Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
Photo by Newscorp
Parramatta was the benchmark for the first half of the 2020 NRL season but an end of season drop in form saw them just scrape into the top four.
Eels fans will be hoping for a more consistent year in 2021 and will be looking forward to these five games listed below.
ROUND 1 – BRISBANE BRONCOS
In recent years the Brisbane Broncos have for the most part become known as Parramatta’s whipping boys due to the sheer dominance that the Eels have displayed against the boys from the Sunshine State.
To kick off their 2019 NRL finals campaign, Parramatta handled a visiting Brisbane side easily, beating the Broncos 58-0 in a mind-boggling game.
We would see the Eels demolish Brisbane 34-6 to restart the 2020 season following the COVID break.
Heading into this one the Broncos were riding high after winning their first two games, but would only win once more for the rest of the year after being humbled by the Eels.
Parramatta will be keen on humbling Brisbane again when they meet in the first round of the 2021 NRL season.
ROUND 2 – MELBOURNE STORM
Seasons 2017, 2019 and 2020 would see the Parramatta Eels finish in the top five on the NRL ladder, with plenty of hype and hopes of a first premiership since 1986.
All three years would result in the Eels being eliminated before the Preliminary Final, and all three years would see the Blue and Golds be beaten by the Melbourne Storm in the finals.
In 2017, Melbourne would just beat Parramatta 18-16 and go on to win the Grand Final, while the Eels were eliminated the following week.
Two years later Parramatta was riding high after their aforementioned thrashing of the Broncos in the first week of the 2019 NRL finals series before they were brought back down to Earth and eliminated from the competition by the Storm 32-0.
Finally, the Eels put up more of a fight than many thought they would as they went down 36-24 losers against the Storm.
Melbourne would go on to win the Grand Final and Parramatta would be eliminated the next week, sound familiar?
A win against the Storm would not only be great for the Eels’ early-season momentum but a nice bit of revenge too.
Trials done and dusted 🤝 We see you Round One!!
— Parramatta Eels (@TheParraEels) February 27, 2021
ROUND 4 – WESTS TIGERS
Parramatta’s first “Battle of the West” in 2021 will be around four clash against the Wests Tigers on Easter Monday.
The annual clash has recently been moved to ANZ Stadium by the Tigers to draw a bigger crowd to the fixture than possible at BankWest Stadium.
Since becoming an annual matchup in 2014, the Easter Monday game has drawn a crowd of less than 30,000 on just two occasions, with one of those events taking place at the 30,000 seater BankWest stadium, making this one a proven draw that will hopefully be able to host a big crowd this year.
ROUND 8 – CANTERBURY BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
We are sticking with the “Battle of the West” theme with this one, as the Bulldogs and Eels do battle in round eight.
This traditional rivalry provided up with a couple of close games in 2020, despite the vast gap separating the two sides on the NRL ladder, with Parramatta claiming bragging rights in both meetings 8-2 and 18-16.
In recent years this fixture has also been known to draw above-average crowds, creating a unique atmosphere.
ROUND 16 – PENRITH PANTHERS
Another “Battle of the West” fixture to finish the list, but one that hits a little “close to home” as the Eels will face off against their local rivals in the Penrith Panthers.
Parramatta handed Penrith their first loss of the 2020 NRL in a game of the year contender early in the season, before two completely different looking clubs met later last season, as the Panthers beat the Eels 22-2.
They have to wait a while to get their chance, but Parramatta will be desperate to reclaim Western Sydney when the derby comes around in round 16.