Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire preferred to discuss his side's desire to beat a top-eight outfit over the ugly exit of former player Ryan Matterson leading into Thursday's clash with Parramatta.
The joint venture is 5-5 at the halfway point of the season with victories over the Sharks, Cowboys, Dragons, Broncos and Bulldogs – all of whom are below them on the Telstra Premiership ladder.
After their first complete performance of the season - a 48-0 thrashing of Brisbane - the Tigers' next challenge of beating a premiership contender starts in the Bankwest Stadium showdown with the second-place Eels.
Maguire said this match served as the next step on his side's progression.
"We've been playing teams and ebbing and flowing but it's about doing that against teams at the top now and backing that [Broncos] performance up," Maguire said on Wednesday.
"We understand when you're playing teams further up the ladder that their habits allow them to perform the way they are.
Maguire: We need to prove it against the top teams
"We've spoken about that, that's the attitude you need in every game to be a consistent top-four team we're all striving for.
"I don't think the boys are satisfied with where they're at. They understand - and a lot of this coming from the players now and that's what I'm trying to achieve - they control what we're doing and drive what we're doing."
Matterson's bitter departure from the joint-venture club 12 months into a three-year-deal is an easy storyline to weave into the round 11 clash as the rivalry between the two clubs continues to build.
The halfway mark: Try of the year
The in-form Eels back-rower is among three former Wests Tigers players in the blue and gold with Mitchell Moses, Nathan Brown all having once donned the black, gold and white.
On the flip side, the joint venture has former Eel Josh Aloiai in their ranks and have promising forward Stefano Utoikamanu arriving next season.
But it was Matterson who had the Tigers seething throughout the departure process in November last year after reports his management had undersold his value when agreeing to the original move from the Roosters.
Matterson has denied reports his early exit was money-related and wanted to keep the reasons private.
Eels coach Brad Arthur hosed down any animosity between the clubs.
"Everyone likes to play against their old team but I think Matto is just excited about being back in the team," Arthur said.
"It doesn't really phase me, we've got a short turnaround and one day rolls into the next. I don't have time to get caught up in it. It's about two good footy teams wanting to go out there and do well for their teammates and fans.
"This week is no different to last week or the week before."
The halfway mark: Tackle of the year
Maguire said losing Matterson had helped the club bring several other players on board during the last off-season.
"We've got players like Luc, Adam Doueihi and BJ off the opportunities that presented themselves so we're looking forward to seeing those boys perform," Maguire said when asked about Matterson.
"The game's when we've played well we've performed at a really high level. That's one thing I do know, this team is capable of beating anyone in the competition. We've got to show that with our actions.
"It's in our hands to be able to do that."
Meanwhile, the Wests Tigers' round 12 clash against the Warriors has been shifted from Campbelltown Stadium to the SCG due to the COVID-19 pandemic.