PARRAMATTA Eels will be aiming to go one better in 2023 and win the coveted NRL Premiership which has eluded them since 1986.
And their fate may well lay in the hands of the 33yo British star Josh Hodgson who has transferred from the Canberra Raiders.
His direct, on the edge power game will be ideal for Parramatta’s big pack and players like Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Junior Paulo, Shaun Lane and Ryan Matterson.
Hodgson was rated the best hooker in the NRL after Cameron Smith retired, but a series of injuries have plagued him in the past couple of seasons in Canberra.
Hodgson began his senior club career with Hull F.C. after progressing through their Academy system, making his first team début in 2009. Due to limited first team opportunities, he joined Hull Kingston Rovers at the end of the 2009 season, where he established himself in the first team and went on to make over 100 appearances. At the end of the 2014 season, he moved to Canberra Raiders.
An England international, Hodgson made his senior international début in October 2014, and represented England at the Four Nations and 2017 World Cup.
Hodgson has suffered two career threatening Anterior Cruciate Ligament injuries, in 2018 and 2020, on both knees.
But at his best, Hodgson could well give the Eels a new style of play that will bring them premiership success this year. The re-signing of the gifted Mitchell Moses was also critical to the Eels premiership aspirations.
No team wins a premiership without a champion halfback at the helm.
Now, finishing runners-up in the previous year is always a precarious position for an NRL club and the Parramatta Eels can go one of two ways in 2023.
Players can be scarred by coming so near to winning the title and their performance falls away and they finish down the ladder the following year.
Or they can learn from the shattering experience, become mentally stronger and chase their dream even harder, according to NRL pundits.
The challenge for Brad Arthur and his team with significant changes from last season is to do the latter and knock Penrith off their perch.
Gains include: Josh Hodgson (Raiders), J’maine Hopgood (Panthers), Jirah Momoisea (Knights), Jack Murchie (Warriors), Matt Doorey (Bulldogs), Daejeon Asi (Warriors).
Losses are: Marata Nikole (Warriors), Isaiah Papali (Wests Tigers), Oregon Kaufusi (Sharks), Reed Mahoney (Bulldogs), Ray Stone (Dolphins), Tom Opacic (Hull KR), Hayze Perham (Bulldogs).
Image: The Eels in 2023.