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Eels halfback Mitchell Moses.

Two weeks ago at Bankwest Stadium, Clint Gutherson grubbered and put four points on a platter for Mitchell Moses against his old Wests Tigers teammates.

Moses put the offering in the bloopers reel.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Moses conceded such a glaring error – which was clickbaited into 'bombed try of the year' headlines long before the game was done – would have put him in a spin in previous years.

Instead, Moses returned after half-time and put on the afterburners in a 70-metre sprint that left Daine Laurie for dead, the Tigers buried in the same play.

The two plays as much as any highlight exactly where Moses and coach Brad Arthur find his biggest strides in 2021; a season where his name dominated mid-season contract rumour mills, yet the attention barely registered in the playmaker's performances.

Moses breaks into a gap and sprints away

Nathan Cleary's busted shoulder puts Moses squarely in the Blues' sights for game three and the No.7 jumper.

His strongest competitor likely stands across from him on Friday night when Jarome Luai deputises at halfback for the Panthers, a role NSW will consider replicating against Queensland with Jack Wighton to come in at five-eighth.

Arthur insists the latest derby between the third-placed Eels and second-placed Panthers is no Origin audition for Moses.

With respect, he echoed the 26-year-old's comments earlier this week: "If I wasn't more than ready by now I'd be kidding myself".

How Cleary outsmarted Maroons with dodgy shoulder

Instead Arthur pointed to the purpose in his halfback since last year's painful straight-sets finals exit, a result that had questions asked of them both.

"Early in the season he came in and had some things he needed to work on that I talked to him about," Arthur says.

"A lot of it was physically, in terms of him going to that next level.

"He worked extremely hard on that without the knowledge of anyone else and got himself a personal trainer and did those extras.

"Straight away we saw the commitment to taking that extra step in his game.

"… For me it's not an audition for Mitchell on Friday night.

"He's playing for the Parramatta Eels and he's got a job to do for us. It doesn't change and it hasn't changed for him since round one.

"That's the reason why I would say he's ready. He's matured."

Arthur has long used Gutherson as the club's barometer on so many things, not least the ability to run further, faster and more often than anyone else.

His composure in clutch moments comes as much as anything from a lack of fatigue when everyone else is fighting for oxygen.

Arthur has urged Moses to match his skipper in the fitness stakes and has been more than happy with both his response and pay-off.

Panthers v Eels - Round 16

That game against the Tigers, Moses clocked 9.35km – the most of any NRL player that week.

Between the ears has been a more gradual growth for the Eels half, one he freely acknowledges.

"I had a lot of dark years at the Tigers and a lot of learning years and lot of lessons that were really harsh that I had to learn at the start of my career," Moses said after that round 14 clash with his old club.

"In the past coming up with that error [the bombed try from Gutherson's grubber], I would try to chase points and coming up with the wrong play.

"Or I'd probably go into my shell after that and let everyone else take control.

"I probably know how to handle those situations a bit better. I am still learning but I think I am handling those situations a lot better."

Moses turns his focus to setting Sivo up

Origin, even a dead rubber, is the exact setting for those situations.

Eels halves consultant Andrew Johns has tipped Moses as his pick to replace Cleary in game three, having drilled "the grind" into his playmaking pupil most every week.

Former NSW coach Phil Gould has done the same, a significant nod given he was a vocal critic of Moses' game management and combination with Luke Brooks during their early days at the Tigers.

Friday's clash with Penrith might not be an Origin audition in Arthur's eyes.

But against the NRL heavyweights on their own track, which is predicted to be a thoroughly soaked one no less, "the grind" Johns talks about beckons.

In slippery July conditions, a slip-up or two does as well. How Moses handles them will have Brad Fittler's attention as much as anything.

"Halves have got a lot of pressure on them from a very early age... it's a tough position," Arthur said.

"They've got full control of their team, full ownership of the team, full accountability and it takes time.

"You need to be patient with those guys and Mitch has learned a lot along the way through getting a lot of things wrong.

"He knows what works for him and what doesn't. He's found the balance."

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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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