NRL Round 1 predicted teams: Parramatta Eels – Arthur’s theme is stability but will it get ageing team back into finals?
As part of a series profiling the expected Round 1 sides for all 17 NRL clubs in 2024, it’s time to see if the Eels have what it takes to bounce back into title contention.
The Eels are banking on stability to become contenders again with an experienced squad containing the nucleus of the side which made the 2022 Grand Final.
Dylan Brown’s lengthy suspension mid-year sent them spiralling from top-four candidates to missing the finals altogether last season and Parra coach Brad Arthur stated recently that he thinks they can rise back up the ladder if the five-eighth stays on the field.
The Eels often lacked attacking spark last season but they have not been able to recruit a player who can give them some much-needed X-factor.
Mitchell Moses is an elite playmaker but unless Brown or Clint Gutherson can frequently create line breaks, opposing defences will target the star halfback.
Heading into Round 1, they have only a few positions up for grabs but whether their stability translates into wins remains to be seen.
Manly duo Kelma Tuilagi and Morgan Harper are interesting additions.
Tuilagi has been forced out following the return of Josh Schuster to the pack and he could give the Eels extra attacking thrust on the edges.
Harper has had his defensive issues but can also be a threat in attack and the Eels are a bit skinny for depth in the outside backs.
Ex-Raiders veteran Josh Hodgson has retired after playing just 12 matches for the Eels with a neck problem prompting him to call time on his career.
Andrew Davey has also been forced to quit due to concussions while fellow journeyman Jack Murchie has linked with Huddersfield and centre Waqa Blake has not been offered a new deal.
Key spots to unlock
Centre, hooker and second row are only pencilled into Arthur’s team sheet. Bailey Simonsson has been given a few chances at centre over the past couple of seasons without cementing the role, Sean Russell is in contention while Harper could get the nod after being brought in from Manly.
Bryce Cartwright consolidated a starting spot in the second row alongside Shaun Lane last season but Tuilagi could be considered a more reliable option, allowing Arthur to return Cartwright to an impact player from the bench.
Hooker has been a problem since Reed Mahoney joined the Bulldogs after the 2022 Grand Final. Hodgson’s stint was ended by injuries and with the Englishman now retired, Joey Lussick and Brendan Hands are the leading candidates for the No.9 jersey.
Round 1 predicted team
1 Clint Gutherson
2 Maika Sivo
3 Will Penisini
4 Bailey Simonsson
5 Sean Russell
6 Dylan Brown
7 Mitchell Moses
8 Junior Paulo
9 Joey Lussick
10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
11 Shaun Lane
12 Bryce Cartwright
13 J’maine Hopgood
14 Brendan Hands
15 Kelma Tuilagi
16 Ryan Matterson
17 Joe Ofahengaue
Other squad members: Daejarn Asi, Haze Dunster, Makahesi Makatoa, Zac Cini, Wiremu Greig, Toni Mataele, Tevita Taumoepenu, Ofahiki Ogden, Matt Doorey, Morgan Harper, Ky Rodwell, Jirah Momoisea.