A dejected Cameron King admits the Eels threw away their season against the Cowboys after bowing out in straight sets following their top four finish heading into the finals series.
While Parramatta coach Brad Arthur focused on the positive turnaround the club had endured after the side's eight-point loss to North Queensland, King was stuck in the moment of processing what went wrong.
The Eels completed at 60 per cent in the second half and looked flustered in attack once they fell behind on the scoreboard, with Cowboys halfback Michael Morgan controlling the game with ease and showcasing his big-game experience.
Arthur's decision to welcome back Kaysa Pritchard on the bench for Siosaia Vave also proved costly, with the Eels losing prop Daniel Alvaro to concussion inside five minutes.
"It's obviously raw right now and feels like an opportunity thrown away," King said of the result.
"We're really disappointed and it felt like we had so much more to give.
"We just let ourselves down in a couple of key areas and that hurt us."
Parramatta's first finals appearance since 2009 brought upon pressure from their loyal fan base and the Sydney media to deliver on the big stage.
After a promising performance against competition favourites Melbourne a week prior, the Eels were heavily backed to get the job done, but failed to live up to the weight of expectation.
Despite the result, King insisted the side had never bought into the hype but believed inexperience could have played a part.
"There's no pressure, we just let ourselves down in key areas," King said.
"We've got a really humble and resilient group. Inside our four walls everything is focus on our footy game. Any outside noise we don't talk about.
"We put ourselves in a good position finishing fourth but will learn a good lesson about semi-final footy.
"It's a driving force for us next year."
King admitted it would be hard to watch the remaining fortnight of the Telstra Premiership on the sidelines after defeat to his former club.
The Eels hooker managed to equal his career-high 11 games during the season after replacing Pritchard in Round 17.
"It will be tough [to watch], it feels like an opportunity thrown away so it's a tough spill to swallow," he said.
"We didn't get beat on effort, just a bit of patience and composure in semi-final football.
"That's our standard now and we've got to build off that.
"We'll learn from it and it's an experience for everyone that will drive us for the coming year. It will make us hungry in the pre-season and it's going to be a driving force for next year."