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Eels star Clint Gutherson.

Clint Gutherson racked up plenty of impressive numbers in his 2017 breakout season but even the most optimistic Parramatta fan knows it will take more than his return to make up for their 0-5 start to the season.

With the formerly-fancied Eels languishing at the foot of the Telstra Premiership ladder, it would be foolish to expect 'The King' to single-handedly turn his team's fortunes around overnight but it's hard not to think his energy, spark, creativity and competitiveness wouldn't have made a difference in last week's one-try-apiece loss to the Panthers.

With Gutherson now set to run out for his first game of the season, Stats took a look at the impact the Mona Vale Raiders junior had last year at Parramatta.

Gutherson's 114 metres per game were fourth-best at the club despite playing much of the season in he halves (one of just six to make more than 100 metres per game, with departed winger Semi Radradra second on the list).

His 14 line breaks and 11 tries were both second at the club behind Radradra (24 line breaks, 22 tries), his six line break assists were equal second after Mitch Moses (14) and his five try assists were equal fourth best at the club.

Despite playing just 18 of 26 matches, Gutherson easily led the club in a rarely-discussed off-the-ball effort area; his 311 support runs at just over 17 per game were easily a club-best. The Eels won over 60% of the games he played, and nine of 12 once their early-season run of four straight losses was behind them.

The Eels have struggled badly to get their sets started on the front foot so far in 2018 and the loss of Radradra combined with Gutherson's absence is a huge factor here. The two were the only Eels to average more than 10 metres per carry (runs excluding kick returns) from the defensive 40 in 2017. Gutherson was the only Eel to average over 10 metres on kick returns in 2017 and with Bevan French and Will Smith both averaging under eight metres per kick return in 2018, the difference at the start of sets is huge.

Across the entire NRL last year, Gutherson's try involvement rate in the games he played at fullback (that is, tries scored plus tries assisted per game) was fourth best among all fullbacks at 1.11 per game, behind only Tom Trbojevic (1.36), Billy Slater (1.35) and Alex Johnston (1.33).

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