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“Be selfish!”

That’s the message from Parramatta coach Brad Arthur to his players ahead of Sunday night’s grand final against arch rivals Penrith at Accor Stadium.

The Eels have a chance at ending a 36-year premiership drought – the longest in the NRL – but Arthur wants the players to forget about history and what it would mean to the club’s legion of long-suffering fans if they were to topple the premiers.

“It is about these guys, and them being a bit more selfish now and playing for themselves,” Arthur said. “They have put themselves in this position, and we need to make sure that they are going after the game and playing for themselves.

“We are playing for our supporters, playing for our parents, playing for the club but at the end of the day these guys have got to play for themselves and play for each other. That’s what it is about.”

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Arthur isn’t trying to ignore the enormous weight on his squad and the Eels have been embracing the challenge to create their own history.

However, he believes the Parramatta players may have been too emotional in their 27-8 loss to Penrith in the opening game of the finals series as they wanted to celebrate co-captain Junior Paulo’s 200th game with arguably the club’s biggest win for a decade.

“I don’t think our team need any extra motivation, we know what is at stake,” Arthur said. “We have kept it as simple as we can. At the end of the day, it is a big game but it is another football game.

“I felt that going into the first final, it was Junior’s 200th game and we may have over-focused and got too emotional about it. You can’t play the game on emotion. We have got to go out there and we have got to be able to execute our plan.”

Since their last premiership in 1986, the Eels have had only two previous opportunities to win a grand final but fell short in both 2001 and 2009.

After a decade in the wilderness, Arthur returned Parramatta to the finals in 2017 and they have made it through to September each season since - with the exception of 2018, when they finished last.

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“I’m not nervous, I’m excited,” Arthur said. “It is a massive opportunity for us. I am so happy for the playing group. They have worked really hard to get here and it hasn’t just been this year.

“We got the wooden spoon five years ago and that was pretty bad. There were some dark days for us, and in particular myself. I didn’t handle it very well, I got some things wrong that year, but the group stuck solid and they turned it around, and they deserve to be here

“Just because we deserve to be here doesn’t mean we are entitled to win either. We are playing against the best team in the competition that has been for the last couple of years, but we are certainly not overawed by it and we are going to have our best crack at it.”

Arthur had recalled forward Nathan Brown for the grand final after three months in the lower grades and he is expected to target Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary.

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Brown has an intimidation factor about his game and can add some menace to Parramatta’s forward pack but Arthur is also conscious of him not overstepping the mark.

“Brownie’s role will be limited in terms of minutes but either side of halftime he can come on, bring a bit of energy for us and work really hard defensively,” he said.

“He will generate plenty of line speed and just bring some energy either side of halftime, and get some talk there. He is going to have a pretty important role for us. We want him to be aggressive, but we need to be smart about it.

“We can’t afford to be giving away cheap possession attacking our tryline because they turn it into points so he needs to be smart with his aggression but we are looking forward to some nice energy off the bench.”

Super League bound centre Tom Opacic has been ruled with a hamstring injury, with Kiwis international Bailey Simonsson to again take his place.

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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