With four teams remaining in the 2022 season, former Dally M and Clive Churchill medal winner Johnathan Thurston claims the Parramatta Eels are under the most scrutiny heading into the preliminary finals, with a closing premiership window ramping up the pressure on Brad Arthur’s men.

The Eels have made it to the penultimate week of the season for the first time since 2009, but with the club’s decision to prepare for the contest in Sydney instead of travelling to Townsville early to acclimate to anticipated temperatures nearing 30 degrees, Thurston thinks the home side can use the conditions to their advantage.

“It’s extremely hot right now. You start to sweat walking from your house to your car first thing in the morning,” Thurston told Channel 9 of the oppressive Townsville conditions.

“The humidity is a lot harder, the ball is a lot slipperier as well, that’s where a lot of the errors could come from.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 28: A general view is seen before the start of the round three NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Gold Coast Titans at QCB Stadium on March 28, 2021, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

“The Eels are arriving on Thursday, they’re clearly here for a hit-and-run mission. I would have been bringing them up (early) to try and acclimatise.

“The days are hot but it’s a humid night as well. I think they’ll struggle.”

“The Cowboys are a fit side. So are Parramatta, but with the heat it’s important to move the Eels around.”

Much has been made of Parramatta’s decision to remain in Sydney, contrary to the advice of former players that they could be better served by heading to Townsville early – especially with the Sydney forecast projective temperatures below 20 degrees and wet conditions.

But Thurston also said a closing premiership window would serve to amplify the pressure on the western Sydney club ahead of their most important game in over a decade.

“The pressure is on Parra because their premiership window is closing,” Thurston said.

Reed Mahoney is moving on, Isaiah Papali’i is moving on, and Mitchell Moses has held off contract negotiations until the end of the year.

“This is their best chance at winning a premiership in 36 years.

“Their spine was outstanding against Canberra, but the Raiders also saved their worst game for last. It will be a different beast in Townsville. Nobody tipped the Cowboys to be in the eight.

“The Cowboys’ premiership window has only just opened. The Cowboys can go out and play their normal game.”

The Cowboys and Eels have met once this year in a game that was played in similar conditions in Darwin, where the Eels wilted in a 35-4 win for North Queensland.