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Preview 07: Parramatta - Australian Rugby league News
globalrugbyleague - Tue, 13 Mar 2007 09:19:00 GMT
While Eels coach Michael Hagan took out a title in his first season at the Knights, a glowing achievement his successor will try to replicate, this will be a big ask at Parra.

Not impossible but understandably a little more difficult given the Eels are once again re-building in key playing positions that other clubs are a little more secure in.

Brett Finch is at a new club looking for a fresh start while off-contract halfback Tim Smith will be looking to replicate his 2005 form. Can they achieve this together?

If they fire well, they can cause trouble for ANY team on ANY day. If they don’t, then Blake Green is ready to be called up. His form in the trials was very convincing.

Coach Hagan is said to be very impressed by the club’s depth and why shouldn’t he. The premier league squad has won back to back titles.

This goes a long way in explaining why there are 5 former premier league players included in the Eels top 25 in this year’s season guide.

While many of the senior blokes will be given time to hold onto their spots, the coach has good back-up options at his disposal.

I still think in both first grade and in the premier league that the Eels are still a bit light in the forwards compared to other clubs and that issue takes time to resolve.

That’s why Parramatta MUST put in a strong bid for Mark O’Meley. He could add a bit of the extra grunt and he’s a consistent workhorse who won’t be bullied. Great value.

This club experienced some dreadfully big losses at the player departure gate last season including the likes of Glenn Morrison, Dean Widders and Wade McKinnon.

That’s not such a problem for Parramatta if the squad everybody expects can string together a season of minimal injuries and suspensions.

But they do look a lot leaner once again up front and they can’t afford a lot of injuries there probably now more then last season. That must be a concern.

Former coach Jason Taylor – now at South Sydney – was credited with bringing back fun into the club after Brian Smith stepped down.

Hagan – renowned for being more relaxed at training then Smith – should have no problems getting the players onto the field with a smile.

The way a team feels heading out onto the field can play a big role in a first half performance while body language can be read into by the opposition.

Put your money on a happy Eels squad flying over to New Zealand in round 1 where the Warriors will be the first team attempting to turn that smile upside down.

What must they do in 2007?

Parramatta will be expected to make the top eight because anything less will be considered unacceptable by the mob who buy season membership packages.

Only twice in the Brian Smith era did we see the blue and gold miss out on a finals campaign and that saw the former coach come under huge pressure to step down.

They must learn how to win games in the final rounds of the regular season so they can take a lot more confidence into the finals and prove more competitive against the favourites.

This side I believe will play an erratic style that could see them compared to the Wests Tigers of 2005.

Which team must they beat?

Canterbury. Not only do the Eels share an important rivalry with the Dogs but a win over the Belmore brigade is usually a good sign of how the Eels are traveling themselves.

In 2001, the Eels picked up 1 win and a draw against the Dogs before making the Grand Final.

They did not score another win over Canterbury until 2005 when they thrashed them 56-4 at home before winning yet another minor premiership.

Coach: Michael Hagan
CEO: Denis Fitzgerald
Captain: Nathan Cayless.

Gains: Brett Finch (Roosters), Michael Lett (Roosters), Todd Lowrie (Knights), Ian Hindmarsh (Les Catalans), Richard Fa’aoso (Castleford).

Goings: Glenn Morrison (Bradford), John Morris (Tigers), Brett Delaney, Luke O’Dwyer, Matt Petersen (Titans), Dean Widders, Jeremy Smith (Rabbitohs), Wade McKinnon (Warriors), John Williams (Roosters), Jack Afamasaga (Sea Eagles), Adam Peek (Dragons), Michael Vella (Hull KR), Paul Stringer (retired), Marcus Perenara, Henry Perenara.

eels Squad: Luke Burt, Aaron Cannings, Nathan Cayless, Josh Cordoba, Richard Fa’aoso, Brett Finch, Blake Green, Eric Grothe, Jarryd Hayne, Ian Hindmarsh, Nathan Hindmarsh, Todd Lowrie, PJ Marsh, Feleti Mateo, Fuifui Moimoi, Brendan Oake, Joel Reddy, Mark Riddell, Chad Robinson, Ben Smith, Tim Smith, Timana Tahu, Zeb Taia, Justin Tsoulos, Daniel Wagon. - Read More, Here