It was another good season for the Eels in 2022, they finished fourth on the ladder, and made the Grand Final, only to lose to the Panthers, 28-12. The Eels won 16 games last season and their attack along with their defence was middle of the range, despite finishing in the top four. The points differential was +119, which was the second worst in terms of teams in the top eight.
The Eels made it all the way to the Grand Final last season, so it’s understandable that other teams will do everything they can to pick apart the team and poach players. Despite this, there are a handful of new players entering the Eels. The main new player to keep an eye on is Josh Hodgson. Hodgson is coming to the Eels after spending eight seasons at the Raiders.
Looking at the individuals who have left the Eels this off-season, majority of them are key players. Although, those of particular note include Reed Mahoney, who leaves the Eels after five seasons to join the Bulldogs, Isaiah Papali'I, who is off to the Tigers after two years at the Eels, and finally Oregon Kaufusi, who makes the move to the Sharks after five years with the Eels.
Ins: Josh Hodgson, Jack Murchie, Matt Doorey, J'maine Hopgood, Jirah Momoisea and Daejarn Asi
Outs: Reed Mahoney, Isaiah Papali'i, Marata Niukore, Oregon Kaufusi, Tom Opacic, Ray Stone and Hayze Perham
Key Player: Dylan Brown
The are a number of players that could hold the key for the team in 2023, but with the performance Dylan Brown put in last season, he has to be the most important player for the Eels. His ability to make something out of nothing was one of the main reasons the Eels made it all the way to the Grand Final. He has the job security and stability he was looking for, after signing a three-year extension, so he can just focus on playing the great game of rugby league.
Rising Star: Toni Mataele
With a number of players leaving the Eels, Brad Arthur has been forced into a reshuffle of sorts. All these changes should suit development player Toni Mataele very well. After a short stint with the Knights, the 20-year-old has returned to the Eels and signed on until 2025. Even though Mataele is signed as a development player this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make is way onto the bench this year.
5 Key Matches To Watch
Match 1: Round 1, vs Storm, at CommBank Stadium (Thu, Mar 2, 7:50pm)
Match 2: Round 4, vs Panthers, at CommBank Stadium (Thu, Mar 23, 7:50pm)
Match 3: Round 15, vs Bulldogs, at Accor Stadium (Mon, Jun 12, 4pm)
Match 4: Round 16, vs Sea Eagles, at CommBank Stadium (Sat, Jun 17, 5:30pm)
Match 5: Round 23, vs Dragons, at CommBank Stadium (Sun, Aug 6, 2pm)
2023 NRL Season Expectations
Things might not be as easy for the Eels this season, with the departure of a number of their stars. Another issue that presents itself is their draw, which is certainly not favourable. Their depth has also taken a hit, but they still have quality players that can put in consistent performances. They should still make the top eight, but a top four berth looks unlikely this season.