Parramatta Eels 2012 season preview

Parramatta’s last play-off appearance was in 2009 – can the Eels extend their campaign beyond the regular season this year?

The Eels have failed to make the finals for the last two seasons and 2012 is likely to be another frustrating year for Parra fans.

Coach Stephen Kearney has reshaped his squad with big name signings including Chris Sandow, Willie Tonga and Ben Roberts. There have also been a number of exits but most of those leaving were deemed surplus to requirements.

Jarryd Hayne was tasked with leading the Eels around the field but his form suffered as a result. The arrival of Sandow and Roberts will hopefully see Hayne back to somewhere near his brilliant best.

Eels legend Nathan Hindmarsh leads the way in the forwards along with the impressive Tim Mannah. Prop Justin Poore will be hoping to put his injury troubles behind him but gifted youngster Jacob Loko has already been ruled out for the most of the season.

Kearney’s side still feels like work in progress and, although they will be hopeful of improving on last year’s 14th placed finish, it is unlikely they have what it takes to trouble the top eight.

Prediction: 14th 

Players in: Chris Sandow (Rabbitohs), Ben Roberts (Bulldogs), Esi Tonga (Titans), Willie Tonga (Cowboys), Jamil Hopoate (Sea Eagles), Jon Mannah and Taulima Tautai (Both Sharks)

Players out: Jeff Robson (Sharks), Manase Manuokafoa (Bradford), Joel Reddy and Tom Humble (Both Tigers), Etu Uaisele (Panthers), Daniel Tupou and Daniel Mortimer (Both Roosters), Chris Walker (Released), Chris Hicks, Carl Webb and Paul Whatiura (All retired)

Coach: Stephen Kearney – The former New Zealand coach knows the Eels are a long-term project and he is heading in the right direction. Will be given time to get things right.

Star man: Jarryd Hayne – The Eels have spent big on Chris Sandow but their hopes of success rest of getting the best out of Hayne. Will return to fullback this year, where he was devastating in 2010. 

Breakthrough year: Esi Tonga – Has so far failed to fulfil his potential but switched from the Titans to Parramatta and, playing alongside big brother Willie, could finally begin to churn out some consistent performances.

Young gun: Cheyse Blair – Australian Schoolboys centre who was snapped up from the Roosters and has a good chance of breaking into the Eels first team. 

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