Moeroa and Eels look ahead to right wrongs
Parramatta back-rower Tepai Moeroa says the only discussion the club has had about its nightmare 2016 season was an address from coach Brad Arthur when the players returned for the 2017 pre-season.
"You can't change it now, so just worry about what you can do in 2017," was the simple mantra from Arthur to his players.
The club will look to get off to a bright start when the first football of the year is played in Auckland at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines.
Among the more serious penalties imposed on the club for major salary cap breaches wrought by a since-dismissed administration was the stripping of the 2016 Auckland Nines trophy – the club's first serious silverware since the 1986 premiership.
That one still smarts a little for the players given all clubs leave the majority of their highest-paid players at home and several retired greats have gone over as part of an NRL Nines squad from outside their club's salary cap.
Moeroa confessed to being somewhat baffled by the logic in that penalty but insisted the club would be looking to reclaim the trophy on the first weekend in February.
"Day one [of pre-season] Brad pretty much said that we can't change what's happened in the past, that's out of our control but what we can control is what happens in the 2017 season," Moeroa told NRL.com.
"That's what we'll focus on, righting the wrongs."
That all starts as soon as February 4 in Auckland.
"'BA' will pick the team a couple of weeks before the tournament. It will definitely be a strong team but we'll be looking to get that trophy back and bring it back home," Moeroa said.
The fact Parramatta won enough NRL games in 2016 to chalk up 30 competition points, which would have seen them play September but for a 12-point salary cap penalty, gives the club confidence those feats can be repeated in 2017 with those distractions gone.
"The boys, we just want to get to Round 1 and start playing some footy. If we get there and start playing some good footy, you never know, come September we're hopefully in the finals," Moeroa added.
"We definitely have the team to make the finals, it just depends how we perform. Rugby league is a tough competition and to compete week in week out is what will get us there to October."
Among all the other, board-level dramas for the Eels in 2016 was the fact that two of their best players – winger Semi Radradra and half Corey Norman – had their input restricted by off-field disciplinary issues.
Moeroa said Norman had returned to training and picked up where he left off, as a serious leader of the team, while Radradra – who continues to visit his ill father in Fiji at every opportunity while also readying for a court case to answer domestic violence charges as well as fielding offers from French Rugby – has been training well since his return.
"Semi's good, he's been training the house down, that's all we can ask from him," Moeroa said.
"He's part of the team, whatever other issues he has going on outside football that's between him and the management. We're here to support him but there's nothing that involves us beside football.
"The boys are just there for support, whatever he needs the boys will be there to give him a helping hand."
Of Norman, Moeroa added: "he's leading the forwards around, controlling the halves, he's stepping up his game and realising that he can push for rep honours and I think he might have some personal goals that he wants to try and achieve.
"Corey Norman, he's built for the big stage. If he gets the call up to play Origin at some stage he'll grab it with two hands and I'm sure he'll kill it."
Of his own Origin hopes, which he hasn't tried to hide in recent years, Moeroa said: "I've just got to have a big year this year and hopefully try and push for an Origin spot. We'll see what happens. I've got to focus on the season. We've got to have a big year as a team and we'll see what happens from there."