Good times... Eels veteran Ben Smith celebrates with team-mates after a try against the Sharks last week. Credit: Grant Trouville. Copyright: NRL Photos.
It's been over a year since Ricky Stuart's ‘Dirty Dozen’ were told their services were no longer required by the then-Eels coach, but centre Ryan Morgan says none of them have anything to prove when they face off against Stuart for the first time on Saturday.
Three of those players - veterans Ben Smith, Willie Tonga and halfback Luke Kelly – remain in the blue-and-gold, while another four players still hold NRL contracts.
Of the three, only Smith will take the field when the Eels host Stuart's struggling Canberra side in Darwin this weekend. And while Smith would relish the opportunity to stick it to his former coach, Morgan believes his team-mate won't be out to make a point.
"I don't think he will, no," Morgan told NRL.com on Tuesday. "That seems like a lifetime ago now. A lot of boys have moved on since then and we've got goals to play finals this year. We need to play for the rest of the season and fix us, not focus on that."
In fact, Morgan says the biggest danger for the top eight hopefuls will be getting up for a team that conceded 54 points in 68 minutes against the Warriors last weekend.
Sitting precariously outside the top eight on for-and-against, the 24-year-old says his team can't afford to be distracted by old grudges or get sucked in by complacency. Not when he knew what it was like to be on the end of a similar defeat, and certainly not when there's a finals spot on the line.
"We don't want that to happen. We just need to go out there, focus on what we need to do and implement our game plan. We should walk away with the two points," he said.
"Obviously teams can get complacent seeing that scoreline, but we can't afford to be. We know they're a quality team and they can turn it on against us. We need to be prepared for what they're going to throw at us.
"I know how it feels to come off a loss like that, and next week you just want to turn that around. You don't want to be feeling the same thing. They're going to come out hard and you gotta be ready for it."
With three of their final five games against the Raiders (twice) and the Knights, another temptation would be for Eels players to look at improving their horrific points differential of -76 as they battle for the final few spots in the finals.
But Morgan said they could take destiny into their own hands by winning their remaining five games in the regular season.
"We're looking to just get the two points. Hopefully it won't come down to it, but if we win the rest of our games, we get in," he said.
"We're not looking at for-and-against. We're not talking about that, we want to win as many games as we can."