Eels plan for breaching Penrith fortress

·2-min read

Parramatta have declared they will make a point of shutting out a hostile Penrith crowd after the NRL confirmed the opening final will not be taken away from BlueBet Stadium.

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo stood firm on the league's finals venue policy on Friday, opting to keep the Panthers-Eels qualifying final in Penrith rather than taking it to a bigger stadium.

The situation is likely to see thousand of fans locked out after the NRL implemented a home-finals system for week one in 2019.

But regardless, Parramatta will arrive as they only team to have beaten anything close to resembling a full-strength Penrith at home in the past three seasons.

Their 22-20 victory in round nine ended the Panthers' record 21-match winning streak at BlueBet Stadium, with their only other loss there since 2020 coming when they were severely understrength against Melbourne.

And there are lessons from it that the Eels are desperate to take into what looms as the NRL finals opener on Friday night.

Parramatta jumped out to an early 10-6 lead in the first-half of their round-nine win, and then managed to control the ball for the majority of the second half before taking the win late.

"We played out there earlier in the year. We know what it's like," in-form playmaker Mitchell Moses said of the Penrith crowd.

"You have got to get up for these teams, they are the great teams in the comp and you have to be at your best against them.

"You have to take the crowd out of it. If you start strong against them, you take the crowd out of it."

A win against Penrith will finally give Parramatta their first preliminary final appearance in 13 years, after locking in a top-four spot with Thursday night's 22-14 win over Melbourne.

It would also ensure they do not have to play in the second week of the finals, where they have been eliminated in five of the past six years.

Arguably, there is no team the Eels would rather play.

Despite the Panthers dominating the competition since 2020 with just nine losses in that time, the Eels have provided three of those defeats.

They are also yet to lose to them this year, handing the Panthers their biggest defeat of the season last month with a 34-10 win when Nathan Cleary was sent off at CommBank Stadium.

But Moses insisted that would be irrelevant come next week, particularly with most Panthers players rested and enjoying a 14-day gap between matches.

"It's a new season now," he said.

"The whole season has gone now. We beat them in the regular season. They have a couple of players coming back.

"They will be fired up, fit and ready to go."