The Eels responded to their critics by making it to the grand final and are looking to make it back to the big dance after losing to their biggest rivals Penrith Panthers.
A lot of optimism still exists with Parramatta, even with their big losses of Reed Mahoney and Isaiah Papali’i, and a deep squad has been constructed again.
Their new dummy half Josh Hodgson is looking to stay healthy and play a productive role in the blue and gold, question still remains who fills in their bench and remaining second rower spot for the Eels?
Will the new signings make up for the losses?
Parramatta has invested in depth and more talent in the forward pack.
Considering who they have lost, the new recruits have a lot to prove in a side looking to contend for the premiership.
With signing and retaining young talent who has yet to have an opportunity to get playing time or stability in developing their game, the Eels are looking for players ready immediately to make an impact and play a role that lands them back in the Grand Final.
The signings of Matt Doorey, J’Maine Hopgood and Jack Murchie could become more examples of Brad Arthur believing in raw prospects and finding a way to get the best out of them, turning them into legitimate players that are recognised with immediate value and talent and can contribute to winning and successful teams.
The new dummy half
After tearing his ACL in the first game of the 2022 season, Josh Hodgson is looking to find his footing and return to his best footy being played that saw Canberra Raiders attain a Grand Final spot in the 2019 season.
With his injury history, the dummy half spot for the Eels is a concern, significantly if he gets injured during the season.
Josh Hodgson when healthy is one of the better dummy halves in the league and would be a major contribution and valuable player for the Eels.
Hodgson’s experience and leadership in the middle and controlling, shifting the offence any which way is a new leap in Parramatta’s offence they did not have with a 23-year-old Reed Mahoney, who played a conservative attacking game, with his efforts prioritised in being one of the best defenders in his position.
Is Maiko Sivo’s and Waqa Blake’s Future in the air?
Maiko Sivo and Waqa Blake are in their contract years this season and after the 2022 season they had, two sides could be argued for their futures.
Considering they made it to the grand final with the back three of Clint Gutherson, Maiko Sivo and Waqa Blake, they still have room to get better and work on the areas of the game they struggled with.
In the final series run that saw them play in the Grand Final against Penrith, a lot of points were leaked on their edges and their defence struggled, especially when trying to gain yardage from Penrith’s kicking game.
Blake failed to set up to catch Nathan Cleary’s bombs and the back three miscommunicated on multiple occasions in both finals matches.
Sivo is a strong ball carrier from early ball plays and when the offence shifts right-to-left in momentum, using his size and physicality successfully more times than he doesn’t.
With the young talent coming up through the Parramatta ranks, their futures could be up in the air if Parramatta is not liking the performances of Sivo and Blake.
Player to watch
Scouters had J’Maine Hopgood as one of the next players coming up that could be a very special talent that suited today’s game.
Hopgood is a ball-playing, workhorse, small-ball mobile lock that can be a link man with the halves and has shown his direct-to-the-line game as a ball carrier.
As Penrith do not have room for him in their lineup, Hopgood tested the market and took the chance to play for Parramatta.
With Isaiah Papali’i heading to the Tigers, it allows Ryan Matterson to play the right-hand second-row spot or come off the bench and allow Hopgood to start in the lock position.
With the spine that Parramatta have, Hopgood is going to thrive as the lock forward for this team for years to come with the skill set Parramatta needs on the attack.
Gains and Losses
Gains: Daejarn Asi (New Zealand Warriors), Matt Doorey (Canterbury Bulldogs), Josh Hodgson (Canberra Raiders), J’Maine Hopgood (Penrith Panthers), Jirah Momoisea (Newcastle Knights), Jack Murchie (New Zealand Warriors)
Losses: Oregon Kaufusi (Cronulla Sharks), Reed Mahoney (Canterbury Bulldogs), Marata Niukore (New Zealand Warriors), Tom Opacic (Hull KR), Isaiah Papali’i (West Tigers), Hayze Perham (Canterbury Bulldogs), Ray Stone (Dolphins)
NRL News Predicted line-up (at full strength)
- Clint Gutherson
- Maika Sivo
- Will Penisini
- Sean Russell
- Haze Dunster
- Dylan Brown
- Mitch Moses
- Reagan Campbell-Gillard
- Josh Hodgson
- Junior Paulo
- Shaun Lane
- Matt Doorey
- J’Maine Hopgood
- Daejarn Asi
- Jirah Momoisea
- Jack Murchie
- Ryan Matterson.
Coach: Brad Arthur.