Parramatta have put the emphasis back on tackling to record their best defensive start to a season in their 73-year history.
Among the competition favourites for their ability to play with flair in the new quicker NRL, it’s the Eels’ defensive start to the season that players are most proud of.
The first-placed Eels have conceded just 14 points in their opening three wins, their most miserly start to the season since they entered the competition in 1947.
The record betters the 18 they let in during the opening three games of 1993, while their previous best mark this century is 35 in 2001.
It comes after the Eels were ranked third for points scored last year, but still let in almost 20 points a game in 2019 with a record similar to that of the past 17 years.
“It’s better to save a try than score a try, that’s how we see it,” veteran centre Michael Jennings said.
“We know that our attack, we’ve got a lot of strike power.
“But to take our game to the next level we wanted to work on our defence.
“The top teams are the best defensive sides. We want to pride our game based on defence.
“If we can be up there with the top teams in defence we know we can go a long way in the comp.”
In turn, the Eels now want to make defence as much a part of their new identity as their renowned attacking flair.
They have conceded just two tries in the opening two rounds, one in broken play from Dale Copley and the other from a Brodie Croft break.
“We looked at how we played last year and the whole identity of this team,” second-rower Shaun Lane said.
“Whenever we play a good game it all comes off the back of a big defensive effort, being tough and one of the most intimidating defensive teams in the league.”
“It starts in the middle, with Reg (Campbell-Gillard) coming in and bringing a bit more aggression … and Nathan Brown.”
But they know they’ll need every bit of that steely resolve in Saturday night’s blockbuster against arch-rivals Manly.
The Sea Eagles appear one of the other beneficiaries of the new rules, with Tom Trbojevic in particular running rampant against Canterbury on Sunday night.
“It will be a good test for us this week,” Lane said.
“It is only three games in and Manly have one of the best attacks in the league.
“You’ve just got to be watching out for (Trbojevic) at all times, because if there is any lapse he will take full advantage of it.
“We’re doing plenty of work on him.”