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Parramatta may be remembered for their grand final defeat in 2022 but for the most part of their campaign they produced a season to be extremely proud of.

Written off in the weeks leading into the finals after a mini form slump, the Eels defied the critics to get themselves into the top four before a shock win against the Cowboys in Townsville to reach the decider. reflects on some key talking points from the 2022 season both on and off the field ahead of the club's return to training.

BA repays the faith

If you believed the critics a few weeks before the finals, Brad Arthur was a dead man walking if he couldn't get the Eels into a position where they were a genuine chance at winning the title. 

While Arthur's side fell short of lifting the trophy, he guided the Eels to second best, which has to stand for something. 

Arthur is contracted to the Eels for another two seasons but faces probably his toughest challenge yet in 2023 to try and get the side back into the decider. 

Unfortunately in Parramatta's case, anything less than that is unlikely to go down well with the faithful, particularly with the departures of Reed Mahoney and Isaiah Papali'i. 

Arthur helped develop both players into genuine stars while they were at the Eels and should be given the time to unearth their replacements.

Arthur: I think it's good for the team

The upside to losing

No team wants to lose a grand final but for the Eels in 2022, getting over their second week of finals hoodoo before going on to win the prelim will give the side a huge confidence booster. 

They'll be hungrier than ever, they'll be better for the experience and now know what it takes to get there.

They didn't beat Penrith in the two games it mattered - week one of the finals and the decider - but the fact they were able to do so during the regular season has allowed them the belief they can beat anyone on their day.

Hodgo's big advantage

Eels fans might feel like they've lost a good one with Reed Mahoney departing to Canterbury, and rightfully so, but don't underestimate the value of Josh Hodgson once he finds his feet at the club. 

Hodgson is coming off an ACL injury but in a positive, he'll be 12 months post-injury by the time he gets onto the field. 

It's slightly different to his return in 2021 after the same injury. He got back within eight months and went on to play 20 games, setting up 10 tries and showing glimpses of his best. 

The class of the English hooker will always remain and with the Eels forward pack looking for a leader, his guidance will come through naturally for the side.

Halves hit next level

Eels fans have been crying out for their players to press the upgrade button particularly in the finals and finally got a team who found the next level. 

Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown's combination was among the most potent in 2022 with 40 try assists between them. 

Add in Clint Gutherson's 18 try assists and you've got a spine combination that you'd expect to continue its dominance into 2023.

With Josh Hodgson's arrival, the side will boast the most experienced spine in the game with 585 games between them.

Holy Moses

Lane train and Matto show

Yes, Isaiah Papali'i is gone but when you've got Shaun Lane, who is in the form of his career, and Ryan Matterson to help form the forward pack, the Eels can soldier on without the Wests Tigers-bound forward.

The pair's re-signings on long-term deals in 2022 was a major boost, particularly with Matterson knocking back a lucrative offer from the Dolphins. 

With the pair able to play 80 minutes each week, look for them to be mainstays on the edge in 2023.

Will too powerful

Penisini's rapid rise

The Eels have been criticised for not doing enought o bring through their junior development in the past decade but appear to have struck gold with Will Penisini.

Penisini had a small taste of first grade in 2021 but made the right centre spot his own this year, playing in all 28 games possible.

The Rouse Hill junior offered plenty in attack while defensively he was sound at with a 90.3% tackle efficiency rate - a figure better than the likes of other leading centres Joey Manu, Justin Olam and Valentine Holmes. 


There are not many better sights in the game then seeing Maika Sivo cross for a try at CommBank Stadium before the crowd of blue and gold supporters chat his name for the next five minutes. 

Maika Sivo's return from an ACL injury was a welcome sight for the Eels with the Fijian star crossing for 13 tries from 16 games. 

He looked stronger and fitter on the paddock than when he first picked up the injury and remained on par statistically with previous seasons despite coming off the long lay-off. 

Off contract at the end of next season, Sivo's future will be a major talking point in 2023. 

Magic Maika

Depth remains key

Eels coach Brad Arthur identified the lack of depth at the club 18 months ago and has continued to hit the market this season with the signings of Jack Murchie, Jirah Momoisea and J'main Hopgood. 

The trio don't exactly stand out in terms of star power but offer the Eels some much-needed depth in the forwards, particularly the middle, with one or two possibly becoming the next Isaiah Papali'i, who improved out of sight under Arthur.

Hopgood, who was limited with game time at Penrith, showed his potential when given more minutes in Round 25, running for 170 metres with four offloads and 42 tackles in 67 minutes at lock against the Cowboys. 

Murchie will be a solid back-up option in the second row while Momoisea can play on both the edge or in the middle if required. 

Eels attack hits overdrive as Gutherson kicks for Dunster

Dunster's comeback

It was one of the pre-season horror stories of the year with promising Eels product Haze Dunster on the end of a shocking tackle that ended his season with ACL and MCL injuries. 

The Eels struggled with depth in their backline at times during the 2022 season with Dunster's injury a cruel blow for the young gun, who is on track with his recovery. 

The 23-year-old is contracted until the end of the 2025 season and his return to the field will be a heart-warming one in the new year. 

With Tom Opacic moving on, Eels coach Brad Arthur has a decision to make with Waqa Blake long-term while Bailey Simonsson and Sean Russell are also options to come into the backline. 

Is he staying or going?

Nathan Brown's future is up in the air with the rugged forward given permission to explore his options elsewhere despite being contracted to the Eels in 2023.

It's a decision that both club and player are open and OK with, which also means there's no big push to release Brown immediately. 

With Marata Niukore and Isaiah Papali'i gone, you wonder whether the Eels could still find plenty of value in Brown, who offers the impact and energy to a side few other forwards can do. 

Brown will return from his World Cup campaign with Italy with a big decision to make but either way, he's likely to play a much bigger part at the Eels in 2023 if he stays than in 2022 when other players were ahead of him. 

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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