Exclusive: Why the Eels can't win the title

They are the form team of the competition and have every other finals hopeful looking over their shoulders, but Eels greats Brett Kenny and Steve Ella believe a premiership is still a step too far for Parramatta this season.<br><br>Despite having won six games in a row to charge back into semi-final calculations, the legendary Eels duo – both members of the last Parramatta team to win a title in 1986 – believe it is almost impossible for any side to maintain such blistering form right through to the grand final.<br><br>In the 11 seasons since the NRL was formed in 1998, no side has won the premiership from outside the top four and even with their run of six consecutive wins the Eels would have to win another six to lift the trophy for the first time in 23 years.<br><br>“I’ve always believed it was very difficult,” Kenny told NRL.com today. “I would never say that a team outside the top four can’t make the grand final but I think it’s very difficult to win.<br><br>“Any side outside the top four is already under a lot of pressure every single week.<br><br>“You look at sides like Parramatta and Penrith – they’ve got to win every week because if they lose a game it could cost them a spot in the eight.<br><br>“It’s so difficult when you know you have to win every game.<br><br>“And even if one of those sides makes it all the way to the grand final, they rarely win because they’re just so relieved to even get there.”<br><br>The Eels and Panthers face off at Parramatta Stadium this Friday night in a game that shapes as one of the clashes of the season – again.<br><br>Having seen off Wests Tigers last Friday, Parramatta still find themselves locked out of the top eight and will almost certainly have to win both of their remaining games – including a tough clash against competition leaders St George Illawarra in Round 26 – to make the eight.<br><br>While the loser this Friday night will find it difficult to reach the finals, Kenny believes that both sides will more likely be among the top sides in 2010.<br><br>“You just have to be in the top four to give yourselves any chance of winning the competition,” he said.<br><br>“There will probably be quite a bit of pressure on them next year now because of how well they’ve played at times, the expectation will be high, but that’s what the game is all about.<br><br>“They are performing well and setting an example but they will have a bad game eventually, like everyone.”<br><br>Ella said nothing could be ruled out but admitted it would be extremely difficult for either Parramatta or Penrith to go all the way this season.<br><br>“Toss a coin,” he said. “It’s all guesswork.<br><br>“It will be very difficult though.<br><br>“Anything is possible but it will be difficult to do for anyone.”<br><br>The Eels and Panthers are locked together on 27 competition points in eighth and ninth respectively and with just five points separating them on for-and-against.<br><br>They have already played in one of the most exciting games of the season two months ago, with Penrith prevailing 38-34, and Ella says he expects another thrilling encounter this Friday.<br><br>“It has always been a local derby and has always been a great day for the supporters from both sides to get together,” he said.<br><br>“Penrith have had their ups and downs but they hit back last week and I’m expecting a really tough game.<br><br>“It always is, no matter where they are on the table, but given the situation with both sides fighting for survival, it’s going to be even bigger.”<br><br>Kenny and Ella aren’t alone, however, in suggesting that a finals berth is the best either side can hope for this season, with South Sydney great Ron Coote also insisting their task is simply too enormous.<br><br>“I don’t think they can do it,” he said. “History usually repeats itself doesn’t it?<br><br>“I just think it’s too hard a battle for them.”<br><br>Kenny, Ella and Coote all pointed to leaders St George Illawarra and the second-placed Bulldogs as the teams to beat this season, although Kenny said he had serious doubts over the Dragons after two shock losses in a row.<br><br>“I was telling a few mates of mine not long ago that even though the Dragons are going great and have a great coach, they haven’t had a bad period yet – and I’ve never known any side not to have a bad period,” he said.<br><br>“I said to them: ‘You want to hope it’s not rounds 24, 25 and 26.’ Well, now they’ve lost two in a row which is a real worry for them.<br><br>“They may well hit back and go all the way but there is a question mark on them now.”