Season Preview – Parramatta Eels

Home Ground: Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta
Coach: Brad Arthur
2015 finish: 12th
2015 top pointscorer: Semi Radradra, 96
2015 top tryscorer: Semi Radradra, 24
2015 Player of the Year: Tim Mannah
Gains: Mitch Cornish (Raiders), Keiran Foran (Sea Eagles), Michael Gordon (Sharks), Clint Gutherson (Sea Eagles), James Hassan (Sea Eagles), Beau Scott (Knights)
Losses: Beau Champion (retired), Ben Crooks (Castleford Tigers), Richard Fa’aoso (retired), Will Hopoate (Bulldogs), Darcy Lussick (Sea Eagles), Pauli Pauli (Knights), Joseph Paulo (Sharks), Reece Robinson (rugby union)
Betting: 15-1

The fans at Parramatta are cock-a-hoop since the Eels recently won the Auckland Nines, thrashing the New Zealand Warriors 22-4 in the final.

It was their first major title in three decades since the balmy days of the likes of Mick Cronin, Peter Sterling, Brett Kenny, Ray Price and Eric Grothe

The last silverware to make it into the Parramatta trophy cabinet was the Winfield Cup for success in the 1986 ARL Premiership grand final.

And the Eels fans and players are buoyed by the fact that the winners of the only other two Nines tournament – North Queensland Cowboys and South Sydney Rabbitohs – have since won NRL Premierships.

The Parramatta team after winning the Auckland Nines
The Parramatta team after winning the Auckland Nines

There will be a heavy weight on the shoulders of the prize recruit, Kiwis stand-off Keiran Foran.

Coach Brad Arthur has already indicated his faith by naming Foran as Parramatta’s captain.

His halfback partner Corey Norman struck form in the pre-season and the pair will be a thorn in the side of every opposition team.

Test stars Michael Jennings and Beau Scott have added much-needed experience.

Goalkicking fullback Michael Gordon comes from Cronulla with impeccable credentials.

And Manly pair – Ireland World Cup prop Jack Hassan and former Australian Schoolboys utility back Clint Gutherson – are both players of the future.

Of course, there is also the Fijian excitement machine Semi Radradra who scored a Parramatta club record 24 tries in just 18 appearances last year to top the NRL listings.

He will go on with the job this year.

Radradra made the World XIII last year.
Radradra made the World XIII last year.

One major question mark hung over the Eels as this edition went to press – whether or not Parramatta would lose four competition points because of salary cap mismanagement last season.

But sources within the club say an agreement has been negotiated with the NRL to prevent them being behind the eight-ball before their season kicks off on Thursday.