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‘The hunted’: Key cavalry returns in major boost as Arthur fights for future — Eels’ season preview

Michael Ennis believes the Eels can get back to their best with Dylan Brown and Shaun Lane playing key roles in a big bounce back year for the club after missing the finals in 2023.

The Eels lost a number of key players from their 2022 Grand Final side and when injuries and suspensions came, they lacked the depth to overcome those hurdles last season.

“I think it was an interesting year for Parramatta last year,” Ennis told foxsports.com.au.

“Coming off the grand final the year before they had lost some key personnel in Mahoney, Niukore and Papali’i.

“They lost some key players and it took some time for Parramatta to adjust. Then as they started to adjust they were hit with injuries and some suspensions.

“They were missing Shaun Lane after the season that he put together the year before.

“It was a huge blow for them to not have Dylan Brown for a number of weeks.

“That combination on that left hand-side on its day is as good as any in the competition.

“To have those two back in the side regularly will be important for them.

“A Parramatta side that has got Paulo and Campbell-Gillard and Mitch Moses who I think is just getting better and better every year.

“Gutherson was great for them last year and then you throw back in Lane and Brown into that side and I think we will see some vast improvement from Parramatta.”

The Eels have recruited smartly for 2024, with Kelma Tuilagi and Morgan Harper joining the club from the Sea Eagles.

Ennis believes the Eels are a stronger squad on paper with the added depth in the forwards and outside backs.

“The Eels have lacked depth when injuries strike and Kelma Tuilagi and Morgan Harper will improve the squad,” Ennis said.

“They struggled for consistency at Manly, but on their day they are class players and they will create healthy competition for spots, which helps players rise to the challenge, work hard and improve.”

Eels coach Brad Arthur is entering a contract year in 2024 and as it is his 11th full season with the club with just one Grand Final appearance, the pressure is on him to deliver.

Ennis is confident Arthur will meet the challenges and can get the team back in the top eight.

“Brad Arthur is a great coach, he really is,” Ennis said.

“He puts his heart and soul into that team and I have been in that position before where you have made a grand final and it is difficult the year after.

“Sides come after you and that’s what makes sides like Melbourne and the Roosters and in particular Penrith and what they have done so admirable.

“It is a real challenge when you become the hunted and you throw in some injuries to key men and changes as well with guys leaving.

“It was just one of those years for Parramatta, but there is always pressure on coaches. Brad has been through it before and he has been able to fight his way through it and I think we will see that again this year.”

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