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Parramatta take some big steps forwards in 2017 despite finals exit

A STRAIGHT sets finals exit may have taken some of the gloss off Parramatta’s season but the Eels still came a long way in 2017.

Here’s what went right and what went wrong in a watershed season that ended with the Eels making the finals for the first time since 2009.

WHERE THEY FINISHED

Parramatta surged into the top four before they exited the finals in straight sets with losses to eventual grand finalists Melbourne and North Queensland.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Apart from the end, very little. Parramatta came a long way from their disastrous 2016 season and returned to finals football for the first time since 2009.

However, the meek exit against the Cowboys will leave a bad taste in the blue and gold’s mouths — especially given the Eels gave Melbourne a hell of a scare the week before.

A truly woeful second half, filled with basic handling errors, put paid to Parramatta’s hopes of ending their long wait for another premiership.

Parramatta were expected to beat the Cowboys in the finals.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

A whole hell of a lot. Mitchell Moses was a smashing success once he joined the club from Wests Tigers and Nathan Brown was one of the best buys of the season. Corey Norman was brilliant for the first three quarters of the season before he faded late and Clint Gutherson was in white-hot form before a knee injury ended his season.

The meek finish to the year belies just how far the Eels came over the last 12 months and they’ll have their eye on another finals berth next year.

STAT THAT SUMPS UP THE SEASON

Here’s Mitchell Moses’s attacking stat line in the 16 games he played for Parramatta — 14 try assists, 17 line break assists, four line breaks, one try and 31 goals. In the 10 games he played for the Tigers, he managed only two try assists, two line breaks and four line break assists. Moving to Parramatta worked out terrifically for Moses — he immediately found the form he showed in the latter stages of 2016 and his combination with Corey Norman grew by the week. He gave the Eels a creative outlet outside of Norman and some of the passes he was able to throw were truly spectacular, such as the brilliant ball he gave to Will Smith in the qualifying final against Melbourne.

If Parramatta are to win the premiership, it will be on the shoulders of Moses. Look for him to get even better as he gets a full off-season training alongside Clint Gutherson and Norman.

Moses hit top form once he switched to Parramatta.

IT’S A SHAMBLES!

The Eels forward pack was a collective effort in 2017. Apart from Nathan Brown, none of the regular middle forwards (Suaia Matagi, Daniel Alvaro, Siosaia Vave and Tim Mannah) averaged over 100 metres gained for the season.

All four of those players and the fiery Brown are hardworking grinders who did a fine job but the Eels could very much do with a more dynamic presence in the middle of the field to round out their rotation.

Kane Evans joins from the Roosters and Brad Arthur will be hoping the Fijian giant can fit that bill. Evans has some real ability but didn’t quite hit his stride in his four years at Bondi.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE SEASON

The devastating 52-34 win over the Broncos in Brisbane, capped by Semi Radradra’s four tries, was a performance that had Parramatta fans dreaming of a premiership.

LOWLIGHT OF THE SEASON

The final match, a listless 24-16 loss to North Queensland in the second week of the finals.

BIG-NAME RECRUITS

Kane Evans (Sydney Roosters),

BIG-NAME LOSSES

Isaac De Gois (retired), Jeff Robson (retired), Jamal Fogarty (released), Semi Radradra (Toulon)

WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT YEAR?

Best case scenario

Moses and Norman continue their development as a duo and combine well with Clint Gutherson upon his return from a knee injury.

Bevan French bulks up a little over the off season and takes over from Semi Radradra as the club’s resident superhuman try-scoring machine.

Kane Evans gives the club the extra punch they need in the middle, Kaysa Pritchard stays healthy and the Eels make the top four again.

Worst case scenario

Gutherson isn’t quite the same when he comes back and the Eels can’t compensate for it. Radradra’s loss is keenly felt, not only in terms of tryscoring but in his underrated work from his own end.

The forwards remain brave and physical but can’t consistently create space for the backs. Kaysa Pritchard breaks down again.

The Eels stagnate and miss the finals again.

COACH SAFETY RATING

Brad Arthur has done a superb job with recruitment and development in his four full seasons as head coach and will be in charge of the Eels for some time.

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Pretty fair assessment. Let's hope the Best Case Scenario plays out rather than the worst, although I still don't want to see Kaysa as the starting 9......

Totally agree, and people that tell you not to get excited at the start really know nothing. Why not enjoy your team from round one!!

There's certainly some things for BA to think about; where to play Gutho and Bevo, does Kaysa or King get the number 9, when to bring in some of the promising U20s. I'm excited but also very nervous about next year - a lot of things can go right but they can also go very wrong.

I'd love to see Ray Stone get a crack as well as Fainga the 2nd rower

He looks promising but it is a massive step up.  I think it is a little too early but a few have said the same thing.  

I tell you one thing, if he picks Kaysa over King it shows that he’s got no Farking idea.
That decision to play Kaysa in the most important game of the season cost us the game I reckon- Kaysa is a deadset plodder and a speed hump who can’t pass for shit.
I think the best comment is how far we have come in the last 12 months.

Having the disarray of the salary cap the loss of talent to turn that mess around sniffs of good coaching and a strong front office.

To me going foward stability is the key and the development of the talent we have with a couple of additions in the fowards would be nice.

The key off season descion for me is whose the starting Hooker is and the further development of our spine.
Great assessment. I'm still over the moon that we played finals footy. Ok, it's been a rough trot as an eels supporter and so I am pleased easily with only marginal success, but I'm still stoked. The best thing to come out of this year is that we now KNOW that BA has that little bit of Bellamy in him and can turn average forwards into very good ones and we will be up there and a real force for a few years at least.
Ray stone will play first grade next year very good defender
Good assessment. Regarding next year a part of me says we won't be as good as this year, Then the other part tells me we'll be even better and take that next step to finally ending our premiership drought. My conclusion is if we don't have to many injuries and our halves stay healthy we'll be lifting the Telstra premiership come the first Sunday in October!

Selective quote -  a listless 24-16 loss to North Queensland

The harshest critic on the site says THIS ^^^ is what defined our season - the ability to still be able to snatch a resounding loss from the jaws of victory.

LISTLESS - UNCOMMITTED - ILL DISCIPLINED - LACK OF LEADERSHIP UNDER PRESSURE.

After FOUR years at the helm THIS^^^^^^^^^^^ is what the Bush Coach has NOT managed to bring under control.

"The truth only offends those who do not want it exposed in public"

Here's hoping young Mitch Moses comes away from his stint as vice captain for Lebanon with the confidence to be THE authority at the Eels.

IF he does, then perhaps it would not be remiss of Bushy to leave him in that role with the Eels. Vice captain, none of this co captain BS.

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