Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
In 2022 the Parramatta Eels had their best season in 13 years as they qualified for the NRL Grand Final but unfortunately fell to the Penrith Panthers at the final hurdle.
There is always pressure on the previous season’s runners-up to at the very least qualify for the finals again the next season.
However, the Eels may be under more pressure than most teams that have been in their position as their premiership drought is on the cusp of lasting for a 37th year and they have lost multiple stars to rival clubs.
Most notably hooker Reed Mahoney is off to the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs in a move that weakens what was a solid Parramatta spine while arguably the best second-rower in Rugby League Isaiah Papali’i is off to last year’s wooden spooners the Wests Tigers.
Ray Stone has moved to The Dolphins which further weakens the Eels stocks at hooker as Oregan Kaufusi joins the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks and Marata Niukore joins the New Zealand Warriors.
Parramatta supporters already have quite a mixed relationship with head coach Brad Arthur but if his side manages to slip out of the top eight next season, which very well could happen, then his credibility with the fans will be completely tarnished and he could be forced to seek pastures new.
Not only are the Eels under pressure in the sense that they now have to not only try to match what they did last season but simply make the finals with a severely weaker squad, they are also under pressure in the transfer market as Parramatta have even more talent coming off contract that are currently able to negotiate with other clubs.
Star halfback Mitchell Moses has an option in his favour for 2024 while first-grade talent such as Dylan Brown, Maika Sivo, Waqa Blake and Will Penisni are all coming off contract after next season.
Both Moses and Brown have reportedly already been heavily scouted by multiple clubs.
As always the Eels will be one of the NRL’s most talked about clubs in 2023 but unfortunately it could be in quite a negative light if they do drop off and lose some of their best talent.
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