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Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has defended his call to rest more than half of his NRL stars in a 40-6 loss to Penrith on Friday night with 10 players returning to face Newcastle in next week's sudden-death final.
The undermanned Eels were outclassed by the full-strength Panthers side at Cbus Super Stadium in the final round of the regular season but Arthur said their confidence hasn't taken a hit heading into finals.
An unlikely win over minor premiers Melbourne in round 24 has given the Eels the boost they need.
Rather than chase a slim chance at a top-four finish, Arthur rested almost all of his biggest stars, and the ones that were spared were suspended or injured.
It means the Eels finish sixth without a second chance in the play-offs, but Arthur isn't concerned.
"It is what it is, we finished fourth last year and it didn't help us so we've got no excuses," he said.
"It's a new competition isn't it.
"We've got nothing that will be weighing us down, we'll be healthy."
The Eels flogged the Knights 40-0 in round 13, but Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga, Daniel Saifiti, Tyson Frizell and David Klemmer were missing from the Newcastle side.
The Knights won five straight to set up a finals spot before their disappointing last-round loss to Brisbane on Saturday.
"They're playing good footy, controlled footy," Arthur said.
"They don't give you much so we'll be in for a real fight."
The Eels will get back Clint Gutherson, Mitch Moses, Isaiah Papali'i, Nathan Brown, Waqa Blake, Marata Niukore, Dylan Brown, Junior Paulo, Ryan Matterson and Reagan Campbell Gillard for the Knights' clash.
However, Arthur said there was enough toughness in the loss to Penrith to give him a headache for selections.
"There's some great lessons there for our young blokes," Arthur said.
"We got what we needed out of it, Ray Stone played 80 minutes for us and that was the best game he's played for us.
"It gave an opportunity for guys to step up and I've got some headaches now picking a bench.
"I was extremely proud of them.
"I reckon our performance tonight beats half the competition."