TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 18: Eels coach Brad Arthur speaks at the post match media conference at the end of the round 10 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Parramatta Eels at 1300SMILES Stadium on May 18, 2019 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

The Parramatta Eels are reportedly bracing for a summer from hell should they fail to go past the Penrith Panthers in this weekend's semi-final.

The Eels have been bounced out in the second week of the finals two years on the trot, having beaten the Broncos and lost to the Storm in 2019, before falling in both a qualifying and semi-final to the Storm and Rabbitohs in last year's series.

Parramatta can ill-afford to fall short of the pass mark again with plenty of key players off contract at the end of 2022, as well as coach Brad Arthur.

The board have previously given Arthur their full support for the 2022 season, however, have refused to guarantee his future beyond that, or acknowledge they may be working on a longer-term deal for the coach.

Among the off-contract stars at the end of 2022 is Clint Gutherson, Isaiah Papali'i, Reed Mahoney, Dylan Brown, Jakob Arthur, Oregon Kaufusi, Ryan Matterson, Marata Niukore and Tom Opacic.

NRL Rd 8 - Eels v Cowboys
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 03: Clinton Gutherson of the Eels makes a break during the round eight NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the North Queensland Cowboys at Bankwest Stadium on July 03, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

That is going to create a very real salary cap crunch for the blue and gold, and Paul Crawley told NRL 360 on Fox Sports that a loss this weekend could be the catalyst to set the wheels in motion for a summer of carnage.

“Go back to the start of the year,” Crawley said.

“Would the pass mark have been beating Newcastle in week one of the finals or advancing through week two?

“Prior to this year Brad Arthur had a record of six finals appearances with one win – over the Broncos in 2019.

“If they fall at this hurdle this weekend then I think it has the potential to blow up at the Eels in the off-season.

Dylan Brown is off contract and clubs are lining up for Dylan Brown.

“Brad has his son (Jake Arthur) coming through at the club who, if Dylan is chasing marquee money, might be the answer.

“There are all these questions, and if they don’t go through this week I have no doubt it’ll blow up into a bigger issue.”

Arthur previously came under heavy pressure as coach at the club following a losing streak during the second half of the season, however, that pressure has somewhat eased following back-to-back victories over the North Queensland Cowboys and Melbourne Storm, before a tense victory in last weekend's elimination final over the Knights.

Parramatta will put their season on the line in this weekend's semi-final with the Penrith Panthers on Saturday evening in Mackay with kick-off scheduled for 7:50pm (AEST).