Parramatta NYC coach Luke Burt says he is indescribably proud of what his charges achieved in 2017 despite a heartbreaking last-gasp grand final loss to Manly, adding the future at the Eels across all grades looks bright.
The young Eels at one stage of the year were just clinging onto finals contention amid a wave of injuries but rallied to finish fourth, surge their way through the finals and earn a spot in the decider despite the loss of key playmaker Troy Dargan, among others.
"I'm so proud of them mate, we had a lot of injuries throughout the year and the boys that have come in have done a fantastic job," Burt told NRL.com after the 20-18 loss to eighth-placed Manly.
"There was one stage there where we were right on the edge of the eight and not sure whether we were going to make it, so to put together what we did at the back end of the year and finish fourth and then to come through the semi-finals the way we have is outstanding.
"I couldn't be more proud of them. The only word I can say is I'm so proud of them.
"We lost 'Dargs' who was an important part but we've got blokes like [17-year-old halfback] Dylan Brown who can step in and do a fantastic job. He was outstanding against those [finals] teams. I'm just proud."
Burt said he would continue to work with juniors at the club next year despite the NYC competition winding up.
"Hopefully I'll still in a development role with the 20s going forward for next year at least, then we'll see where we end up after that," he said.
The Eels strolled out to a 14-0 lead before a wave of second-half errors saw them starved of ball and eventually concede the lead a minute from time with a Manly try next to the posts, and Burt said those errors had hurt.
"I feel if we stuck to that [first-half execution] in the second half we probably would have done the same but you can't give quality teams too much ball and that's what we did," he said.
"There were a couple of big turning points. Our front-rower [Oregon Kaufusi] put it down on their foot [resulting in a no-try], they got lucky there and then I think they probably got a couple of pretty lucky calls go their way and they took advantage of them. Congratulations to them."
Despite his disappointment, Burt said the 2017 season for the club as a whole – in which both the NRL and NYC teams finished fourth with the latter earning a grand final berth – showed the future was bright at Parramatta.
"It's fantastic mate," he said. "It's in a really good spot, everything's starting to settle down, the juniors are coming through, the NRL team's playing fantastic so I think we're in a really good spot moving forward."