MACKAY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 18: Ray Stone of the Eels looks dejected after the NRL Semifinal match between Penrith Panthers and Parramatta Eels at BB Print Stadium on September 18, 2021 in Mackay, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

NRL great Braith Anasta has labelled Parramatta's 2021 campaign a "successful year" in the wake of their dramatic and heartbreaking semi-final loss to Penrith.

The Eels fell agonisingly short of a preliminary final berth, managing to hold off a tenacious Panthers attack for a majority of the match.

Parramatta's efforts almost had Brad Arthur's side one win away from the Grand Final, however they were unable to capitalise in the dying minutes to snap the Panthers' two-point lead.

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The gallant display earned positive plaudits from Anasta, having managed to turn around their season after a disappointing finish to their home-and-away run.

Anasta lauded the Eels' performance, stating each player put their body on the line for their team and coach.

“They were dead and buried a month ago and they nearly defeated the premiership favourites tonight,” Anasta said on Fox League

“You couldn’t ask for much more than that.

“They spent most of that game on their goal line... scrambling like their lives depended on it, fighting for every inch, it was an inspirational performance.

"To go out now isn’t what they would have wanted... they put themselves in a position to do so, so it’s not the most successful but it’s not a failure. It’s still a successful year.

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“They played for Brad tonight as much as they played for each other."

The Eels lost four consecutive matches between rounds 19-22, with Arthur's future at Parramatta coming under the microscope.

Despite a Round 24 win over the Storm and the 28-20 elimination final victory against Newcastle, some were still speculating whether the Eels coach was the right man for the job.

Although Saturday's loss to Penrith once again saw the Eels' season fall short in a semi-final, Arthur's tenure and the spirit of Parramatta looks to have gained a new degree of faith for the future.