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Eels 'upbeat but not overawed' as Arthur explains Matterson call

Eels coach Brad Arthur has confirmed Ryan Matterson will remain 18th man for Sunday's elimination final against the Knights as he puts his faith in the forward pack that steamrolled the Storm two weeks ago.

Despite the sudden-death situation, Arthur has sensed a calmness in his troops that wasn't present during their previous two finals campaigns, both of which resulted in second-week exits.

"There's a level of confidence – but not arrogance – on the back of their last performance, which was the Storm game [a 22-10 win in round 24], and they've trained that way this week," Arthur said.

"They seem to be upbeat for the occasion but also not overawed by it, whereas maybe in the past we might have overthought things or have been a bit nervous going into finals or worried about pressure."

Arthur acknowledged it was a tough decision to leave out Matterson, who has been serving a high tackle suspension since round 22.

"That's what I think is best this week for the team," Arthur said.

"Matto's been out for a month … We weren't ready last year in that second final – we had three or four players that hadn't played for two months and that was unfair on them."

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But a lack of game-time was only one factor in the second-rower being named as a reserve with Marata Niukore and Shaun Lane starting.

"It's not the [main] reason, no. I just felt like the 17 that we picked this week is the best 17 for this game," Arthur added.

"There was a pack of forwards that went out there against Melbourne and mixed it with the best and did the job. I feel I need to give them the opportunity to get the job done again."

Meanwhile, Arthur labelled experienced prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard's return from a five-week groin injury as a "big boost".

"He's already wearing thin with me this week; you can tell he's back at training because he's a pest," Arthur quipped.

"But he's good to have in the group. He does all that tough stuff and I was really happy with how he was playing this year.

"Sometimes you take for granted what you've got until you actually lose it. When he was missing for those three or four games, we just lacked that little bit of hard edge to start the games.

"And that's Reg. He likes the play-one carries, he likes to get down and kick-chase and he's got good minutes in him.

"Our expectations won't be through the roof with him this weekend because he's going to be a bit of short of a gallop, but ... we know that he'll front-load and come with plenty of energy and aggression."

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With hooker Joey Lussick out with a calf issue, Arthur will have Ray Stone push through as many minutes as possible before calling on interchange utility Will Smith to jump into dummy-half.

After several stars were rested for last week's loss to the Panthers, Arthur anticipates they will be excited and refreshed.

Among the big-name players returning from a week off is halfback Mitch Moses, who was outstanding in the Storm win.

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"Mitch is not one to lack confidence and he's always up at training, so I haven't really noticed a big difference that way," Arthur said.

"But I just feel that he's maturing with each game around his control and getting the balance right because he's a very good runner of the football, but he's also got the responsibility of steering the team around the field, getting his kicking game on.

"I think what everyone overlooked in the Melbourne Storm game was his defence. If you go and have a look at his defence in that game, he was aggressive, he got up off his line and really committed."

 

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