Eels concede it's top four or bust before crucial Tigers clash
Parramatta stars concede they won't be a realistic chance of breaking a 34-year premiership drought unless they secure a top-four finish with a win against Wests Tigers on Saturday.
The Eels are sitting just one win above Canberra, who have a superior for and against, in fourth spot but could get leapfrogged pending the outcome of matches in the final round. If the Raiders beat the Sharks at 5.30pm on Saturday and the Eels lose to the Tigers straight after on the same evening, Parramatta will crash out of the top-four for the first time since round 1 and the second chance that comes with it in the playoffs.
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Brad Arthur's side led the competition for the opening two months but have struggled to reproduce that form as the regular season draws to a close. Their destiny is in their own hands, with a win over the Tigers guaranteeing a top-four finish and the advantages that come with it.
"It's massive," Parramatta halfback Mitchell Moses said.
"It would be pretty hard to win it outside the top four, I think. Stats have shown that in past seasons.
Reed Mahoney, Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson all say the Eels are staking their title hopes on finishing in the top four.CREDIT:BROOK MITCHELL
"Our full goal is to wrap up that top four spot this week against the Tigers."
No side has ever finished outside the top four and gone on to win the grand final, a point not lost on skipper Clint Gutherson.
"We need to be [there], we set the goal at the start of the year to be in the top four and it's in our hands now.
The pressure is on Parramatta to clinch a top-four berth.CREDIT:GETTY
"We've got to make it happen."
Making Parramatta's task of finishing there more difficult is the fact the Tigers will be seeking to farewell favourite sons Benji Marshall and Chris Lawrence with a win. The joint-venture outfit investigated the feasibility of giving the pair a Leichhardt Oval send off, but the game will instead be staged at Bankwest Stadium.
"It's a goal that's been ours since the COVID break," said prop Junior Paulo of top-four ambitions.
"History tells you that no team has won it outside the [top] four. It gives you a chance to have two cracks at the premiership, so it's definitely an important game this week against the Tigers.
Hooker Reed Mahoney added: "It's all on us this week. If we win, we're in the top four and that's what we're working towards."
The fixture will again pit Parramatta recruit Ryan Matterson against his former club. Matterson lasted just 15 minutes when the sides clashed back in round 11, taken off with concussion after a brutal collision with Tigers prop Russell Packer.