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Eels halfback Luke Kelly has a chance to impress in first grade following the departure of Chris Sandow.

Parramatta halfback Luke Kelly says his only task is to keep things simple and play his own game when he officially takes over from Chris Sandow in the blue and gold No.7 jersey in Townsville on Monday night.

With Sandow granted a release to join Warrington in the UK Super League effective immediately, and senior playmaker Corey Norman sidelined with a knee strain, Kelly has suddenly become Parramatta's only available senior playmaker.

He will partner back-row utility Joe Paulo for the tough must-win road trip against the Cowboys but says despite no-one giving the side a hope he is excited by the opportunity and has been given a simple game plan.

"We don't need to do anything special, we just need to do our jobs and do our jobs well, organising the boys around the field and defending well," Kelly told in regards to his new partnership with Paulo.

"I think that will go to the team performing well, if everyone does their job well as a team we can hopefully put some good performances together."

He said the situation of having both first-choice halves unavailable is "not ideal" but the misfortune still created opportunity.

"It's a big opportunity for myself and it's a very important time for the club," he said.

"We need to play well as a team because we're still alive in the finals race. Hopefully we can pull some good games together."


Despite being long odds to make the 2015 NRL Telstra Premiership finals, an unlikely win on Monday would see the Eels just one win outside the top eight after 20 rounds.

"We're definitely in the mix if we're good enough, that's the challenge for us now is to play well consistently. It's probably been something we haven't done so well. We didn't play well last week [against Canterbury] obviously but before that we were on a bit of a roll."

The Eels had won three straight – and collected two points in five straight weeks thanks to two byes – before the disappointing 28-4 loss to the Bulldogs last week.

Kelly said he had benefited from Eels coach Brad Arthur's directions, which he said did not involve anything to do with trying to replicate what livewire half Sandow brings to a football team.

"He doesn't want me to do anything special, anything that I don't normally do, just play the way that got me into the team," Kelly said.

"He just wants me doing my role, the little things that a half does and he said he doesn't want anything different."

Kelly remains off contract for next season and the next seven weeks present him an opportunity to stake a claim for either a contract extension with the Eels or make his case for a move elsewhere. He said while nothing has been organised yet he is hoping to have a deal done sooner rather than later.

"Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I'll know a little bit more," he said.

"I'm not 100 per cent sure at the moment but hopefully soon. I'd like to stay, I enjoy it here, the club's been very good to me, I'd like to stay."

The Northern Territory product moved to Sydney in his teens for boarding school before packing up and heading down to Melbourne to join the Storm National Youth Competition side. He eventually made his first grade debut at the club then returned to Sydney to join Parramatta after being snapped up mid-season in 2012. 

"I've moved a couple of times, it's not nice, hopefully I won't have to do it again!" he laughed.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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