It was another year without a title for Parramatta but they remained one of the most consistent teams in the league, making their fourth semi-final finish in the past five seasons.
Despite that run coach Brad Arthur was under pressure at the end of the year, but a strong performance in their final game against eventual grand final-winners Penrith preceded a contract extension for Arthur that will keep him at the club through to 2024.
There were plenty of bright spots on the field. Former Warrior Isaiah Papali'i came from nowhere to be arguably the best signing of the season, Reed Mahoney took his game to another level before having his season cut short by injury, and Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson produced 20 try assists each.
While there are no significant new additions on their way for next season, there's still every chance Parramatta can challenge for the 2022 title with contenders Penrith, Melbourne and South Sydney all losing key players and at some risk of dropping back to the pack.
2021 season by the numbers
Regular-season win/loss record
The Eels were one of just three clubs to sit inside the top eight for the entire season (along with the Roosters and Panthers), and they were comfortably inside the top four when the competition relocated to Queensland from round 18.
At that point the had lost just four of their first 16 matches – two at home, two away – but three wins and five defeats in Queensland meant they slumped to a sixth-placed finish.
An eight-point win in the opening week of the finals was followed by a brave two-point loss to eventual premiers Penrith.
Run metres differential
Only the Panthers and Rabbitohs earned more run metres than Parramatta this season, with skipper Clint Gutherson (170 metres per game), Papali'i (150m per game), winger Blake Ferguson (146m per game) and prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard (142m per game) their chief contributors.
Try scoring – game time
Most of the Eels' tries this season came during the second half of games, with Arthur's men becoming increasingly dangerous in attack as a game went on.
Curiously, the Eels were the fifth-worst team when it came to scoring tries in the 20 minutes before half-time (even the Broncos scored more in that period) but their consistency across the other time periods ensured they finished with the seventh-best attacking record in the league.
Tries conceded – game time
The Eels had the NRL's fourth-best defensive record in 2021 and they were especially miserly at the start of matches and immediately after half-time. Their defensive resolve faded a little as each half wore on but with their strong starts were enough to ensure they stayed on top in most matches.
Tries scored from six-agains
A potential area of improvement here, with the Eels ranking second-last in the league ahead of only Brisbane (9) in this category. Wooden-spooners Canterbury had 13, while top teams Melbourne and Manly had 22 apiece.
Metres gained from offloads
Parramatta were the NRL's offload kings this year – with 302, well ahead of the second-placed Wests Tigers (290) and third-placed Broncos (275). But the Eels ranked second in terms of metres made from offloads with minor premiers Melbourne topping that tally with 97.4 per game.
Mitchell Moses is one of the league's best sharpshooters but was slightly below his best this year, with a 75% conversion rate his worst since 2016 (he's kicked at better than 80% across a season twice, in 2017 and 2020). Gutherson (72%) was a solid back-up this year.
Perfect kicking from both players could have resulted in an extra couple of regular-season wins (over the Panthers in round 16 and Raiders in round 19) but wouldn't have made a difference in the team's narrow finals exit at the hands of Penrith.
A pretty typical squad size across the season for an NRL club this year, with all but three clubs using at least 30 players and no team using more than 36. The seven debutants given a chance by Parramatta this season ranked them second behind only the injury-ravaged Roosters (nine) in that category, and they used nine players under the age of 23.
Steals were barely a factor in Parramatta games this season, with just one team making fewer one-on-one strips (Souths, with two) and just one team conceding fewer strips than the Eels' four (Wests Tigers, with three).
Minor premiers Melbourne were the runaway leader in this category with 19 steals across the regular season, and with controlling possession a key factor under the NRL's new rules this looks like an area the Eels can improve on if they are to break back into the top four in 2022.