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Plenty has changed at Parramatta since Reed Mahoney debuted against the Cowboys in 2018, but the pressure to break the club’s premiership drought has been a constant companion across all of his 99 games.

The hard-working hooker joins the 100 Club on Friday in the club’s first preliminary final since 2009, and he knows expectations will be through the roof among the Eels’ loyal supporter base that the 36-year wait will end.

Only Clint Gutherson, Marata Niukore and Nathan Brown remain alongside Mahoney from that debut game in Darwin in mid-2018, a 20-14 victory which launched a career that continues next year at the Bulldogs, but not before some unfinished business is taken care of in blue and gold.

“People say winning a grand final is a memory for life and I want to be able to feel that,” Mahoney said on Monday as the Eels ramped up preparations for the trip to Townsville to face the Cowboys.

“You don’t want to think too far ahead but I’ve been watching footy for a long time and I remember watching grand finals when I was 10-years-old and you see the relief and happiness players get out of it.

Clint Gutherson: 'We're one step closer to where we want to be'

“About six weeks ago we had a bit of a chat about where we could end up in the season, we wanted to get ourselves in a position where we could grab fourth and since then the group has gone after it.

“We realise what we’ve got here and a few of us leaving at the end of the year and I know I’d rather be leaving as a champion.”

If Mahoney, Niukore, Isaiah Papali'i, Oregon Kaufusi and Tom Opacic are to depart the Eels as champions they must first overcome the Cowboys, who walloped them 35-4 in Darwin back in Round 8 in their only clash this year.

Apart from trying to control Jason Taumalolo, Val Holmes and Reuben Cotter and silencing a parochial Cowboys crowd, the Eels must deal with the energy sapping humidity, with the temperature expected to still be in the mid-20s come kick-off.

In the typically no-nonsense manner you’d expect from a man who churns through 42 tackles a game and has spent only 78 minutes off the paddock in the entire season, Mahoney throws cold water on any concerns about the heat.

“We’ll go there, put the boots on, tie them up and run out on the field and play footy,” Mahoney said.

“We don’t care how hot it is or how cold it is. The weather is something we can’t control so there’s no point whinging or kicking stones about it.

“We had a great win last week but that is gone, it’s a new week and a new team and we want it this way.

Mahoney caps a scorcher

“We weren’t happy with our game against Penrith [in week one] and we had to come out and back each other against Canberra and we were able to start well and finish strong.”

After blowing the Raiders off the park with four tries in the first 25 minutes the Eels were able to cruise home in the second half, burying the semi-final curse that had seen them knocked out in week two in their last four trips to the finals.

That comprehensive victory ensured Mahoney would get the chance to raise his century at the club where it all began rather than sitting on 99 not out all summer.

“I still remember my first game like it was yesterday. I split my nose open in my first tackle, a bit of a ‘welcome to first grade’,” he said.

“There’s been lots of hills and troughs along the way and that’s all part of the job but it has been an unreal stint at Parra.

“I’ve had some really good moments and some really bad ones but it’s all part of the journey.

“This is certainly something I wanted to achieve before I left Parra and I can’t think of a better occasion to be playing my 100th game.”

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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