'That wasn't us': Eels desperate for hit-back
Parramatta players at a loss to explain the team's horror performance against the 16th-placed Knights last week know the team let a big chance slip and say they won't make the same mistakes against the Titans at ANZ Stadium this Thursday.
Parramatta's six-game winning run – which included a memorable and hard-fought triumph over the high-flying Broncos – came to a screeching halt at the hands of the ever-improving Knights last week in a match where 15 errors punctuated a night of low energy and poor execution from the previously-dynamic Eels.
Heading into a virtual must-win match against the struggling Titans, Eels players refuted suggestions of complacency last week.
Playmaker Corey Norman admitted the loss was shattering and resulted in a well-earned spray from coach Brad Arthur in the aftermath.
"He said we had plenty to play for and that wasn't us the other night. We copped a spray in video and we'll move on," Norman said.
"I don't want to take away from Newcastle's performance, they just came down and outplayed us in everything. It was as simple as that. We didn't have that bad of a game, they were better on the night."
Utility Will Smith – who slotted in at fullback for Bevan French (hamstring) last week – agreed with Norman's assessment of the Knights loss.
"It just wasn't us, we just didn't turn up," Smith said.
"It just wasn't Parra on the weekend. We're looking forward to this week."
Smith – a Newcastle junior through the Western Suburbs Rosellas club – said he knew his former club had turned a corner recently, making any complacency on the Eels' part unlikely.
"The last two weeks leading up to us they started turning things around. It's good for the community back in Newcastle but to play against them and to lose and for our team to play the way we did, it just wasn't us," he said.
"I think we're still scratching our heads about what happened and what went wrong. We just didn't hold the ball, they did everything right."
Hooker Cam King – who finally tasted defeat as an Eel after an impressive 5-0 start to his Parramatta career since taking over from the injured Kaysa Pritchard – hoped the loss would serve as a wake-up call.
"It's a good reality check for us leading into what hopefully is a finals campaign. It's put us back into place and we see we've got a lot to work on," King said.
"We spoke about [not being complacent] all week. They were coming to play, we trained really well, we weren't complacent in any way so they just turned up on the night and out-enthused us in all the little effort areas and just beat us. I thought they played pretty good.
"They've got a lot of young guys that are starting to fulfil their potential. They've been in a lot of games this year and haven't been able to win but they've started to click at the back end of the year."
The fact the Eels missed a chance to move into the top four made the loss particularly disappointing; while Wests Tigers and Penrith did Parramatta a favour by downing finals contenders Manly and North Queensland respectively, the Eels know they can't afford a similar slip-up against the Titans without dropping down the ladder.
"That was probably what was most disappointing for us is that opportunity was there on the weekend but a couple of results went out way so we get another chance this weekend," King said.