I posted a mid-season review earlier in the year and thought it only right that I round that out with a full season review.
Ladder Position: 5
Overall mark: B
Following their disastrous 2018 season, not much was expected of the Eels in 2019. Virtually all pundits had them finishing outside the eight while even diehard fans thought the team would be battling in the final rounds to grab a finals spot.
Parramatta though had a strong second half of the season which saw them complete an impressive turnaround that had head coach Brad Arthur on the shortlist for Dally M coach of the year.
The return to their spiritual homeground in Parramatta played a key role in the Eels' form with the side losing just one game at Bankwest throughout the season.
There was a noticeable shift in the consistency of the team once boom rookie Dylan Brown returned from a bank injury and inspirational lock Nathan Brown returned from a torn pec muscle suffered in round one.
The addition of Waqa Blake mid-season from the Panthers gave the Eels two genuine NRL quality centres with the veteran Michael Jennings re-discovering some of his best form.
Maika Sivo went on to dominate from the wing, finishing the season as the NRL's top try scorer in his rookie year.
Mitchell Moses also enjoyed his best personal season in the NRL which netted him the Dally M Halfback of the Year award and selection to both the Prime Ministers XIII squad and the Australian World Cup Nines squad where he collected the man of the series award.
Coming into this season there was criticism of the Eels' perceived inability to put teams to the sword when given the opportunity. Blow out wins against the Titans, Tigers and Broncos showed an improvement in being able to take advantage of field position and possession.
Parramatta's season was capped by an absolute demoliton of the Brisbane Broncos in week one of the finals which saw the Blue and Gold run out 58-0 winners, netting the largest winning margin in finals history and inflicting the Broncos with the heaviest defeat in their proud history.
The win over Brisbane was also Parramatta's first finals victory since 2009.
Ultimately the Eels' season came to a disappointing end agains the Storm in Melbourne, crashing out 32-0.
What does 2020 hold?
Parramatta have begun recruiting for the next season with Penrith and former NSW prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard already being announced. The Eels will also need to find replacements for the departing Manu Ma'u (Super League) and Tepai Moeroa (NSW Waratahs).
The late season form of now-utility Brad Takairangi will likely see the Cook Islands representative re-signed on a one year deal while Jennings has supposedly penned a deal for a further two seasons.
Dylan Brown is likely to be further upgraded after a strong debut season while hooker Reed Mahoney is a strong candidate to enter the QLD Origin set up in 2020.
Juniors Ray Stone and Oregon Kaufusi enjoyed some regular first grade games and will likely be part of the NRL squad full time given the retirement of Tim Mannah and the likely retirement of journeyman David Gower. Outside back Ethan Parry also made his NRL debut and will be called up should an injury crisis hit the backline.
Parramatta will need to find a back up hooker following the retirement of Matt McIlwrick who joined the club mid-season while Kaysa Pritchard also announced his retirement.
There are rumours that have linked both the Tigers and Eels junior Ryan Matterson and NSW Origin backrower Angus Crichton to the club. The recruitment of either of those players will be a welcome addition to the side.
Brad Arthur and his coaching staff are now tasked with lifting the Eels from a strong top eight side into the top four and Premiership contenders. The team can still display a soft underbelly when things don't go their way and this ultimately proved to be their undoing at the end of the season.
Next year the team will have to perform with the weight of expectations on their shoulders as fans will rightly expect the side to match or even better their 2019 results.
The Eels are in a good position to improve. They have a young spine that has grown in experience alongside an aggressive forward pack. Mitchell Moses will be expected to further improve into both a match winner and game manager as Dylan Brown prepares for his second and hopefully injury free season of first grade.
If Parramatta are to become Premiership contenders and be spoken about alongside the likes of the Roosters, Storm and now the Raiders, then 2020 will have to be the year they assert those credentials. A slip backwards could prove fatal to the coaching career of Brad Arthur whereas a top four finish would make him the first Parramatta coach since Brian Smith to finish multiple years in the top four and play in back-to-back finals series.
A strong indicator of Parramatta's hopefully extended run at the finals was the way in which they won games. Unlike 2017 they didn't rely on one freak of nature to win games, instead they possessed weapons across the park and particularly at the back end of the season, ground out results when they needed to. They also seem to be planning for the future a lot more this time around given the recent promotion of juniors, recruitment of players in their mid-20s of genuine quality and the reintroduction of the Eels back into the NSW Cup rather than feeding through Wentworthville.