NRL Rd 5 - Eels v Panthers
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 12: Blake Ferguson and Ryan Matterson of the Eels celebrate Ryan Matterson scoring a try during the round five NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the Penrith Panthers at Bankwest Stadium on June 12, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

With both of last year’s grand finalists fighting for the only remaining place in the 2022 NRL Grand Final, there’s no doubt that the Parramatta Eels will have a distinct lack of experience compared to whoever they end up facing next Sunday.

Only two current Eels players have reached a grand final – Ryan Matterson did it with the Sydney Roosters, playing form the bench in 2018, while Bailey Simonsson felt the pressure in his very first season, playing for the Canberra Raiders back in 2019.

Even the Eels coach Brad Arthur is bereft of experience in a head coaching role at this point of the season, though he doesn’t think it will have any adverse effect after Parramatta were able to secure an incredible comeback win over North Queensland in a cauldron of humidity in Townsville.

“I have no idea how to handle it because I haven’t been there before,” Arthur admitted after the game.

“We’ll take it a day at a time and when we get there we’ll have a real crack for 80 minutes.

“We didn’t have any experience in the prelim and we did all right. I know I’ve got a good footy team there. I think our footy is good, and good enough to win.”

“We’ve still got 80 minutes of a lifetime (ahead). It’s a real opportunity for us next week and that’s all we’ll worry about.”

The only player in the current team to have lifted a premiership trophy, Matterson had some straightforward advice for his less-experienced colleagues.

“The boys can basically expect what we expected on Friday night,” Matterson told the Daily Telegraph.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 27: Reagan Campbell-Gillard of the Eels celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round three NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the Cronulla Sharks at Bankwest Stadium on March 27, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

“That game (against the Cowboys) was like a grand final. It was do-or-die and the boys stepped up. We didn’t play our best football, but we kept turning up in defence. It was pretty heroic from the team.

“You need to be present the whole time and enjoy it, because it’s not often you come into a game like this.”