Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman take the field in 2018.

You didn't need an independent review to tell you what Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman would discover throughout a forgettable 2018.

"We just didn't work on the field," a forthright Moses told NRL.com.

"It's as simple as that. We are actually good mates but we're two dominant players and we struggled to find the right balance."

Something was always going to give. That's what happens when a team with premiership aspirations finishes with the wooden spoon.

Most assumed the 'something' would be Norman, especially given the club's not-so-private directive for the five-eighth to find a new home in 2019.

But as the months passed without a bite for Norman, the Eels told Moses he was also free to explore his options elsewhere such was the club's desire to split the pair.

"It's hard to explain how I felt when I was told," Moses said.

"I'm not going to lie it was upsetting to hear that straight away after the season."

Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman during the Eels' 2018 season.
Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman during the Eels' 2018 season. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Moses had just returned from an off-season holiday in Lebanon and was about to set off on a trip to watch Conor McGregor fight in Las Vegas.

With his career at a crossroad, Moses cancelled the boys trip to the United States in favour of returning to pre-season training earlier than his teammates.

"When I got back from Lebanon something just clicked," he admitted.

"I thought 'that's it, enough is enough'. I'm 24 years old now and with the season I just had, I couldn't reward myself with another holiday to Vegas. Honestly, I hadn't earned it. I want to do something in this game. I don't want to look back in regret of what could have been.

"I knew going away wasn't the best thing for me, I needed to get back and work on being the player I wanted to be. I just felt I needed to get a head start on everyone else.

"I was disappointed in the way I played last year. I just know that's not the footy player I am. I am better than that. I just wanted to come back this pre-season – not to prove a point – but to get back to the footy I know I can play. I want to get Parramatta back to the top."

Moses is saying all the right things. More importantly, he's doing all the right things.

He came back to training last year with a renewed attitude, albeit still unsure as to where he would be in 2019.

"I left it up to my manager and told him I don't want to hear anything about it until I need to," Moses said.

"I'm not sure who wanted me or didn't want me. It was documented the [Warriors] and teams like that but I told my manager you deal with that, all I want to worry about is training with Parramatta.

"I said 'I'm at Parramatta next year at the moment', and that's what I wanted. I didn't want to hear that 'this club is interested or this club is not interested'. My focus was on the Eels."

As the months passed, and as a result of St George Illawarra's deal with Jarryd Hayne falling over at the 11th hour, the door opened for Norman to link with the Dragons.

It ensured Moses, who hadn't attracted much interest from rival clubs, would remain at the Eels but under a coach who was willing to let him go just a few months earlier.

Both Brad Arthur and Moses are off contract at the end of 2019, with the future of both largely in the hands of the other.

So when they sat down to discuss life after Norman, Moses didn't allow the events of the previous few months to impact on his relationship with the coach.

"Me and Brad sat down and had a conversation when I came back," Moses said.

"It wasn't about trying to fix anything between us. I didn't want to come to training and mope around about it and feel sorry for myself thinking 'I'm not wanted here' or 'why did they ask me to move on'. Whatever happened, happened. I can only control what happens next.

"To be honest it was probably more motivating. It actually got me out of my comfort zone and got me training hard. I started doing the extras that maybe I wouldn't have done last year. I'm in a completely different frame of mind at the moment, but it's only preseason."

What a lot of Parramatta fans struggled to understand in 2018 was how Moses and Norman could lead the club to the finals the previous year then produce the sub-standard performances they did 12 months later.

It was largely assumed they had fallen out, but the truth of it was that off the field their friendship remained.

On the field, however, frustrations began to simmer.

"When I first came to Parramatta I loved playing with Normy," Moses said.

"He did a lot for me. He helped me out with a lot of stuff and really took the pressure off me when I first came here. We had that good first season but bowed out in the semis. Then I think we tried to fix a bit too much in the year after. I felt comfortable playing with Normy.

With the season I just had, I couldn't reward myself with another holiday to Vegas. Honestly, I hadn't earned it.

Mitchell Moses

"It's not like we hated each other or didn't get along. We're actually good mates off the field. There were games last year when we were on song ... but it was well documented we didn't work. It's how it has panned out. Normy is at the Dragons now and he's a great buy for them, but I'm also pretty excited with what we've got now at Parramatta."

Among the most notable changes at Parramatta in the off-sesason is a rejuvenated Michael Jennings who, like Moses, was told he was free to move on ahead of his final year on contract.

But there's also been a change in the coach, who has decided to take a more hands-on approach after admitting he allowed his players too much say in the preseason last year in the hope of expediting leadership in the group.

"I think he's taken a bit more control to be honest," Moses said.

"The way he has come back to training, he's been very good for the boys and everyone is enjoying training."

Throughout the interview at the club's North Parramatta training base, Moses repeatedly references a desire to put 2018 behind him.

But he knows just how important the scars of last year will be in helping resurrect the club's fortunes.

"I copped a fair bit," he said.

"There are a lot of people who are very supportive, but you know better than anyone else the fans wear their hearts on their sleeve and there was quite a fair bit thrown at me. It's how you handle it. You have to cop it because it's part of the job. I'm pretty used to it. I've had a fair bit happen in my career so I'm used to a spray or two.

"Last year hurt. It did. You don't want to forget about the hurt. We want to change that this year. There were some tough times last year. I'm going to see it as a learning curve and let it make me a better player. When that last game finished last year, it wasn't relief, but I had this feeling like 'finally we can reset'."

 

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