Mid-season Report Card: Eels

PARRAMATTA EELS
Mid-season Report Card


Position after 13 rounds: 13th
Wins: 4
Draws: 1
Losses: 7
Points: 11
Points diff: -109

Hope was high at Parramatta as the 2009 season rolled around. Despite a chaotic off-season that had seen coach Michael Hagan dramatically walk out on the club with a year remaining on his contract, the arrival of his replacement Daniel Anderson – a local boy who had assisted Brian Smith at the Eels before joining the Warriors in 2001 – had fans expecting a quick rise up the NRL ladder.
 
Such talk was clearly premature and Parramatta’s wobbly start to the season suggests it will take time for Anderson to make his mark.

The Eels have won just four of 12 games so far, with off-field dramas dominating headlines for much of the year. Halfback Brett Finch followed Hagan in departing early after being told his future at the club couldn’t be guaranteed, while the election of a new board has seen long-serving CEO Denis Fitzgerald take his final bow.

On the field the side has battled inconsistency and the loss of key players to injury, although the form of Jarryd Hayne since moving to fullback has been exceptional. A devastating loss to Cronulla in Round 12 looked to be the nail in Parramatta’s coffin for this year but out of the blue they upset in-form Newcastle at EnergyAustralia Stadium eight days later and the future suddenly doesn’t look quite so bleak.
 
Whether they can make the finals is debatable – but the Eels will be hoping to at least make some positive steps over the coming months.

Are Things Going To Plan? Anderson began the year by moving Hayne to five-eighth in an ill-fated attempt to get him more of the ball. In fact, it is the halves that have caused Parramatta the most heartache this season, with Finch gone and Kris Keating injured. The fact that the Eels look a long way from a finals prospect will disappoint everyone involved with the club but Anderson is gradually working at piecing the jigsaw together with Hayne on fire since moving to fullback and young gun Daniel Mortimer showing plenty of potential in his two NRL appearances. The Eels remain a work in progress.

Injury Front…
Parramatta’s Round 10 trip to Brookvale Oval proved a disaster – and not only because of the 34-10 flogging they received at the hands of their rivals. Playmaker Kris Keating, who had been one of their primary attacking threats this season, went down with a broken jaw that will see him sidelined for most of the year, while Feleti Mateo picked up a bicep injury and faces a similar stint watching from afar. The Eels are sweating on their return.

If Only… Parramatta have been wildly inconsistent this season but most frustrating of all has been the fact that they’ve saved their two worst performances of the year for the two sides currently languishing at the foot of the NRL ladder. A 24-6 loss to the Roosters in Round 4 was as forgettable as they come while they blew a late 10-4 lead at home to Cronulla in Round 12, going down 13-10.  

Who’s Flying…
Jarryd Hayne has been a shining light for the Eels since switching to fullback in Round 8. Hayne scored a try and set up two more against the Cowboys that night, was exceptional in scoring both tries in their 16-all draw with Souths in Round 11 and just happened to be the best man on the park for NSW too in the State of Origin opener.

Needs To Lift… Parramatta’s forward pack has a nasty habit of falling asleep for weeks at a time, with only Fuifui Moimoi and Nathan Hindmarsh impressing on a regular basis this season. It’s up to captain Nathan Cayless and his troops to start laying a regular platform for a backline that should be the envy of the NRL.

Daniel Anderson Tells NRL.com… “We have had some good moments but in general we’ve lacked consistency over 80 minutes. In the majority of our games I have seen a very, very good effort and a good attitude. We haven’t taken advantage of opportunities though and we’ve lacked quality in some execution. That’s what we need to work on.”

Predicted finish… The Eels should be looking to improve rapidly during the second half of the season but they are already five points out of the eight and a finals berth might be out of reach. Around 11th.

Under-20s… Much like the NRL squad, Parramatta’s Toyota Cup side has lacked consistency this season and find themselves in 13th – three points outside the top eight. But they boast plenty of talent – as evidenced by the impressive performances of young half Daniel Mortimer since being promoted to first grade two weeks ago. “The window of opportunity is open for those young players and Daniel is one that has taken that opportunity,” Anderson said. “He has handled the pressure of the situation very, very well, he has kept his feet on the ground and he has had plenty of responsibilities like kicking which is not easy in the NRL.” The Eels see fellow youngsters Albert Kelly and hooker Anthony Mitchell as tremendous prospects.