Eels loving their selection headaches

Parramatta coach Daniel Anderson says he won’t be rushing injured stars Feleti Mateo and Kris Keating back into the side as the Eels continue their late surge towards an unlikely finals appearance.<br><br>The pair are both on the comeback trail after suffering long-term injuries during Parramatta’s Round 10 loss to Manly at Brookvale Oval, but consecutive wins over heavyweights Melbourne and the Bulldogs – and the impressive form of halves Daniel Mortimer and Jeff Robson – have given Anderson cause to stick with the current squad.<br><br>“I’ll take it as a case-by-case situation,” Anderson told NRL.com ahead of Sunday’s crucial clash with Cronulla.<br><br>“They are valuable members of our squad and I value what they bring to the team but I’m also very happy with the boys and what they are doing at the moment. <br><br>“It’s a headache but it’s one that I relish.”<br><br>Parramatta’s season looked like spiralling out of control at one point with Mateo tearing a bicep and Keating breaking his jaw on the same afternoon but the side’s fortunes have quickly turned on the back of some inspired performances from brilliant fullback Jarryd Hayne.<br><br>While Mateo is still some time off returning to the field, Keating is inching closer with Anderson admitting he had some decisions to make in the coming weeks.<br><br>“But that’s what you want as a coach,” he said. <br><br>“It’s not nice having to tell players that they’re not playing first grade but I would prefer to have that dilemma than having to ask players to play first grade.”<br><br>Asked about the progress of Mateo – who was this week cleared to resume training – Anderson said “There is a medical clearance and then a physical clearance. <br><br>“As a result of his injury he hasn’t been able to do any contact work or any strength work. <br><br>“Medically the injury is in really good shape but physically I wouldn’t want to rush him back and risk another injury. <br><br>“Kris Keating is a little bit different. <br><br>“He has been able to do all of the physical work in the gym so as soon as he is cleared he will be ready to go.”<br><br>That Anderson even has such a headache is remarkable given that their season looked dead and buried as recently as two weeks ago following their narrow loss to the Gold Coast which left them languishing five points out of the eight in 14th.<br><br>So impressive has their resurgence been that the Eels head into Sunday’s clash with Cronulla as rare favourites – although Anderson remains wary of jumping the gun.<br><br>“We’ve been disappointing when we’ve been favourites this year and it’s not a point that I’ll let slide,” he said.<br><br>“I’ll bring it up in a team meeting – we’ll have a bit of a chat about our responsibilities when we’re favourites in a game.<br><br>“I don’t think that we should fear it but we need to make sure that there isn’t any sort of complacency heading into this game.<br><br>“We just can’t afford it.”<br><br>Anderson said he always expected that the Eels would take time to find their feet this season but had finally learnt what was needed to string games together.<br><br>“I think we’ve played well for a fairly long period but we weren’t doing enough to get over the line,” he said.<br><br>“Last time we played Cronulla was an example: we played very well for long periods of time but just didn’t finish off plays, didn’t take advantage of momentum and didn’t win the game.<br><br>“The impressive thing for me last Saturday night (against the Bulldogs) was that we really controlled the tempo of the game and then took advantage by posting points.<br><br>“We’ve spoken this year about us scoring three times in a row and the only other time I can think of when we have done that was against the Cowboys (Round 8).<br><br>“That was a really good thing for us.”<br><br>Asked if the Eels were now genuine finals contenders, Anderson said it simply came down to winning games.<br><br>“I won’t consider it seriously until we start winning consecutively,” he said.<br><br>“We’ve got a very average for-and-against which puts us even further behind the other teams around us like the Rabbitohs and Warriors.<br><br>“All I know is that we need to win this week.<br><br>“I know it’s a cliché but that’s where we are – we have to take it one game at a time.”<br><br><b>Late news:</b><br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Paul Gallen is likely to return from a shoulder injury against the Eels;<br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Nathan Friend and Mark Minichiello are likely to take the field for the Gold Coast against North Queensland after overcoming ankle and knee problems; and <br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Penrith back-rower Frank Pritchard remains in serious doubt for tomorrow’s clash with the Warriors.<br>