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Clint Gutherson column: It's hard not to dream about grand final glory

I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about lifting the Telstra Premiership trophy and being the man who leads the Eels to glory after a 34-year drought.

It's hard not to think of it sometimes - especially when everyone keeps reminding me how long it's been since we've won the comp!

I was joking with Roosters captain Boyd Cordner at the NRL season launch about how many times he's held the trophy up.

Boyd said he wanted more success and that's inspired me to work harder to make it a reality for Parramatta.

We're aware of the high expectations on us to challenge for the title this season, but it's still business as usual. There's going to be pressure on every team and you have to learn to live with that.

The boys are excited after a long, tough off-season. It's crucial for us to get a few early victories to build our confidence and then I'm sure we'll be fine. We're prepared to win ugly to do that.

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We've been boosted by the signings of Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson, but as great as they are, it will probably take a few rounds for them to find their feet in a young forward pack.

It's going to be the same for most teams; combinations won't click right away. It might take four or five weeks, and that's why it's so important to scrap hard at the start and get on a winning roll.

Reagan has been playing at the top level for a while now and Matto has won a comp with the Roosters, so they'll bring a lot to our side. It's exciting, but there's a long way to go.

As captain, I'll continue to lead by my actions. I've never considered myself the best player, but I stake my pride on giving absolutely everything from the first minute to the 80th and that won't change.

I speak up whenever I need to but I often leave the talking to the senior boys like Michael Jennings and Blake Ferguson, who have been around the game a lot longer than me and won comps.

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That takes a lot off my hands and makes my job easier. At 25, I'm still learning about leadership as I go. I'm going to get some things wrong, but it's about improving on any mistakes.

It was a unique and often tough journey to becoming Eels skipper, but it's made me the player and person I am. Even at my lowest point after suffering my second ACL injury in 2017, I always had the belief I could get to where I wanted to go.

The next goal on my personal list is to play State of Origin. Being 18th man in NSW camp last year made me hungrier to achieve that dream. And if Parra are going well, it's only going to help my chances and that of my teammates.

All the boys have ripped into training over the summer and I reckon a few of our young guys are ready for huge years.

Props Oregon Kaufusi and Stefano Utoikamanu have been awesome, while Reed Mahoney and Dylan Brown are going to reap the benefits of another pre-season.

Now it's about making all that hard work count.