The Parramatta Eels take on the Newcastle Knights at ANZ Stadium on Friday 11 August in Round 23 of the NRL Telstra Premiership.
Whilst plenty of the external media focus has been on the Eels and their run towards the Finals, Blue & Gold Head Coach Brad Arthur says the side is purely focused on one thing this week, and that is coming away with a victory in loyal Clubman Tim Mannah’s 200th NRL game milestone.
“A win this week will be really good for us in terms of Tim Mannah’s 200th. That is the priority for us.” Arthur said.
“It’s big for the playing group, they know that Tim Mannah has played his whole career at this Club and he has had some good times, but times where the Club has struggled over the last couple of years.” Arthur added.
“The majority of this playing group has been together for a while and whilst its important for them individually to play finals football, its more important this week that they play for their team mate.”
“They have to put their bodies on the line, play physical and give him the reward that he deserves.”
“There is not one particular moment because Tim is the same every week for us. He turns up in a positive mindset, he trains to the best of his ability and plays to the best of his ability every week and we know what we are going to get form Tim, and that’s what his teammates really like about him.” Arthur continued when asked about whether a specific moment on the captain stood out.
Whist the Eels currently sit equal third on the ladder on points, but fifth due to for and against, Arthur says the side’s run towards the Finals is still in their hands.
The Head Coach is not looking too far ahead, focusing on getting the side to perform week to week.
“I have said all along, if we are good enough and we continue to win, then we deserve to be playing Finals football but at the moment, I still think that 28 points might of got you in the Finals last year but I think it will be 30-32 this year,” Arthur said.
“There are a lot of teams still fighting for that 7th-8th spot and we are one of those teams.”
“It’s exciting, because you can sense the excitement around Parramatta and you can sense the excitement around the playing group. You work hard all year to try and play Finals football and we are no different to any other club.” Arthur added.
“It has been a long time but we need to make sure we continue to play well, and play to our standards and expectations so we can play Finals football.”
“We have put ourselves in a position where we can play Finals football, and now it’s up to us. We still have to get the job done yet.” Arthur continued.
“Every team and every club works hard throughout the season to play Finals football. I knew we had a squad good enough it was just whether we believed that we were. Now it is real, it is there if we want to take it.”
The Eels have won their past six games heading into this weekend’s clash against the Knights and Arthur has credited the Blue & Gold defence for their performances of late.
“Our defence has been good the last six performances, I think we have only conceded six tries in that time. We get our confidence with our attack off the back of being able to turn teams away and defend well.” Arthur said.
“If we are defending well, our attack seems to flow and we have that confidence so defence has been a big part of our game.”
“We had lost four in a row there at one stage, got lucky against the Tigers and won that with about 20 minutes to go and from that period our defence has been rock solid.” Arthur added.
The Eels take on a bottom-placed Newcastle Knights side but Arthur knows the opposition will be competitive and full of confidence.
“I don’t know the exact numbers but I know they have been leading at half time in a lot of their games.” Arthur said of the Knights.
“They are very very competitive, they try their backsides off and the last couple of weeks they have learnt to close out games. They will be full of confidence and they are going to come down here with not much to lose.”
“They are going to have a real crack and I think where they sit on the table is no indication of what sort of team they are.”
The Eels kick off against the Newcastle Knights at ANZ Stadium on Friday 11 August in Round 23 of the NRL Telstra Premiership, kick off at 6pm.