PARRAMATTA have identified their upcoming two-week block against Canterbury and Melbourne as crucial to finally ending the NRL’s current longest finals drought.
Not since riding the coat-tails of Jarryd Hayne’s memorable run of form to their 2009 fairytale decider have the Eels gotten a whiff of September action.
No other team has been out of the finals for as long as the Eels. But after moving into eighth spot on the back of last week’s bye, Parramatta are now just four wins away from reaching the traditional 28-point mark of making the finals.
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It is the highest the Eels have been at this stage of the season since coach Brad Arthur’s first campaign in charge in 2014, when they spectacularly bombed their last two games to miss the eight.
With clashes against the battling Gold Coast, Knights and Wests Tigers, as well regular Thursday and Friday night games across their run home, Parramatta are eyeing one of the more favourable finishes to 2017 in the NRL.
That’s why star centre Michael Jennings believes it’s pivotal the Eels prove their premiership worth with a win over the Bulldogs on Thursday, and then ladder leaders the Storm next week.
“We understand where we’re at. We’re sitting just in the eight, I think our next two games going into the bye are really important,” Jennings said.
“We need those points to secure leading into the finals. If we win the next two going into the bye, it’ll cement our spot in the top eight.”
Jennings is one of only a handful of players, including Corey Norman, Tim Mannah, Suaia Matagi and Will Smith, to have played in the post-season.
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Forward Kenny Edwards, who is likely to be more relied upon in the absence of co-captain Beau Scott, is in his fourth year in the NRL and been on holidays for every one of them by August.
Edwards said with the club enjoying the benefit of exclusive Thursday and Friday night matches in the final six rounds, the stars are aligned for the drought to break.
The Eels also face a current top-eight side just twice for the rest of the regular season.
“Last year was disappointing the way it played out. Every year you play to play in the finals and I haven’t experienced it yet and a lot of my teammates haven’t experienced it,” Edwards said.
“But we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. We’ve just got to take every week as it comes, the last six weeks, we’ve got a big turn of Thursday/Friday night games.
“It’s for us to lose, that top eight spot.”