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Eels five-eighth Dylan Brown joked he was going to take Nathan Cleary’s head off in Friday night’s finals match as the Panthers star gets set to make a return from a four-match suspension.

Brown saw the humour in playing Cleary again first-up after the Eels locked in fourth spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder to book a showdown with the defending premiers at BlueBet Stadium for a spot in the preliminary final.

Cleary’s return from a lengthy ban for a dangerous tackle on Brown was welcomed by the Eels five-eighth after the pair cleared the air over the incident in Round 20.

After being sent off in the match for lifting Brown in a dangerous position, Cleary reached out to the Kiwi international before copping his punishment. He will return on Friday night fresh and ready to mark Brown on the right edge.

“We haven't spoken much, we don't speak on the regular but he did apologise after the game at the time,” Brown said.

Nathan Cleary sent off

“I'm gonna take his head off. Nah, I'm joking. I saw the video after and he was hitting his head saying 'that was dumb'. It was dumb but he understood that.

“It was just heat of the moment sort of thing. There's no beef there or anything.

"If anything, it's good to have him back playing because you want to play a good quality side with him and Luai back next week it’s going to be fun and a good challenge for us.”

Brown made no apologies for declaring Penrith were the team he wanted to make life difficult for in the finals by forcing them to play again in week two by beating them for a third time this season.

Match Highlights: Panthers v Eels

The Panthers opted to rest their starting side against the Cowboys, a luxury few sides are afforded at this time of the season.

“I understand that tactic, we did that last year. They are obviously minor premiers and can rest as much as they can," Brown said.

“[But] I'm excited. They're the one team I want to play at this time of the finals. That's who I want to knock out first.

“Beating Penrith is probably one of the hardest things to do against any team. Beating them at their home is the hardest thing to do in league. When you do that it shows what we're all capable of.”

The Eels have their own halfback to be proud of with Mitchell Moses weathering a barrage of hits last week against the Storm before putting a shot on Kenny Bromwich to signal his intentions to stand up this finals series.

“It was unreal. 100 per cent (it inspired us),” Brown said.

“When you see a halfback do it, he's been massive in defence this year as well. He's got way better.

Moses rocks Bromwich

“People target him, so when your halves are defending well it makes it hard for people to get through. It helps us.

“Mitchell's tough. He's really tough. He's still playing with his fingers [not 100 percent]. I'm sure it's fine, but at the same time, he did break it two weeks ago.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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