Eels not focused on spoiling JT’s party
COACH Brad Arthur insists the Eels are not coming to Townsville just to be the party poopers for Johnathan Thurston's final home game, saying his side has just as much at stake as the Cowboys.
With just two rounds remaining, both teams are tied on 14 competition points at the bottom of the ladder, with the Eels ahead by 10 differential points (Eels -104, Cowboys -114).
Friday night's clash at 1300SMILES Stadium will go a long way to deciding the wooden spoon battle and Arthur said that was his side's only focus amid the celebrations for Thurston.
"It's not about us ruining the party. The boys train hard every week and go out on the field with the attitude of trying to win," Arthur said.
"I know it's a celebration for 'JT' in his last home game and he thoroughly deserves that, but for us it's about the style of footy we want to try and play.
"I think both teams have had a disappointing season and want to do better."
Arthur has made a raft of backline changes in recent weeks, with teenager Jaeman Salmon making his NRL debut at five-eighth, Corey Norman taking over at fullback, and Clint Gutherson shifting to centre.
It's helped spark Parramatta's attack after spending 20 consecutive rounds languishing on the bottom of the ladder, winning three of their past five games including a 40-4 rout of the Dragons.
Arthur said the Eels had let their opponents dictate the style of play at times this season, but he felt they now had more confidence in their own game plan as they prepare to face the Cowboys.
"We've probably been a bit more of a threat with the ball," Arthur said.
"Young Jaeman's still finding his feet and he needs to find a bit a voice, but it's allowed 'Normy' (Norman) just to roam and live on the ball with plenty of freedom for him."
Arthur said the Eels would be 1-17 despite Norman and Jarryd Hayne both carrying niggling injuries, with captain Tim Mannah set to make his return from a broken hand off the bench.
"He hasn't played for a while and he wants to repay his team mates and get back on the field," Arthur said.