Dragons will be Eels' acid test: Hindmarsh

They are the hottest team in the NRL with seven wins in a row but veteran back-rower Nathan Hindmarsh says he won’t consider Parramatta to be premiership contenders unless they can knock over the Dragons on Friday night.<br><br>Despite their remarkable surge from cellar-dwellers to top-eight certainties, Hindmarsh was today quick to play down his side’s title chances, insisting the trip to WIN Jubilee Oval loomed as the toughest game of the season.<br><br>“If we beat St George [Illawarra] we’ll know that we can give the comp a decent shake,” Hindmarsh told NRL.com.<br><br>“Until then we can’t think we’re contenders – we’ve been battling away for the past seven weeks.<br><br>“We’ve come up against some teams that haven’t really been in great form and Saints are still the best team in the comp.<br><br>“I do think we’re a chance but I wouldn’t say we’re going to win it just yet.”<br><br>Asked his thoughts on the Dragons’ recent slump which has seen them lose three games in a row at the wrong end of the season, Hindmarsh said: “They’re still a top-quality side. <br><br>“They’ve been a bit complacent the past few weeks but they won’t be complacent against us.<br><br>“They’ve been on top of the comp all year and they know the semis are coming up so they’re probably just saving a bit in the tank. <br><br>“I’m sure they would have liked to have won the minor premiership but once the finals actually hit they’ll be back into gear.”<br><br>That Parramatta are even in the finals race is amazing given that seven weeks ago they were languishing in 14th spot and a full five points out of the top eight.<br><br>Their dramatic turnaround now has them destined for the finals, with an eighth consecutive win this Friday propelling them as high as fifth on the NRL ladder and a probable second chance should they slip up the following week.<br><br>“And that’s important for us,” Hindmarsh said.<br><br>“If we could get up to the higher end it would be better for us but we just want to win to keep our roll going. <br><br>“It’s the last competition round so we want to keep that momentum going in the build-up to the semis.”<br><br>Hindmarsh is no stranger to finals football but the Eels’ late-season charge poses a fresh challenge for the 29-year-old who admits the side has choked at crucial times in the past.<br><br>In 1998 – the year he made his NRL debut – Parramatta led the Bulldogs 18-2 in the grand final qualifier with 11 minutes remaining before falling in extra time; 12 months later they lost the corresponding game despite being hot favourites against eventual premiers Melbourne and in 2001 they collapsed in the grand final against Newcastle after dominating all year.<br><br>They also capitulated 29-0 against North Queensland one game away from the 2005 decider.<br><br>But Hindmarsh said confidence was high this time around, with the Eels finding form at the right end of the season.<br><br>“It’s different,” he said. “I’m hoping people are taking notice of us and thinking ‘oh I hope we don’t play the Eels’ rather than looking forward to getting stuck into us. <br><br>“It’s good to have this momentum going. <br><br>“We weren’t so good at the start of the year but hopefully we’ve peaked at the right time and it keeps continuing.”<br><br>Hindmarsh said history had taught him that finishing higher up on the ladder and earning a week off during the finals was often a curse rather than a blessing.<br><br>“I’m one of those ones who thinks: ‘Do you want to have the week off or do you want to keep going?’,” he said. <br><br>“Personally I’d like to keep going. <br><br>“As much as I like the idea of sitting there waiting for someone, I like to play every week, keep everything going and keep the same routine.<br><br>“But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. <br><br>“We haven’t won anything. <br><br>“There is a lot of hype around us coming from where we have because no-one had given us a chance but we’re just doing what we need to do.”