Eels skipper Clint Gutherson is adamant the club’s premiership window has not slammed shut despite seven players leaving the club following their grand final loss.
Parramatta’s premiership drought – the longest in the NRL – will extend into a 37th year after they were thumped by the Panthers 28-12 on Sunday night.
The Eels have played finals in four of the past five years but 2022 was seen by many pundits as their last chance to win a title due to an impending player exodus.
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They overcame their finals week two hoodoo to make their first grand final since 2009 but replicating their success next season will prove difficult with so many players departing.
Marata Niukore (Warriors), Isaiah Papali’i (Wests Tigers), Oregon Kaufusi (Sharks), Reed Mahoney (Bulldogs), Ray Stone (Dolphins), Tom Opacic (Hull KR) and Hayze Perham (released) will all play elsewhere in 2023.
But Gutherson, who re-signed until the end of 2025, is confident the next wave of Eels juniors can rise to the occasion.
“When you’re a good team good players are always going to get poached and we’re going to lose a couple of great players,” Gutherson said to foxsports.com.au.
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“But we’ve got a couple of great ones in the wings that are going to step up and do job.
“Look it’s disappointing tonight, we’ll look forward to next year when pre-season comes around we just got to enjoy a bit of time tonight.
“It’s been a long time but look now that you’re there and you’ve lost it’s a feeling you can’t really describe but it just makes you more hungry.
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“Just another tale in the book and we have just got to see what we can do next year and the following years.
“But we’ve just got to enjoy each others company for the next couple of days and enjoy the year that we’ve had.”
Parramatta five-eighth Dylan Brown admitted his former housemates Mahoney and Papali’i were huge losses for the club.
Brown enjoyed the best season of his budding career thanks to some sensational dummy-half service from Mahoney.
“Reed’s been here four, five years now and he’s been massive for the club,” Brown said.
“His work ethic, his service is the best and honestly we’re going to miss him a lot.
“Obviously a lot of my mates as well, I’ve lived with Reedy when I was younger and to see him go is pretty devastating but it’s league and league’s the business at the end of the day and he’s gone to chase the money.”
“I (also) actually live with Isaiah (Papali’i) so obviously that’s another big loss, he’s massive same thing.
“I feel like it’s our whole team you know we don’t have the superstars but we’ve got a lot of effort based players and we play for our families and what not so I feel like it’s what makes it a lot more special.”
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The Eels have signed Josh Hodgson, J’maine Hopgood and Jirah Momoisea for 2023 and young half Jake Arthur backed a number of NSW Cup players to push for first grade spots next season.
Arthur’s own position in the team came under fire during the finals series, with many pundits arguing you can’t carry a specialist halfback on the bench.
But Arthur is expected hold a spot on the pine next season and he backed his side to go one better next year.
“100 per cent yeah (we can win it next year), we’ve got a few boys leaving but heaps of our boys in cup did really good this year so they’ll be pushing for a spot next year,” Arthur said.
Mahoney backed the Eels to remain in the hunt next season.
“Of course mate they’re a great side and as footy goes, people go and people come and I’m sure they’ll be in the mix next year,” Mahoney said.
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