Eels' finals drought set to break
Parramatta players are under no illusions that they still have a big job ahead of them to make the finals for the first time since 2009 but, with a relatively friendly draw for the final six weeks of the competition coming up, are happy to have their fate in their own hands.
Fixtures for the final six rounds were formalised this week with the Eels nabbing five of six games at ANZ Stadium (including a couple that are counted as away games) and no five-day turnarounds, with only Thursday and Friday night footy to come.
The Eels crept into the eight on the back of last week's bye and with winnable games against Canterbury this Thursday and Storm minus their Origin players next Saturday heading into their second bye, can go close to assuring themselves a finals chance over the next three weeks.
"We needed the win the game [against the Dragons] before the bye, it gets us into the eight," centre Michael Jennings said this week.
"The next two games are really important. When we go into the next bye we can kind of secure a top eight position… Canterbury then Melbourne without their Origin players, it's really beneficial for us.
"The run home is really good, we get Thursdays and Friday night games but no team is really easy. As long as we're playing good footy leading into the finals that will be good."
Back-rower Kenny Edwards is expecting a desperate Canterbury team on Thursday night as they fight to keep their slim finals hopes alive. However he was relieved in the knowledge the Eels' fate is in their own hands.
"The other clubs have all had a bye and it was a luxury we hadn't had," Edwards said.
"We'd played a game more than anyone else and it was a luxury to be able to get away for a week and come back being in the top eight. At the end of the day we don't want to wait until the end of the year and rely on other games to make the eight. We want to cement our spot in the top eight."
He agreed the club was looking at plenty of winnable games but stressed that was far from a guarantee of banking a win in any of those matches.
"Over the last few years we've struggled with teams below us," he said.
"Teams we're not supposed to beat we come out [and play well]. Our big focus in the next few weeks is to come out and get as many points in this next five week bloc heading into the last six or seven games.
"We've been drawn a good draw with all Thursday and Friday night games. Like I said it's in our hands now and we've got to put our best foot forward by stopping the big Bulldogs pack this week."
Having five of the last six at ANZ though will be "massive", he added.
"We've tried to make ANZ Stadium our home and a fortress for us and to see the last six or seven weeks with Thursdays and Fridays with the long turnarounds [is good]," he said.