Parramatta Eels 2017 Season in Review
Brad Takairangi could be the odd man out with Jarryd Hayne's expected return at right centre. If Takairangi plays he will probably have to force out Kenny Edwards or Beau Scott from the back row bench rotation.
Brad Arthur is eyeing Will Smith as a bench utility but with Kaysa Pritchard and Cam King capable of playing 80 and Kenny Edwards providing bench cover, he could also opt for a four-forward bench battery early on.
Expect young gun Greg Leleisiuao to pressure Kirisome Auva'a and Josh Hoffman for wing spots through the season. Clint Gutherson is closing in on a return to play but long odds to feature in round one, meaning Bevan French should start at fullback. In a mark of the squad's depth, Siosaia Vave, Tony Williams, Cam King and even Suaia Matagi could struggle to make the final round one team.
NRL.com expert Jamie Soward says:
"The talking points are the nine, does Kaysa Pritchard come back in and replace Cam King who had a solid finish to the year. The bench is always up for grabs in terms of guys coming in and out.
"Their 1-13 looks like it will pick itself. Tim Mannah and Dan Alvaro are steady, whether that changes and Arthur goes for Evans and Alvaro is something that could be on the cards.
"They're an all-round good team, it's whether they can put it together on the field. Moses and Norman have to see this as Parramatta's window to be up there competing for a top four position all year.
"Clint Gutherson is the engine, he makes it go so he will be at fullback. I don't think they can afford to have him on the wing, he's too important. I think Takairangi misses out with Hayne back but they have the deepest side of anyone heading into the 2018 season.
"Will Smith is so good at being able to play any position, he can pretty much do anything on the footy field so he could be of value in that utility role. Does Arthur go with a big pack or get the little guys to move them around? If so Kenny Edwards or Beau Scott could be the one to miss out."
NRL.com's predicted Round 1 team:
1 Bevan French, 2 Josh Hoffman, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Jarryd Hayne, 5 Kirisome Auva'a, 6 Corey Norman, 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Tim Mannah, 9 Kaysa Pritchard, 10 Dan Alvaro, 11 Manu Ma'u, 12 Tepai Moeroa, 13 Nathan Brown. Interchange: 14 Will Smith, 15 Brad Takairangi, 16 Kenny Edwards, 17 Kane Evans. Reserves: 18 Beau Scott, 19 Suaia Matagi, 20 Cameron King, 21 Peni Terepo.
*In doubt for round one