Eels embrace finals shot at Panthers

·3-min read

Dylan Brown says he is happier to be playing Penrith than any other team in the finals, with Parramatta accounting for half of the Panthers' losses in 2022.

The western-Sydney rivals will kick off this year's finals on Friday night, in front of what will almost certainly be a sold-out BlueBet Stadium.

Parramatta are in desperate pursuit of their first preliminary finals appearance in 12 years with a win, after being knocked out in the second week in five of the past six years.

But few harder tasks await.

The Eels are one of just two sides to have beaten the Panthers at BlueBet Stadium in the past three years.

They also remain the only team to have beaten the Panthers with both Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai in the halves this season, doing so in round nine and 20.

"They're the one team I want to play in this time of the finals," Brown said.

"That's who I want to knock out first.

"Beating Penrith is probably one of the hardest things to do against any team.

"Beating them at home is the hardest thing to do in league. When you do that, it shows what we're all capable of.

The Eels are also adamant they are playing better football now than when they collapsed in previous finals.

They have won four of their past five, with Brown claiming they are far calmer now compared to entering the finals in a more frantic state in years gone by.

"Everyone understands their role at the moment," Brown said.

"We don't have players in our team that we need to do things out of character or win the game for us.

"Like, Shaun Lane has been unreal this year.

"For example, last year and years previously we were relying on Maika (Sivo) to just go over and score tries all the time. But this year everyone has been massive."

Meanwhile, the 22-year-old insisted there was no bad blood between him and Cleary.

The Penrith halfback will return from suspension for the qualifying final, after being sent off for a dangerous throw on Brown in round 20.

Brown joked that he planned on "taking Cleary's head off", but said he could tell immediately by the Penrith star's reaction there had been no malice in the incident.

"We haven't spoke much. We don't speak on the regular but he did apologise after the game at the time," Brown said.

"There's no beef there or anything. If anything, it's good to have him back.

"Because you want to play a good quality side. Him and Luai back next week is going to be be fun and a good challenge for us.

"I saw the video after of him hitting his head (as if he was saying) 'that was dumb'.

"Yeah. It was dumb, but he understood that ... It was just heat of the moment sort of thing."

FIRST WEEK OF THE FINALS

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9

First Qualifying Final

1-Penrith Panthers v 4-Parramatta Eels at BlueBet Stadium, 7.50pm

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10

First Elimination Final

5-Melbourne Storm v 8-Canberra Raiders at AAMI Park, 5.40pm

Second Qualifying Final

2-Cronulla v 3-North Queensland Cowboys at PointsBet Stadium, 7.50pm

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 11

Second Elimination Final.

6-Sydney Roosters v 7-South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium, 4.05pm