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Parramatta Eels 2019 Season Review

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

Wins: 14

Losses: 10

Points: 30

Byes: 1

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.

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  • What is worth reflecting on is the style and enjoyment the players got from the game against the Broncos.If they can play that way consistently and learn from the Storm game about how to learn, hold and manage a psychological strength as part of their makeup we should be a top 4 side.

    • Yeah TAD. I liked the way we attacked with both our defence and attack that day. With and without the ball. Great attitude and energy.I hope to see more of that.

      • Yes HOE. What let us down big time last year was our mental strength which lost us many close games. I am not sure where BA is in recognising how important it is to be trained for that part of the game. Sometimes mental strenth is not an issue when things click. Some may think a good pep talk will do the trick.Thats not good enough at finals time. They really need that type of training, awareness and learning  from first training sessions. It  takes time to learn that as a genuine Sport competitive skill.Some find it naturally others need more training.  Eg Browns i ability to contain anger and frustration and eventual sin binning and loss of subsequent game time. Sometimes a one on one approach is necessary for some players. Everybody is different and someplayers need extra help. Leadership issues around reading a game ,influencing adjustments,and controlling possession are also key things we need to work on..Knowing how to tactfully weaken oppositions mental strength is also taking it to another coaching level

        • Yeah agree TAD. Pep-talk isn't enough. It's gotta be in the blood. DNA. Drilled.

          We're improving, but need better systems. Look at the Roosters and Storm for evidence.

  • Good blog, Super. We needed a summary. Hope the family & little guy are doing well, mate.

    Positives in 2019. Great improvement to get to 5th:

    1. Better team attitude and bonding, that started in the pre-season. Brad Arthur has to be applauded for helping that too. Brad toughened up a bit more making players more accountability performances as well. Alvaro & Mannah dropped. Evans perform his best for years. We also have stability up-top administratively which also helps.
    2. Good recruitment: Around the park attacking weapons and grunt, in Junior, Sivo, Fergo, Lane and Dylan that added class as well. 
    3. Improved cohesion of the spine and less 2018 confusion around game management with Dylan and Moses working better than Norman-Moses. 

    Negatives. We're still not really contenders:

    1. We still can't handle pressure and obstacles well. Inconsistent. Win big. Lose big. Great at home, but we failed to win one away game against a top-8 side. We failed to handle the pressure the likes of the Storm & Roosters when they up the ante. 
    2. Our defence especially around the ruck was atrocious at times. We need to toughen up. Stiffen up. We were soft-bellied at times. We need to put a lot of emphasis on improving this area.
    3. Not convinced we have enough grunt in the forwards. If we lose Nathan Brown in 2020 for any considerable time, pending any new recruits other than RGB, it will spell the death of us unless we stiffen up our ruck defence and overall defensive resilience.

    A warning for the future, comes from David Gower who said back in August 2019, he felt there was a "complacency" in the 2018 pre-season after finishing 4th in 2017. Let's learn from that.

    Great effort for this year, but the job's not done. Let's get it done boys in 2020.

    • Win Big lose big  HOE. When you have players like Fergo and Sivo do some individual brillant plays that inspires confidence  and excitable energy. If they are contained that confidence can be dented and you need to fall back on mental diciplines aroung possession management and mental attrition to wear down the opposition. Those two games against Broncs and Storm were a very good example what needs to be addressed. Mental disciplines areound mental toughness. If you don,t have it around finals time you will not get too far

      • Tad,  While Sivo was vg and did some great things, he still has a lot to learn in regards to playing in the NRL, rules of the game reading the defence and moreso the attack down his side of the field where he gets caught out a lot.

        Fergo, after his late injury and time out of the game lessened his ability and to me he came back too soon, but with big games coming up he was ok until the Storm and they really showed him up, the Storms first try was an embarrasment for Fergo, as he gave up as he knew he had no way of getting his defence right/

        • Yes Colin I felt much the same.Fergo seemed to have come back a lot lighter. I am not sure but I think he may be off for periods next year with unrecovered persistent injuries next year as well.

          Sivo has been a wonderful addition. He can really lift the sides spirit.--100% confidence about him.He seems to take his mistakes seriously--love his attitude

  • Super when i go to send a PM yesterday all i get is a plain blue screen after ive hit the message box.

    Can you please sort that out?

    Thanks

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