Psychotherapists, counsellors and related health professionals in Western Sydney are bracing for a massive downturn in demand for their services if the Parramatta Eels end the longest premiership drought in the NRL’s history, as some are predicting.
In rugby league, glory in September is near impossible without a strong playmakers.
So let’s crack on with the rankings for each club’s spine ahead of the 2019 season.
Coming in at 15th place is last year’s cellar-dwellers, Parramatta.
The Eels’ spine has managed to avoid last place over the Canberra Raiders due to more stability and player potential.
However, the departure of former marquee man Corey Norman, form slumps and a lack of experience leave Brad Arthur’s men on the back foot.
Fullback: Clinton Gutherson
A recent run of poor form from Bevan French sees Clinton Gutherson in the box seat to line-up at fullback in Round 1.
You always know what you are going to get from the club co-captain. One of the most whole-hearted players in the competition, Gutherson’s effort and competitiveness has seen him become one of the game’s most consistent players and a fan favourite.
However, Gutherson did not reach his best form last season after making his return from an ACL injury. He is yet to spend a full season in the custodian role after spending time at five-eighth, centre and wing.
Hence, doubt still remains as to whether he has the spark and ball-playing ability to kick-start the Eels’ struggling attack.
Five-eighth: Dylan Brown
Boom rookie Dylan Brown is set to be handed the 6 jersey vacated by Norman.
Only 18, Brown’s time in the lower grades over the past two seasons, as well as his recent trial form, have showcased his immense potential. He has a willingness to take on the defensive line, natural ball-playing instincts, and doesn’t shy away from physicality in defence.
While fans have reason to be excited about the rising star, it will be tough for Brown to maintain form on a consistent basis during his first NRL season.
This is particularly the case when coming into a side that has struggled for form and results. It will likely take Brown some time to find his feet.
Halfback: Mitchell Moses
The time for Mitchell Moses to step up is now.
The former Tiger has long been regarded as a player with immense talent, however with an inexperienced half outside him, Moses must deliver on that potential and take ownership if the Eels are to propel themselves out of the bottom half of the competition.
From all reports, Moses’ application over the off-season and his physical conditioning is at a career high.
Moses has proven that can do some brilliant things with ball in hand, however composure in key moments and defensive lapses plagued his 2018 campaign.
He can be the man to lead Parramatta, however improved control and consistency are essential.
Hooker: Reed Mahoney
Hooker has been an unsettled position for Arthur, however Mahoney could be the Eels’ long-term rake.
The 20-year-old burst onto the scene in Round 14 last season, showcasing his tenacity and aggression, particularly in defence.
However, this will be the first full season where the diminutive Queenslander will take on a starting role. As in the case with fellow youngster Dylan Brown, it remains to be seen how Mahoney will handle playing big minutes every week – particularly in such a demanding position in the middle of the park.