned above is; I’m not sure Lodge would be agile enough to play left centre Anon.


Pardon my ignorance Anon but, Joe Burns is likely to be dropped for the 3rd Test and Lodge is not a centre no matter how you look at it. Why would we be interested in either of them?

Colin Hussey

If the mules are prepared to pay a large proportion of his contract to be rid of him, that tends to tell me the player is not wanted, for what reason would that be? ATM Lodge is on $700K for the next two seasons, then a 2 year PO, which likely would include at least the same amount of money as now, would pretty much mean that we would be stuck with him for 4 years. Its a no for me, especially when I consider that the current forwards we have are more than capable to take us further, if… Read more »

Colin Hussey

Sixties, I would really be disappointed if he was signed by the eels. As I said, we have a great pack of forwards as it is now, with some potentially pathways players making their mark to the NRL team, if anything signing Lodge could actually damage the club with some of our better players, wanting out, and same with the younger ones, especially those off contract end of 2021.


Pretty sure he battled injury and maybe didn’t back up well when he returned, the Broncs were in a mess.


Couldn’t agree more Sixties. You don’t pay silly $$$ for props in my view and we have two good ones, and a couple of good ones on the way up. No Lodge.


Hes a bit of a bargain though. Broncos are willing to pay 400k of a 750k contract. In my books thats a pretty good deal. Plus he’ll be on the same money as what Alvaro was.


Tks sixties, good profile. Bart Cummings liked to get about 10,000 metres of racing into the legs of horses before a Melbourne Cup, are you thinking we’re at 6-8k on the Bart scale?


Sixties, excellent points of reference in your last paragraph mate. Of the many elements that contributed to the accumulation of our current 27/30 man squad, I would suggest that the courage to make such wholesale changes and detailed planning which was required to get “X” number of players out while identifying and pursuing the replacement “X” was probably overlooked by many. But, as you noted, there is quite a degree of stability in the top 14-15 players. This is clearly an asset when deciding what should be achieved to make up the rest and who might be available to fill… Read more »

Jim Muir

We need a centre, at the very least to put pressure on players to win their spot in the team, not just walk into it. Is there any talk about Corey Allan from the bunnies. I know he doesn’t currently play centre but he is a big body and looks very versatile to me. He has the taste of first grade and I think could be worth a look at.

John Eel

Jim after his last game against the Eels it appears he likes playing at Bankwest.

Does he want to play centre? Good backup for FB

Colin Hussey

Haven’t really taken a lot of notice of him, but IIRC played ok for the Maroons in the SOO match. Just had a read about him & appears he has been given the ok to look outside of the bunnies, he could well be vg signing especially for the backs. Would put some youth in the backs with a fair degree of options for him.


Re Matt Lodge; there are 2 factors I recall have not been mentioned here. 1. Matta Lodge is a Balmain Wests Tigers junior. Our Football manager Mark O’Neil is a Tigers legend who captained that team in 2005 to win the GF. Lodge He was able to get straight to the man we wanted from the Wests Tigers (Mitchell Moses) when he wanted out before anyone else could put an offer together. 2. Matt Lodge is a representative front rower who was spoken of as a potential Captain. Broncos for whatever reason do not want him today and would be… Read more »

Colin Hussey

So, we pick up Lodge and potentially will lose Hughes & Hollis, maybe other forwards. Looking at the eels team page, we have 15 forwards shown, and 12 backs, I would suggest that we would be better placed getting a couple of quality backs, such as chasing Staggs for starters.


Gutho has a “big body” and we know how versatile he is too and look how he was found out playing out of position in the centre, Jim. Where ever we can find an available player for a particular position it is best we do that by my experience.


Sixties, we can definitely make the top 4 again BUT i say we need to improve those minor areas from this year and for me its the last tackle options; defence in the wider areas and of course our composure in the game; this is more game management- our players need to continue to be consistent and also improve and this for me is with the coaching staff in a big way. They must continue to improve our team defensively first and foremost; and then composure wise.
Happy 2021.


Lodge got interviewed towards the end of the season and all he did was swear and blame. He was going on how there are “no f….en leaders” at the Bronx. Isn’t a prop on 700,000 a leader?
The bloke is toxic. Dodge the Lodge

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