The Parramatta Eels are preparing to take on the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park on Saturday 9 September in Week One of the 2017 NRL Telstra Finals Series.
Head Coach Brad Arthur says there is as fair bit of excitement around the Blue & Gold community as the Eels return to the Finals series for the first time since 2009.
And whilst the Eels had a strong season to finish in the Top Four, Arthur knows this week’s clash is a whole new proposition.
“It has been pretty normal for us, we have our Final run today, but obviously the boys are excited and I think the whole community is excited we are playing Finals,” Arthur said.
“But it’s a whole different ball game now and all the hard work that has got us here probably doesn’t count for much now.”
“It is a week to week proposition and we need to make the most of it.”
Arthur says the side will rely on the experience of Beau Scott and Michael Jennings, who have a wealth of experience in the Finals, but there is also an excitement to test themselves against the best.
“The bit of experience that we do have in Semi Finals in Beau Scott, Michael Jennings, they are only too aware that there has been a lot of hard work to get us to where we are now, but it doesn’t matter at the moment,” Arthur said.
“It’s the 80 minutes that is the strong point for us, and we get the chance tomorrow to play against the best and test ourselves and see where we are at.”
“Fortunately, we get two shots, but the best case scenario for us is that we try to advance to week three,” Arthur added.
There has been plenty of external talk this week that it is ‘mission impossible’ for the Eels to defeat the Storm at AAMI Park, but Arthur said the proposition this week is an exciting one.
“It’s not intimidating, it is exciting for us. We have played some good footy, we have won nine of our last ten, so we get tagged with being inconsistent, but nine from ten is not bad in my eyes,” Arthur said.
“We are coming up against the best, and if you want to be the best, you have to beat them.”
“It’s not mission impossible. We know we need to be at our best to give ourselves a chance but there will be no point of us going down there if we didn’t think that if we play to our best, we can match them.” He added.
It will be the Eels first Finals appearance since 2009, and Arthur expects the side to rise to the big occasion, similar to what they have done all year.
“I think our boys have got the ability to rise to the big occasions,” Arthur said.
“We have seen this year all the big games they have got themselves up for, and I know that we need to be better, doesn’t matter who we play, we need to be on all the time.”
“But we haven’t been in this situation before and there is a lot of excitement, so I am sure the boys won’t want to let the opportunity go to perform at their best.”
Arthur knows that the Melbourne Storm boast plenty of dangers right across the park but it will be up to the Eels to be at their best to match it with the opposition.
“We have our framework that we like to stick to. You can move the ball around and you can take risks and chances, but if you turn the ball over and are only completing at 60-70%, you give yourself no chance at all against these blokes,” Arthur said.
“They wont beat themselves, so you definitely have to be at your best, and you need to play some football but you also need to try and starve them of possession or at least go 50-50 with them otherwise you make it very hard."
“They are a team that it doesn’t matter who they play, or what the situation is, they have the same mentality the whole time,” Arthur added.
“They have the best coach in the game who is getting them ready for that for years, they play with the same intensity every week and I am sure they will go to another level intensity through this finals period.”
The Eels kick off against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park on Saturday 9 September in Week One of the NRL Finals Series. Kick off is at 4:10pm.