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Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has signed another one-year deal with the Panthers.

There's nothing like a local derby to bring out the best in two proud teams, and the 92nd meeting between the Eels and the Panthers will be no different. 

Players from both sides have detailed how Sunday's clash is more than just a game, with bragging rights up for grabs for the victors. 

While the Panthers boast a supreme record in recent years, it's the Eels who hold the advantage in 2016, winning three of their first four games compared to Penrith's 1-3 start. 


Local Penrith junior Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is used to heated battles with the Eels, but denied there was any 'hate' towards Sunday's opponents.

"I think it's more of a rivalry than hate. Hate is pretty strong, but it is a big rivalry," the Panthers winger said.  

"I've always known that Parramatta's been our biggest rivalry. Growing up through Harold Matts and SG Ball it was always a massive game against Parramatta and everyone steps up that extra gear."

Watene-Zelezniak said Parramatta's good start to the season came as no surprise, and pinpointed their success at the Auckland Nines as the catalyst behind their impressive start to 2016.  

"It started at the Nines. They got their roll-on from there and they've been giving the competition a good shake. It's good for them how they're going. I know it's going to be a tough one on the weekend."

After a slow start to the season, Panthers forward Jeremy Latimore is hoping the occasion will bring out the best from a Penrith side seeking its second win of the year.

According to Latimore, the biggest challenge will be trying to breach the Eels' competition-best defence, which is coming off a shut-out against the Tigers on Easter Monday.  

"Local derbies are always great and obviously with them playing so well, they'll fill that stadium out," Latimore said. 

"We've been playing well, but we just haven't got the results. There's nothing like Sunday arvo footy, so hopefully we can pack the stadium out and put on a show.

"Their defence over the last two weeks has been really good, so we've got to come up with a plan to penetrate that. At the moment we're just trying to get some belief in ourselves and play some good footy."

For new Panthers recruit Peta Hiku, Sunday's match will be his first proper taste of the golden west's oldest rivalry. 

"We had a pre-season game, and everyone was full on about that," the in-form centre said. 

"They take it fairly serious out here. The last week or so, fans have been going on about it, so I suppose that they have a big rivalry here and that's something I'm going to have to get into myself and not let the fans down."

Parramatta players are hoping for a huge crowd at Pirtek Stadium to help lift them to what would be their fourth straight win of 2016.

Injured forward Tim Mannah understands the enormity of this weekend's clash, but said his side would be up for the challenge no matter who they were coming up against. 

"It's always been there… it's always a good rivalry," the experienced Eel said. 

"We're two big clubs in western Sydney, which is a pretty big heartland of rugby league. 

"It's always a big challenge and a good test but for us, but it's more about what we can improve on and what we can getter at. Whether we're playing Penrith or any other team, our style of footy isn't going to change too much."

Fellow Eels forward David Gower is simply looking forward to running out in front of a packed house at Pirtek, and is urging all members of the blue and gold army to help make that a reality.  

"Battle of the west, there's always a little bit extra in it and if we can get 25,000 Parramatta lunatics out there it will be fantastic."

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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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