Panthers not buying into Eels dramas
A Penrith side desperately trying to stay in touch with the top eight say they won't be worrying about the off-field turmoil engulfing their opponents when they host the embattled Eels this weekend.
Under coach Brad Arthur, Parramatta has done a remarkable job to hold it together on the field this year in the wake of one controversy after another but face arguably their stiffest challenge yet with this year's best player – five-eighth Corey Norman – stood down after pleading guilty to possessing a prohibited substance during the week.
Norman set up all four of Parramatta's tries last week, saved a possible Roosters match-winner at the end and kicked magnificently throughout. It will be a tall order for the recently-returned Jeff Robson and whoever his makeshift halves partner turns out to be to fill the breach but the 10th-placed Panthers are more worried about fixing up what went wrong over their past two losses than what is going on in the blue and gold camp.
"Yeah we haven't really bought into what's going on on the outside and in the media and what their club's under," Merrin told NRL.com during the week.
"I think our biggest focus is ourselves; it is a must-win for us, it's pretty crucial from here on in we get most of our wins now and we've been training really well, we're just focusing on what we need to do and take that into Sunday."
Despite the hit to the playmaking stocks and loss to injury of star winger Semi Radradra, the Eels' in-form forward pack is intact and Merrin knows that threat hasn’t changed.
"They've been great this year. They back up every weekend even before the scrutiny going on on the outside they still managed to get the job done and work hard so what's going on isn't going to affect them," he added.
"I think they're going to take it as a point to prove and they're going to bring it on Sunday and we need to aim up and match it and focus on what we need to do."
He said the team had learned plenty from a disappointing 26-10 loss to an Origin-hit Sharks outfit last weekend.
"We were great in some aspects and then we were very poor in others. We'll take some positives out of that game into training and work really hard and focus on getting the job done on Sunday," he said.
"We're still building. As a team we've had a few injuries this year and players playing out of position so it does hurt you a bit but we're not looking for excuses, we know we've got the talent there and the core group there to get the job done and we're just not getting it done at the moment."
Impressive young prop Leilani Latu claimed the team needs to take care this week to get back to basics and learn from recent mistakes.
"It's an unfortunate thing this past week with losing but Parra are in a desperate state of mind as well. It will be a great game and even better being back at home," Latu told NRL.com.
While disappointed with last week's loss to the Sharks, he agreed there were some positives there and noted the table-topping outfit still put a strong side on the park last round despite being without five Origin representatives.
"Despite Cronulla having lost all those players they still fielded a good team and a lot of the confidence had been worked over all those wins they tallied up so whatever team they were going to field we weren't going to take it for granted," he said.
"Coach (Anthony Griffin) just said to look at the positives. Obviously he was a bit down that we did get the loss but that's footy, you win some, you lose some.
"The focus this week has been getting the basics right and that's in attack and 'D'."