The Roar
The Roar



Eels back in the swim for 2024 or heading up the river? Why they will and won't make the finals

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6th March, 2024
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It’s just two sleeps until Parramatta’s first game of the 2024 NRL season. As a fan, generally at this point optimism fills the air.

Like the majority of supporters, when the season hasn’t started, you can’t help but think anything is possible. This could finally be our year!

But for the first time in many years, I genuinely have no idea how the season is going to pan out for the Eels.

You can certainly make a case for them finishing in the top eight and just as easily mount an argument for why they will not.

Last year, the Eels finished in 10th spot with 12 wins and 12 losses. My strong feeling is that the competition this year is going to be more even. I still see the Penrith Panthers and Brisbane Broncos as the teams to beat but in terms of who is going to finish from third to tenth, it’s anyone’s guess.

Those spots for the top eight are going to be competitive (as always). But I would be very surprised if teams like the South Sydney Rabbitohs and North Queensland Cowboys missed out this year. The Canberra Raiders are always there and there abouts too but have lost a few key players.


While other teams have become stronger, the Eels have largely stayed the same. They lack an experienced hooker. With the unfortunate medical retirement of Josh Hodgson, the Eels will start most games with Joey Lussick. Brendan Hands, who had a solid first season, will come off the bench as a utility.

Their two main signings are Kelma Tuilagi and Morgan Harper and while reports out of pre-season about Harper are good, his inclusion does not fix my concerns about Parramatta’s lack of depth in the outside backs.

The Eels will be without suspended winger Maika Sivo for the opening rounds of the competition and already our depth is being tested. Further injury will be very difficult to manage, just like we saw last year when Waqa Blake was brought into the team very late into the season, lacking recent first grade experience and also confidence.

With the Eels needing a little bit of luck to make sure that their backline stays fit, I’m not willing to bank on that luck to guarantee a top eight finish.

Now, let me tell you how the Eels are going to finish in the top eight.

The Eels may have finished 10th last season, but they were only one win outside the eight.


Last year, so much went wrong for the team. Some of those factors were in the club’s control and others were not.
There were injuries through the season to Hodgson, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Shaun Lane, Wiremu Greig, Ryan Matterson and Joe Ofahengaue.

Dylan Brown was out for seven weeks after pleading guilty to sexual touching. At one point in the season, Matterson was the biggest five-eighth in the NRL. Daejarn Asi was capable of filling in for a couple of weeks, but did not have the experience to be playing at the top level in such a key position, week in week out.

Then there was the draw. I understand that decisions are made about which teams play each other twice during the season, but there was absolutely no excuse for Parramatta playing a team coming off the bye three weeks in a row.
I don’t care if its an advantage or a disadvantage, it just doesn’t need to happen.

Parramatta were also the only team to not have a bye during the State of Origin period when missing players.

The draw impacted the team at the start of the season. Their first four games were decided by four points or less. Parramatta only won one of those games. In some of those games goalkicking was the difference.

So even with all that going on, the Eels were just barely outside the eight. One more win would have made all the difference.


If only one of these factors (injuries, slow start, off field behaviour) improves this year, perhaps the Eels are in with a shot at the top eight.

So where does that leave me? Still as unsure as I was when I started the article.

I try to be an optimistic fan, so I’m going to try and leave the trauma of last season behind me. I’m behind my team and I’m predicting they finish in the top six in 2024.