Blake Ferguson will add some starch to the Parramatta backline.
Blake Ferguson will add some starch to the Parramatta backline. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Eels great mounts case for NRL 'dark horses'

AFTER one of the more disappointing seasons in the club's proud history, Parramatta great Nathan Hindmarsh has tipped the Eels to bounce back in a big way.

In fact, he believes the Eels could be a dark horse in this season's premiership race.

A very dark horse.

"Let's put it this way, if the horses were running at night you wouldn't see theirs," said Hindmarsh, who retired at the end of the 2012 season after 330 games with the club.

"They had a huge fall from grace - they finished fourth in the 2017 regular season and then were wooden spooners last year. But this year is different."

It will be a tough ask for Brad Arthur's men after losing the experience of Beau Scott (retirement), Kenn Edwards (Catalans) and Corey Norman (St George) in the off-season.

The Eels have, however, picked up the services of 2018 NRL Winger of the Year Blake Ferguson to add starch to their backline, and Junior Paulo is a welcome return.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - JULY 14: Junior Paulo of the Raiders runs the ball during the round 18 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the North Queensland Cowboys at GIO Stadium on July 14, 2018 in Canberra, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)
Junior Paulo makes a return to Parramatta. Mark Nolan

Hindmarsh believes the two old heads could be the difference between the bottom of the ladder and the bottom of the top four.

"Parra has got some young talent coming through the ranks and Junior Paulo is back there also - he is only going to run it straight through the middle," he said.

"There is also a lot of talent on the edges. If they can get early ball to Fergo on the wing, he could really be an X-factor for the side.

"I don't know if I would go as far as saying 'buy of the season' just yet, but he is definitely a great player. If he can do half of what he did at the Roosters with the Eels, he is going to improve the boys around him."

Parramatta Eels players Dylan Brown and Shaun Lane take part in a team training session at the Old Saleyards Reserve, in Sydney, Tuesday, February 5, 2019. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts) NO ARCHIVING
Dylan Brown (L) and Shaun Lane are among the rising talent set to get a chance with the Eels. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Hindmarsh said it was only consistency the Eels lacked in 2018 and if Arthur could get the side firing again they could go a long way in a very tight competition.

"It is not going to be an easy year for any side. Obviously your powerhouses, the Roosters and Melbourne Storm are going to be up there again, but the sides on the fringes really have a chance at the title," Hindmarsh said.

Well known for his larrikin escapades with Brian Fletcher on Fox League's The Matty Johns Show, Hindmarsh will return to the silver screen for another year.

Much to his surprise, he will join the panel for Johns' new production, The Late Show, on Thursday nights and also moonlight with 'The Professor' James Rochford on The Professor's Farewell Tour.

"It's amazing, I love coming to work at Fox Sports," Hindmarsh said.

"It really doesn't feel like work. It keeps you involved in the game without having the rigours of actually being involved in a game."