Eels look for 'first win' against Rabbitohs
Despite a nightmarish two weeks for the Eels players in the wake of the club's salary cap dramas and possible loss of 12 competition points, lock Tepai Moeroa is proof the players are determined to face the Rabbitohs on Friday in a good frame of mind.
The match will be the club's first since the news broke of the preliminary penalties the NRL had formulated as a result of its investigation into the club's salary cap breaches and the players are desperate to get back on the field. It's doubly true for Moeroa, who has had an extra week out after sitting out the Bulldogs win a fortnight ago with a shin complaint.
Despite the recent dramas, Moeroa could still afford a smile when he faced media this week.
"I'm not gonna lie, it's been tough. After everything with the salary cap came out it's a real kick in the guts but hopefully we get under the cap and we can play for points this week," he said.
"It was the worst sitting on the side watching the boys play against the Doggies; I just wanted to be out there. This week back against the Rabbitohs and hopefully we can get our first win of the year!"
It may seem a light-hearted comment but it also highlights the belief the players have that if they can achieve their first legitimate win of the year this Friday, they have the belief they can get the 10 or 11 more required thereafter to play finals footy this year.
The fired-up Eels will present a different sort of challenge for a Rabbitohs side desperate to reverse their recent slide and if the efforts of the Storm in 2010 – beating the Warriors 40-6 after their cap penalties were handed down – are anything to go by, the Bunnies will be up against it.
Asked whether Michael Maguire's men may feel the wrath of the angry Eels players, Moeroa coyly smiled: "The boys are – let's just say we're ready for a good game."
Despite the predicament the players have landed in through no fault of their own – and now facing the possible loss of close mate Nathan Peats to another club as a result of administrative mismanagement – Moeroa said the players were refusing to blame the board and executives who have created the problem.
"I don't think so... we've just got to worry about what we can do as a team to win our next 12 from 15. The board did make mistakes but that's out of our control," he said.
Another piece of the Eels salary cap puzzle is the likely retirement of veteran lock Anthony Watmough due to an ongoing knee injury, which is a particularly relevant factor for Moeroa, who had worn the No.13 jersey in Watmough's absence this year.
Having likely played their last game together, Moeroa paid tribute to a man he described as one of the most durable players he had come across.
"He's probably one of the most resilient players I know. He had operations on his knee and his shoulder and worked the whole pre-season to get back," Moeroa said.
"During our pre-season he got re-injured then he was still in a fight to come back so that just shows the type of person he is and he's a fighter. It would be sad to see him retire."