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NRLW squad watch: Eels looking to go one step further

Parramatta will field a new-look squad in 2023 but their goals won't have changed after defying the odds to reach the grand final last season. 

The Eels finished the 2022 campaign as the surprise packets, winning one game to get into the top four on points differential before shocking minor premiers Sydney Roosters and then going down to the Knights in the decider. 

Only four players who featured on grand final day return to the squad with most of the squad departing for rival clubs.

After two seasons in the NRLW the Eels face a challenge of resetting once again under Dean Widders while looking to stay within the title race. 

Predicted Round 1 Team

1. Abbi Church 2. Monique Donovan 3. Mahalia Murphy 4. Shontelle Stowers 5. Zali Fay 6. Pihuka Berryman-Duff 7. Rachael Pearson 8. Elsie Albert 9. Rueben Cherrington 10. Ruby-Jean Kennard 11. Amelia Mafi 12. Talesha O’Neill 13. Kennedy Cherrington 14. Cassey Tohi-Hiku 15. Kyra Simon 16. Shannon Muru 17. Nakia Davis-Welsh

Other: Kelsey Clark, Kim Hunt, Rosemarie Beckett, Capri Paekau, Jade Fonua, Madeline Jones, Tyla Amiatu

Biggest strength

There is plenty of leadership around with Elsie Albert coming on board a handy replacement for Simaima Taufa, while Kennedy Cherrington will take great pride in guiding the Eels in her third season at the club. 

Eels recruitment guru Andrew Patmore has also managed to get back three players who he coached at the Origin level in 2019 - Shontelle Stowers, Nakia Davis-Welsh and Talesha O'Neill - who will add experience. 

Add in Rachael Pearson and former Jillaroo Mahalia Murphy and many of the younger players will benefit from being around players who have performed at a representative level previously. 

Cherrington crashes over

Biggest question mark

Parramatta have lost a lot of strike power and that will be hard to replace.

The exits of Taufa, Gayle Broughton and Tiana Penitani alone leaves a big hole to fill while other mainstays like Ellie Johnston, Rikeya Horne and Tayla Preston proved more than capable at this level.

The Eels will need to change their whole side's style with an almost entire new side. 

Best recruit 

The Eels have landed former NSW halfback Rachael Pearson on a three-year deal which gives both parties some stability to set up the club in the halves. 

Pearson wasn't at her best in Origin I before her demotion by the Sky Blues but still possesses one of the best kicking games in the NRLW and will be crucial in getting the Eels out of trouble with the boot. 

Pearson's leadership at 29 will also be a huge asset for the Eels after the departure of senior leaders. She will co-captain the team alongside Kennedy Cherrington. 

Rookie to watch

Pearson's likely halves partner, Pihuka Berryman-Duff, looked impressive in the recent NRLW trial match against the Dragons and could complement her co-captain nicely. Berryman-Duff, who has an extensive touch football background, is on the comeback trail after suffering an ACL injury. It is hoped she can follow in the footsteps of Tarryn Aiken, Tamika Upton, Hayley Maddick and Ash Quinlan in transitioning over to rugby league.

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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