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NRL Profile: Parramatta Eels

The Parramatta Eels were the epitome of a mid-table side last time out in the NRL, as they finished the season in tenth spot, winners of 12 and losers of 12 regular season games.

That meant they finished one win short of the finals in a year in which they lost four games by a margin of four or less, ensuring the Eels were left to rue a massive missed opportunity in 2023.

Coming so close to making it back to the playoffs last season will likely only add fuel to Parramatta's fire as they look to end what is nearing a four-decade premiership drought heading into the 2024 campaign.

The Eels are 1.90 for a Top 8 Finish this season, while they trade at 23.00 to go and win the Grand Final itself. 

Proving 2022 was not a once-off

Parramatta went all the way to the Grand Final in 2022 and many well-placed observers had them down as contenders again going into last season. 

After missing the finals altogether last year, that final appearance is in serious danger of being viewed as little more than a flash in the pan. 

The likes of Mitch Moses, Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo are in their prime, so there's plenty reason for optimism around Brad Arthur's squad.

However, it is now 37 years with an NRL title and that wait is weighing heavy on the Eels followers.

Room for improvement

For the second year in a row Parramatta offloaded more than any other team in the NRL last season, but it came at the cost of set completions and that's going to be an area where improvements are targeted in 2024.

An average completion rate of 75.2 last season was worse than any club bar the Sydney Roosters.

J'maine Hopgood and Bryce Cartwright – who had 108 offloads them between them in 2023 – are excellent practitioners but Parramatta need to find a better balance this year if they are to challenge teams up near the top of the ladder. 

Discipline is another area of concern for Arthur. Last season Parramatta had players miss a combined 22 weeks due to bans.

Stars including Ryan Matterson, Junior Paulo, Maika Sivo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard all spent key moments of the season looking on, while Dylan Brown missed all of rounds 15-23.

Keeping their top performers free of suspension will be a high priority in 2024.

Gutherson remains to the fore

Clint Gutherson, who was named the Eels' Player of the Year for a second time in 2023, will once more have a leadership role to play in the season ahead.

The 29-year-old fullback has the role of captain and is known for his competitiveness and his unparalleled effort and desire, ensuring Gutherson is a Parramatta Eels favourite and fondly known as 'The King' by fans.

He is closing in on 200 career appearance in the NRL and a century of tries (currently 190/91) and he had a kicking conversion rate of 76 per-cent in 2023, while making 14 try assists and 71 tackle breaks with a tackle efficiency of 79 per-cent.

Key signings

The Eels will hope the signing of Kelma Tuilagi will allow them to settle on a back-row partnership in 2024.

There were various combinations tried last season but the Toa Samoa international is set to add a different dynamic to what is a talented pack.

Tuilagi's first two seasons in the NRL with the Wests Tigers were hugely encouraging and it is probably worth forgiving a disappointing time with the Sea Eagles last time out.

He has plenty of raw power, but also the footwork to go with it and could turn out to be an astute pick up by Brad Arthur.

Opening fixtures

It all begins for the Eels on Saturday 9th March with the visit of the Bulldogs to the CommBank Stadium in Sydney. 

Given the Belmore-based Bulldogs finished last season in 15th, Parra will be targeting a winning start and they are 1.48 to get it.

A trip to Penrith Panthers awaits in round 2 before the Manly Sea Eagles arrive in Sydney on Sunday 24th March and the West Tigers following them on Monday 1st April as the Eels play three of their first four games on home soil.

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