Last season was one to forget for the Eels and there will be plenty of work to be done over the off-season with a roster that, while it features a few welcome additions, does have a very familiar look to the 2018 version.
The good news for the 2018 wooden spooners is that arguably their two biggest weaknesses – a lack of a high-impact winger to start sets and a powerful big-man to start matches – have been alleviated by the recruitment of Blake Ferguson and Junior Paulo. Shaun Lane provides another big body in the pack. Reed Mahoney could well start at hooker over the re-signed Kaysa Pritchard.
Corey Norman's departure to the Dragons may help alleviate Parramatta's other big problem – a lack of synergy between Norman and Mitchell Moses in the halves. However it would put extra pressure on Moses to run the team alongside a rookie half – either Jaeman Salmon or Dylan Brown.
Resident NRL.com expert Jamie Soward says:
"If Norman [stayed] then nothing [would have] changed, they still won't know who's the boss. They lacked direction last year and that's why they finished last.
"Salmon, Brown; certainly there's opportunities there outside Mitchell Moses.
"To start the year it will probably be Salmon because he's played; they can't really afford to lose the first three or four games experimenting with a young bloke. If your job's on the line you go with your best player and you sort that out during trials.
"Dylan Brown, the little bit I have seen of him, he's a good player but whether you can transfer that to NRL on a weekly basis is another question. It will be a big decision for Brad Arthur.
"Their recruitment was a bit off centre, they needed some more big forwards. Junior Paulo is an addition but last year they rolled over and conceded metres pretty easily through the middle. I think it will be another long season for Parramatta."
NRL.com's predicted Round 1 team:
- Clint Gutherson
- Blake Ferguson
- Brad Takairangi
- Michael Jennings
- George Jennings
- Jaeman Salmon
- Mitch Moses
- Daniel Alvaro
- Reed Mahoney
- Junior Paulo
- Shaun Lane
- Manu Ma'u
- Nathan Brown
- Will Smith
- Tepai Moeroa
- Marata Niukore
- Tim Mannah
Other squad members: Andrew Davey, Kane Evans, Bevan French, David Gower, Josh Hoffman, Oregon Kaufusi, Greg Leleisiuao, Kaysa Pritchard, Maika Sivo, Ray Stone, Peni Terepo