Major concern over Eels after key spot left bare

Major concern over Eels after key spot left bare

The Eels were the great enigma of the NRL in 2023, beating premiers Penrith twice yet going on to become only the second team in the past decade to go from grand finalist to missing the top eight.

It’s clear Parramatta has the roster to make the finals – the fact that despite the disaster of 2023 they signed just two fringe first graders in Kelma Tuilagi (Sea Eagles) and Morgan Harper (Sea Eagles) shows that.

But they need to put it all together more consistently in what shapes as a make-or-break season for coach Brad Arthur and several of his big names.

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Go-forward has been a highlight of the Eels’ performances in recent years but was sadly lacking last season – only the veteran Reagan Campbell-Gillard and new boy J’maine Hopgood had productive campaigns in the engine room.

Youngster Wiremu Greig should provide some more firepower up front but the man the Eels really need to reproduce his best is the giant Junior Paulo.

The big man with slick hands can be a match winner but was well down in stats in both running metres and post contact metres in 2023 and hopefully with a good off-season behind him, will come out of the blocks firing and help the Eels pack regain that hard edge.

THE NO.9 DILEMMA

Hooker proved a problem for the Eels last season with the departure of the busy Reed Mahoney to the Bulldogs.

The Eels gambled on a 33-year-old coming off a knee reconstruction to replace him and Josh Hodgson struggled, eventually retiring due to injury.

They decided against going into the marketplace for a top class No.9 this summer – and the spot looks like being shared between Joey Lussick and Brendan Hands.

Both are fair players – but do they have the polish to get the Eels to finals footy in the key dummy-half role?

Time will tell.

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