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Spoon to silverware: Eels confident they can buck 84-year hoodoo

Parramatta stars are adamant they can buck 84 years of rugby league history and claim the NRL's most cherished silverware 12 months after picking up the dreaded wooden spoon.

The Eels finals assault begins two weeks early as they look to bounce back from a shock loss to Canterbury against finals contenders Brisbane on Friday, before hosting Manly in a mouth-watering appetiser leading into the post-season.

Parramatta are finals-bound once more after 2018's diabolical slump to last place, the 14th in the club's history, behind only the 17 recorded by the now-defunct Wests Magpies.

Captain Clint Gutherson bullishly claimed his Eels can emulate the 1934-vintage Magpies as the only side to go from wooden-spooners to premiers the very next season.

"If you're not playing footy to win the comp you're not playing for the right reasons," Gutherson said on Monday.

"You want to be winning comps. You want to be doing it the hard way, easy way, you just want to get out there and rip in, you just want to put your body on the line.

Ferguson back to full strength

"If you're not going out there in the finals at the back end of the year trying to prove everyone wrong and win it for yourself, you're in the game for the wrong reason."

Asked outright if the Eels could go all the way and end the club's painful 33-year premiership drought, Gutherson was blunt.


Based on what?

"Based on the belief that on our day we can beat anyone," he fired back.

"We've just got to string together a good month and a half of footy and be there at the back end of October."

While the Roosters went from 2009 wooden spooners to grand finalists the following year, Wests are the only side to go the full length of the straight in just 12 months.

Their 1933 side was decimated by having the bulk of their backline away on a Kangaroos tour of the UK, having finished runners up in 1932 and going one better upon returning in '34.

In-form prop Junior Paulo sang from the same hymn sheet as Gutherson in the present day, having considered Parramatta's ability to recover from last year's debacle when he weighed up a lucrative four-year deal to return home from Canberra.

"It was one of the jobs I had to look at when I was coming back to the Eels," Paulo said.

"When I did make the decision to come back, I knew it was going to be a tough turnaround.

"And it's one that Brad [Arthur] has asked me to talk to a lot of the young forwards that we have here at the club [about], and instil that belief in them as well.

Oates not holding grudge over Roberts elbow

"It can be a tough road ahead when you come off the back of a wooden spoon but I think we've turned that around. The job's not done just yet and we're looking to ride a wave heading into the finals.

"For us our goal is definitely to win a comp. That's why we're here, that's why we turn up every day."

While Nathan Brown is out suspended for the next two weeks, strike winger Blake Ferguson returns for his first game since mid-July after fears he could suffer kidney failure out of a surgical infection.

Try of the week: Round 23

Ferguson had lost as much as 13 kilos during the ordeal that saw him placed in intensive care, before re-gaining the majority of that weight through a diet of Donut King milkshakes and chicken burgers.

"I've done the work, the rehab and physio and to be honest I'm probably feeling a lot better than I did this time last year leading into the back end of the year," Ferguson said ahead his return against Brisbane.

"I'm feeling pretty good and I'm just happy to be back.

"It was pretty hard to watch on the sidelines. I can't really watch a game of football without critiquing it. I can't watch it like a normal person."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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