Eels hit-man Tepai Moeroa is as embarrassed as the rest of his squad about leaking 54 points against Manly last week and says the team simply – for whatever reason – did not have the attitude they showed in last year's run to the finals.
Moeroa also brushed suggestions the team warmed up for too long ahead of the game. Eels players have admitted back-to-back games on baking hot Sundays combined with not having the ball in the opening 15-minute blitz against Manly were factors in the performance but refused to use it as an excuse.
"Dropped ball, no possession, missed too many tackles. That's it. Our attitude was shit," was Moeroa's simple summary of what went wrong against the Sea Eagles.
"Everything. There was no desire, no want, and it showed. Manly played outstanding football. They made us pay for our mistakes.
"You can't hide what happened. It was embarrassing. It had to be addressed. The second half against Penrith, to [then] come out and dish that against Manly just wasn't good enough.
"Everyone was still disappointed during the week and [now we're] looking to make up for that."
Asked about the warm-up, Moeroa couldn't help but laugh.
"I don't know who came out and said it was a 40-minute warm-up," he said.
"We warmed up the same time we warm up for a cold day, about 15 minutes. It's all we needed. It wasn't us warming up for however long we warmed up for [that was the problem], it was the attitude we went on the field with. It wasn't good enough.
"If we improve our attitude we improve a lot of things in our game. Our attitude will improve our defence, our defence will pretty much take care of the rest. We defend as a team, defend together, our attack normally runs off the back of it. We fix our defence and fix our attitude it will go a long way.
"We used to come out and bash teams. We love to hit together and defend for each other. We just need to get back to that and once we get back to that I think we'll be right."
Coming up against another winless side in Cronulla, Moeroa said their gritty and aggressive forward pack with the likes of Andrew Fifita, Paul Gallen, Wade Graham and Matt Prior would punish any similar lack of intensity from Parramatta.
"If we play like we did against Manly they're going to run all over us. We need to take aggression and hopefully match them in the forwards," Moeroa said.
The numbers don't tell a pretty picture for Brad Arthur's men when examining the Manly loss: 50 missed tackles, 11 line breaks conceded, nine tries conceded, 20 offloads conceded plus a horror 12-6 error count which also contributed to the Eels holding just 31% of the ball for the entire match.
Eels v Sharks
The challenge for the team and for Arthur now is to rediscover that aggressive attitude that served them so well last year, to carry the pain of last week's loss as a motivator without letting it wreck their confidence, and to bounce back physically from two energy-sapping Sunday afternoon losses in baking heat. On Saturday night Cronulla will find out how successful they've been.