Before the Eels faced the Panthers in week one of the finals, the only thing keeping Mitch Moses awake at night was the thought of trying to outpoint Nathan Cleary and move his team one step closer to a drought-breaking premiership.
Now, on the eve the club’s first Grand Final in 13 years, Moses may well find himself short of shuteye for two reasons – the showdown with the game’s No.1 halfback and his own No.1 daughter, Aspyn Elle, who entered the world just hours before the Eels playmaker steered his team past the Cowboys and into the big one.
You get the feeling any late night moments shared with his baby girl will be a very welcome distraction for Moses as he carries 36 years of expectation into Sunday’s decider at Accor Stadium against Cleary’s Panthers.
As Moses fronted the media at the Eels’ open day on Monday, he appeared very much at peace with a world which now includes a new baby and a new phenomenon of being part of Grand Final week rather than watching on jealously from afar.
“The baby wasn’t due to come until this week and it came a bit early but that’s alright, it’s my first child and I was blown away when I saw her when we got back to Sydney after the game,” Moses said.
Match Highlights: Cowboys v Eels
“Unfortunately. I couldn’t be there but that’s how it happens, I still had a special moment over Face Time, and then when I saw her it’s hard to explain the feeling, it’s unbelievable.
“I got off our flight, drove there as fast as I could to soak in the moment and meet my daughter. That was a special moment for me and [my partner] Bri.”
Settling into life as a new father is sure to make the biggest week of his career even more enjoyable for Moses, and by Sunday he hopes to be settling into life as a premiership winner – the first halfback since the great Peter Sterling in 1986 to lead Parra to the promised land.
When asked if he could relate to the pain and suffering the Blue and Gold Army had endured across almost four decades, Moses said he understood exactly how they felt because had been through it as well.
“I’ve supported Parramatta since I was a little kid, I grew up in the area,” Moses said.
“I was at the Grand Final in 2009 [when we lost to Storm] and I was just heartbroken. I remember the run they went on through that finals series and to see how much the community got behind them and how much they have gotten behind us this year has been unbelievable.
Arthur: Honest conversations driving premiership push
“I have never seen a Grand Final won by Parra so for me to be the halfback and lead them to win a comp would be unbelievable but we know we have a huge job to do.
"The Panthers are so good defensively and do such a good job on you coming out of your back end that you have to nail your opportunities when you do get down the end. Hopefully I can finish off the sets well so we put ourselves in a good position.
"Nathan's the best halfback in the game, there’s no hiding that. His last two performances after being out for five weeks, he has pretty much carried them, he has led by example.
“Most of us boys are in our first Grand Final so we are all pumped up and ready to go. Hopefully we can send out some of the boys who are leaving us with a premiership."
Match Highlights: Eels v Panthers
Among those moving on in 2023 are Bulldogs-bound hooker Reed Mahoney, who racked up a staggering 58 tackles against the Cowboys, continually dragging himself off the deck to get back in the line as the home side surged late in Townsville.
Mahoney’s willingness to be there for his mates typifies the tight bond that has helped the Eels bounce back with wins over the Raiders and Cowboys after the 27-8 Qualifying Final loss to the Panthers.
It’s a bond that was strengthened by the sacrifice Moses made to miss the birth of his child to be there with his mates on Friday as they defied stifling humidity and a red hot Cowboys side to progress to the decider.
Moses revealed on Monday that coach Brad Arthur had several times offered him the chance to return to Sydney but the 28-year-old was dialled in on the job at hand.
“Brad said to me that afternoon, ‘What are you still doing here, get out of here’ and I said, ‘I can’t leave these boys here after how hard we worked all year’,” Moses said.
“I got to share the birth on Face Time with the family and then when Brad addressed all the boys in the shed, he let everyone know we had had the baby and all the boys got around me and I felt really comfortable out on the field.
“I was glad she was born just before the game because it put my mind at ease rather than me stressing out even more on the paddock.
“Bri was a bit filthy at the start when she got put into hospital and was told this is when we are going to have it and how it’s going to happen but she has supported me through everything. She has seen how much work I have put in this year to be in the position we are in.”
Come Sunday night, Moses hopes that position will be aloft the stage in the centre of Accor Stadium, wearing a premiership ring and the broad smile of a man who has savoured two life-changing moments in the space of 10 days.
Match: Panthers v Eels
Grand Final -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney