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After finishing one win short of the finals in a year in which they lost four games by a margin of four or less, the Eels were left to rue a massive missed opportunity in 2023. 

Coming so close to making it back to the playoffs last season will likely only add fuel to Parramatta's fire as they look to end what is nearing a four-decade premiership drought. 

Here are the major talking points surrounding the Eels ahead of the 2024 Telstra Premiership season. 

Who plays hooker?

The long-term plan at hooker went out the window with the , who was set to mentor the next group coming through while giving the Eels an experienced No.9. Instead, it's now set to be a shootout between Brendan Hands and Joey Lussick for the starting job. While both capable first-graders, neither has more than 20 NRL games to their name heading into 2024. Dummy-half can be a cut-throat position for a young player, especially on a team with an otherwise accomplished spine who will demand plenty from the man feeding them the ball. 

Great Hands

Is the premiership window still open?

A run to the grand final in 2022 was meant to set the Eels off on a period of being premiership contenders, but after missing the finals altogether last year that is in serious danger of being viewed as little more than a flash in the pan. Half the roster has changed since that GF and the Eels now need to prove they are still on the right path while the likes of Mitch Moses, Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo are in their prime. If not, the frustrations of a fan base now counting 37 years without a title will soon become more and more apparent and with it the pressure will get turned up with each passing day. 

Can the offload kings improve their completions?

For the second year in a row Parramatta offloaded more than any other team in the NRL last season, but this time it came at the cost of set completions. An average completion rate of 75.2 last season was worse than any club bar the Roosters, who were the only top eight side to rank in the bottom five of that category. So much of what the Eels do in attack revolves around second phase and the like of J'maine Hopgood and Bryce Cartwright – who had 108 offloads them between them in 2023 – have made it into an art form. But they'll need to find a better balance next year if they are to challenge teams up near the top of the ladder.  

Hopgood continues stellar form

The discipline dilemma 

Last season Parramatta had players miss a combined 22 weeks due to bans, which included some of their most important men spending time on the sideline at key points of the year. It started with Ryan Matterson missing what became a horror start to the year and it only got worse from there, with frontline stars including Junior Paulo, Maika Sivo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard missing time after trips to the judiciary and Dylan Brown missing rounds 15-23 due to a NRL Breach Notice. If the Eels are to return to being a contender in '23 they'll need their best players on the field more often. 

Campbell-Gillard binned for foul play

Will Kelma Tuilagi add another dynamic to the pack?

The Eels will hope the signing of Kelma Tuilagi will allow them to settle on a back-row partnership in 2024, after trying out a number of players there last season, while the Toa Samoa international is set to add a different dynamic to what is a talented pack. An edge player with some footwork to go with his power game, Tuilagi should offer Parra some punch from the second row that has been lacking since the departure of Isaiah Papali'i at the end of 2022. Tuilagi's first two seasons in the NRL with the Wests Tigers suggested he has more to offer than what he displayed at the Sea Eagles last year and if he can fire this time around it could turn out to be an astute pick up by Brad Arthur. 

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