Ricky's NRL Preview Pt 7: Parramatta Eels

Part 7 of the previews already – time flies. A big 2014 beckons for the Parramatta Eels as they look to make amends for two lacklustre seasons in 2012 and 2013. Can they force their way up the ladder and push for a potential finals spot or will they once again languish at the bottom of the ladder?

GAINS: William Hopoate (Mormon Mission) Corey Norman (Brisbane Broncos), Lee Mossop(Wigan) Nathan Peats (South Sydney Rabbitohs) Brenden Santi (Wests Tigers) Justin Hunt (South Sydney Rabbitohs) Liam Foran (Salford City Reds) David Gower (Manly Sea Eagles) John Brady (Redcliffe Colts) Toby Evans (Penrith Panthers) Evander Cummins (St George Illawarra Dragons) Adam Timler & Chris Chalmers – 1 month deals (Canada)

For any Eels fans, the last two years especially have been tough. Back-to-back wooden spoons, a coaching merry-go-round and seemingly no end in sight to the misery. Fast-track to 2014, though, and with a new coach, a new system and new recruits that have the potential to re-shape the side, the signs are at least looking a bit more promising for the Eels in 2014.
Of course, promise does not always transcend into results but if the team as a whole step up and perform, they may be able to challenge for a decent finals spot and make life difficult for opposition teams.

Despite all this, Eels fans are standing by their club – a true testament to them – and with so much promise ahead for the 2014 season, they are hoping for bigger and better things. With some problem areas in the past in regards to positions, the Eels have rectified that and signed a talented, creative five-eighth in Corey Norman and a solid, versatile hooker in Nathan Peats.
With five-eighth and hooker two areas that the Eels have struggled at in the past, can these two buck the trend, produce stellar seasons and have the impact that so many Eels fans are expecting them to have?

Despite all that, much like any other team, there are question marks. How will Brad Arthur go in his first full year as the coach of the Eels? Will Jarryd Hayne stay fit enough to lead the Eels charge during the season? Which other players are going to step up in the season and can they have enough of an impact to change the course of a game?

One player that everyone will have their eyes on, though, is Will Hopoate. After a two-year Mormon mission that saw him leave the game, he is back and ready to get stuck into the season ahead. Everyone is well aware of what he is capable of based on his stellar performances for Manly and NSW before he departed for his mission but the game can change a fair bit in two years and the question remains, is Will Hopoate ready for the first-grade rigours again? How long before he hits his stride in the back-line? In light of all that, Eels fans are hopeful that Hopoate can find that form he had before his Mormon mission as they have been crying out for a solid centre for some time, as to take the pressure off Jarryd Hayne from fullback. Hopoate may well become a revelation once more and if he does so, he will definitely help the Eels chances in 2014.

Another player facing the pressure and preparing for a big 2014 is halfback Chris Sandow. His gambling issues and concerns http://aqabazone.com/sb/cialis.php were well publicised and well documented last year, and that saw him miss the last six weeks or so of the season as a result. Back in the swing of things rugby league wise and seemingly ready to get stuck in after a rehabilitation period to overcome his issues, Sandow will push hard for a spot. Eels fans are divided in this regard – that is, when it comes to the halfback position – with some believing Sandow is the man for job despite his defensive woes, whereas others believe Luke Kelly is the player for the role.
With Sandow the more creative of the two based on his ad-lib style of play, hole-running and infectious playing nature, his playing can perhaps bring out the fun side in his team, himself and the organisation as a whole during games.

For those that believe Kelly is the answer at halfback, they believe so based on what they see as his ability to organise the play and his ability to defend more solidly than Sandow. Although Kelly is yet to set the world on fire and truly put his organisational skills to good use, he will have no better time to do so than Rd 1, should he be picked.
As an Eels fan myself – and a diehard one at that, as some of you may know – Chris Sandow is the halfback moving forward if you ask me, purely on the basis that his off-the-cuff style and dynamic nature are what can change games and produce consistent try-scoring opportunities.

All in all, there are a lot of new things at the Eels, a lot of changes and a renewed sense of hope and optimism. With the club unable to sink any lower, the only way is up – and for Eels fans – they will be hoping that the climb to the top can be a steady one, starting with a decent season. They have the cavalry, the core of players, the youth and experience and the structure to do it, but can they produce on the field where it matters most?

Player to Watch: Kelepi Tanginoa. He tasted first-grade in 2013 and would have played more games had injury not reared its ugly head but if you are yet to see Tanginoa in action, you may well be pleasantly surprised. A huge, hulking kid – his size and upper body strength need to be seen to be believed – Tanginoa has all the potential to become a crucial cog in the Eels back-row moving forward. Destructive on the fringes and using his size, power and acceleration to good use, the young back-rower is primed for a stellar season in 2014. With the coaching staff and fans alike having huge wraps on Tanginoa and his ability, it is only a matter of time before he makes an even bigger impact at both club level and representative level.

Here’s the Eels side I’d go with:

1. Jarryd Hayne
2. Ken Sio
3. Will Hopoate
4. Willie Tonga
5. Ryan Morgan
6. Corey Norman
7. Chris Sandow
8. Tim Mannah (C)
9. Nathan Peats
10. Fuifui Moimoi
11. Kelepi Tanginoa
12. Peni Terepo
13. Darcy Lussick

14. Joseph Paulo
15. Junior Paulo
16. Ken Edwards
17. Manu Ma’u