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Parramatta's 2018 horror show faded quickly into memory through 2019, with the side looking much more like 2017's top-four outfit in an eventual fifth-place finish and semi-finals appearance.

Coach Brad Arthur split up his misfiring halves combination of the year before, handing control of the team to Mitch Moses alongside rookie Dylan Brown. The pair repaid the faith in spades.

The early-set impact that departed alongside Semi Radradra was replaced in the form of hulking pair Maika Sivo and Blake Ferguson, with Sivo topping the NRL try-scoring list and Ferguson bringing his Roosters premiership form out west.

Throw in some new forward impact in the shape of returning Junior Paulo and lanky ex-Sea Eagle Shaun Lane plus a potent 18th man in the shape of a spanking new Bankwest Stadium fortress and all the ingredients were there.

The club still lacked the polish and experience against the likes of the Roosters and Storm in big games but its demolition of Brisbane in week one of the finals – the club's first finals win since 2009 – is a positive sign heading into 2020.

The 2020 outlook

What's new

The club has far fewer changes than this time last year but has bolstered its forward pack with Blues Origin squad member Ryan Matterson – a straight swap for the departed Manu Ma'u – and Origin prop and ex-Panther Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

The draw

If each club was, hypothetically, exactly as good or bad in 2020 as they were in 2019, the Eels have one of the gentlest draws of any side. Things never quite work out that way but still, the Eels face the Roosters and Raiders and perennial bogey side Cronulla just once each with doubles against 2019 bottom-eight sides like the Wests Tigers, Dragons, Bulldogs and Panthers.

The club doesn't face a 2019 top-eight side until the Broncos in round seven but that's at Bankwest; on paper the first real test doesn't arrive until rounds nine and 10 with away games against Manly and Melbourne.

The toughest patch is coming out of the rep period, with games against Manly, Canberra, Souths, Brisbane, then the Roosters and Storm over the six weeks from rounds 17-22.

The stat that gives you hope

For years Mitch Moses has mixed brilliance with brain snaps but 2019 was the year he finally married consistency to his boundless talent. Handed the keys to the team following Corey Norman's departure, Moses topped the NRL with 24 try assists and crucially played every single game. The fact fullback Clint Gutherson and hooker Reed Mahoney also played every game was a huge boost the club's consistency overall.

NRL Fantasy player in focus - Mitchell Moses

What you need to know NRL Fantasy-wise

"An excellent draw in the early rounds could mean the Eels' backline stars get off to a great start in 2020. Mitchell Moses ($760k) was brilliant last year and could finish this season as the No.1 half in Fantasy, Nathan Brown ($701k) looks slightly underpriced if his injury woes are behind him, and Ryan Matterson ($772k) is an excellent all-round scorer with an eye for the tryline." - Lone Scout

The coach

Brad Arthur is a no-nonsense coach who is Eels through and through. Forced to endure some tumultuous times with board upheavals and salary cap scandals and handling each impressively. The club has won enough games to play finals in three of the past four seasons, recovering from an unexpected wooden spoon in 2018 to fifth last year, resulting in Arthur and a number of key players signing contract extensions.

Five key match-ups of the Eels' 2020 draw

Contract matters

Hooker Reed Mahoney and second rower Shaun Lane are the biggest names currently unsigned beyond 2020 and free to negotiate. Brad Takairangi, Jaeman Salmon, Kane Evans and Peni Terepo are also coming off contract.

The rest of the club's 2019 stars are all locked down through at least 2021 and well beyond in some cases. Clint Gutherson, Mitch Moses, Dylan Brown, Michael Jennings and others all extended last season.

The burning question

Can the Eels fix their travel woes? They quickly turned Bankwest Stadium into a fortress but five wins and seven losses on the road is not the sort of away record that leads to premierships. In a similar vein, the Eels beat or at least looked competitive against almost every side in 2019 but never really threatened the Storm or Roosters; finding that extra gear to beat the best teams is the other key challenge for Brad Arthur's men.

Breakout player to watch

Hulking youngster Oregon Kaufusi is heading into his third year in the NRL top squad and still doesn't turn 21 until late in the season. He faces a logjam with Reagon Campbell-Gillard joining the likes of Junior Paulo, Nathan Brown, Dan Alvaro and Kane Evans but is ready to make his mark on the NRL after a consistent season (eight NRL games, 18 Canterbury Cup games) last year.

The quote

Eels halfback Mitch Moses: "When we came off big wins last year, the next week we wouldn't show up. It's about being consistent and not only me but as a team. If we can do that we'll have a good season. It's all going to be on the start of the season – if you start the season well you put yourself in a good position to be able to play at the back end of the year so that's going to be our biggest focus is starting off the season well."

Acknowledgement of Country

Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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