Parramatta legend Peter Sterling concedes the Eels' lack of "mental resilience" caused them to "buckle" at crucial points this season, as their year came crashing down around them at the hands of the Rabbitohs on Saturday night.
The Eels were handed a finals exit in a disappointing 14-point loss at Bankwest Stadium in a match that was symptomatic of their wider season.
Having started the year at the top of the table with 11 wins from 13, the Eels undid their hard work by losing five of their last nine matches.
While Sterling wasn't entirely convinced by that assessment he did concede the Eels peaked too early and couldn't maintain their form into the back end of the year.
"There was real contrast between the first half and the second half. I'm not quite sure what that comes down to," Sterling told Wide World of Sports' Parramatta Eels season review.
"It was very interesting to hear Wayne Bennett say after South Sydney beat them that they didn't overwork themselves during the hiatus period, and kind of insinuated that Parramatta perhaps had worked too hard in that period and ran out of the legs.
"I don't know if that's the case or not, and I don't know if Wayne's in a position to make that call. But there certainly was a very different first half of the year for the Eels compared to the way they finished the season off.
"When things were going well for the side we looked fantastic. When we were under extreme duress, buckle is a strong word but probably relevant in some situations that I'm talking about.
"So, it's the mental resilience we need to improve. To be the champion you have to be the best in that department."
Sterling's assessment comes as the Eels prepare to farewell 11 players from their NRL and development squads.
In addition to veteran forwards David Gower and Peni Terepo who was honoured following Saturday's loss, Parramatta today announced a large cohort set to join them out the door.
The Eels have confirmed that Stefano Utiokamanu, Andrew Davey, Rhys Davies, Jaeman Salmon and Brad Takairangi will also depart, having not earned contracts for 2021, while Kane Evans will leave after signing with the Warriors earlier this season.
Impressive youngster Jai Field who shined while filling in for Dylan Brown throughout the season is also out the door, with reports the talent is on the radar of Super League giants Wigan.
Watson Heleta and Kyle Schneider, both part of the Eels' development squad, will also be farewelled.
"All players within the bubble have had to follow the strict NRL protocols to ensure the game continued this year," Parramatta GM of football Mark O'Neill said.
"Irrespective of whether the players were selected in the 17 each week, they have all contributed to our success.
"We are most grateful for the sacrifices our players have made and would like to offer our sincere thanks to each and every member of our squad."
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