The Parramatta Eels take on the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium this Thursday 29 June and after a bye in Round 16 that saw the Eels move into the top eight, Blue & Gold forward Kenny Edwards says the team’s position on the ladder is theirs to lose.
With the final six rounds of the draw announced earlier this week, Edwards says the charge towards the finals is in their own hands.
“Going into the next 6 or seven weeks, we don’t want to rely on results to go our way to make the eight. We need to make a charge heading into the finals and that starts this week against a big Bulldogs pack,” Edwards said.
“100% it’s ours to lose. We have been dealt a good draw for the last 6-7 weeks, and we play Thursday and Friday night games, get seven day turn arounds so its going to be massive for us leading into the Finals.”
“Last year was disappointing the way it played out, but every year you play to play in the finals. I haven’t experienced it yet, and a lot of my teammates haven’t experienced it, but we are not getting too far ahead of ourselves.” He added.
“We have to take it every week as it comes, but the last six weeks we have a lot of Thursday/Friday night games and it is for us to lose, that top eight spot.”
The Eels will go head to head with the Bulldogs on Thursday night, and despite their recent form, Edwards knows the clash against a big Bulldogs side is always tough.
“They have a big mobile pack that can ball play. They have big Klemmer and Kasiano who comes off the bench for them. We have to try get our bodies in front of them and try and win that physical battle up front and everything else will come off that,” Edwards said.
“I haven’t watched too much of them this year, but you know whenever you play the Bulldogs it is going to be physical and a tough game. As forwards, you have to turn up and be willing to give 100%.” He added.
“There are going to be 26 competitors out there and we all want to win the game and we will be doing everything we can to win.”
“Hopefully we can get a big crowd out there on Thursday night, the Bulldogs have a big fan base, but so do we, so hopefully we see a lot of fans out there getting behind us.”
The Eels were dealt a blow to their stocks in Round 16, with forwards Kaysa Pritchard and Beau Scott both ruled out with season ending injuries.
Edwards says Pritchard will be a bit loss to the Blue & Gold in 2017.
“Kaysa is a massive loss. He just got comfortable with his role within our team, playing 80 minutes and being effective for 80 minutes. He probably hasn’t been given that opportunity in the past to play 80 minutes and he just got comfortable with that role.” Edwards said.
“He, along with Browny, bring our energy every week and to lose Kaysa, it’s a massive loss for us. The energy he brings to the team, at training, around the sheds, is massive and it’s something that we will lose.”
And Edwards continued his praise for his fellow forward, Nathan Brown, who has been one of the Eels standouts.
Brown has taken up the role of being the Eels enforcer, and with Scott ruled out with injury, Edwards expects Brown to continue to shine.
“Browny came here, and last year when we played him at Souths, he was the biggest grub and everyone knew. When you face Browny, you know he is a competitor and a tough bloke.” Edwards said when asked about his first thoughts of the former Rabbitohs toughman.
“Corey hated him before he came here, he took Corey’s legs out about five times! But coming here we did a promo pre-season, and one of the fans threw a question out about ‘what player can you not wait to play with’ and my first answer was Browny.”
“You know playing against someone, if they are a tough competitor, you always want to play with them, and that’s what I want to do with Browny. His form has gone to another level this year under Brad’s coaching. He has really stepped up and is one of our leaders now.” Edwards added.
“He is completely different to what I thought he was off the field. We thought he was a grub, but he doesn’t say a word. He had a massive pre-season and that was key for him and his form has gone to the next level.”
“I think he was doing it [being an enforcer], even when Beau was here. Beau is a big loss to us but Browny brings another dimension. He is an awesome ball player and he shoots out of the line, puts shots on blokes and when we see that, it lifts us.” He continued.