Coach Brad Arthur has done his best to play down Parramatta’s NRL premiership hype, saying his side may be a little rusty in Thursday night’s clash in Brisbane.
But the Eels mentor still hinted that the signs were good for his side thanks to an infamous training bust-up on the weekend.
Parramatta have been tipped to end their 34 year title drought this season after emerging as one of the big winners of the NRL revised draw.
The current ladder leaders are the only NSW club to play home games at their fulltime ground Bankwest Stadium for at least the first seven weeks of the re-started season.
One bookmaker has the Eels only behind Melbourne to lift the Provan-Summons trophy in late October.
Not that Arthur was interested.
“We have the first of 18 straight games, it is the same for everyone,” he said.
“It will be a real test of character whoever does win it.
“The team who stays healthiest for the longest and keeps their combinations will put them in a good position.”
Arthur also shot down any perceived advantage with the draw.
“It is a good stadium to play at (but there won’t be) any advantage until we get the crowds back,” he said.
Arthur did suggest though the portents were good for the Eels after a well-documented fight broke out at training on Saturday.
“It’s just everyone getting competitive at training,” he said of the clash.
“We challenge our reserve grade players to try and prepare us the best they can and that means coming at us, and they did a really good on Saturday.
“The boys haven’t played for a long time, they are just keen to get out there.”
Meanwhile, Arthur said the coronavirus shutdown had been a blessing in disguise for hooker Reed Mahoney who will run out against Brisbane despite undergoing foot surgery in March.
“It would have been interesting to see how we handled that period without Reedy but we didn’t have to,” he said.
“It was a blessing in disguise with what happened.
“Now Reed comes back. He might be a touch underdone but he worked extremely hard to get in this position to play for his team.”