Johnathan Thurston's prediction that the Eels would struggle in the Townsville heat has come back to bite him after Parramatta surged home to beat the Cowboys in the NRL preliminary final on Friday night.
The Eels advances to the grand final in a controversy-filled match in Townsville, winning 24-20 after trailing 20-12 with 25 minutes remaining.
Speaking before the match, Cowboys legend Thurston said he was surprised the Eels had only travelled to Townsville on the eve of the game and predicted they would struggle in the hot and humid conditions in far north Queensland.
“They’re well and truly here for a hit and run mission,” Thurston said on Channel 9.
“Just get the game done, and get the win and get out of here - I would have been bringing the team up (earlier) to try and acclimatise.
“The days are hot, and it’s a humid night as well.
“They will struggle, and we’ve seen that in Darwin when the boys played at the start of the year against each other, but the Parramatta side are a totally different side to that game.
“Playing in Townsville, you’re used to the travel - that’s what you’ve got to do when you live up here.
“It’s going to play a massive role in the outcome of the game - if I was the Cowboys I’d certainly be keeping the ball in play as much as possible.
“The humidity factor is what makes it a lot harder, it makes the ball a lot slipperier as well. That’s where all the errors can come from, with good contact under the ball.”
While many predicted the Eels to fade in the unfamiliar territory, it was actually Parramatta who finished the stronger team.
In post-game interviews, a number of players made mention of the fact they were written off by pundits due to the conditions, while Mitchell Moses made the staggering statement that he thought the Cowboys actually struggled more.
Parramatta trailed 20-12 early in the second half and appeared to be on their last legs in front of 25,372 raucous fans.
But they found something special to rally in style, with prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard crashing over for his second try.
When back-rower Shaun Lane threw a clever pass to winger Maika Sivo, the Eels had two tries in seven minutes and a 24-20 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
— issac luke (@issacluke_14) September 23, 2022
Cowboys left devastated after loss in preliminary final
The Cowboys were gallant and had a superb season after finishing 15th the year before, but their disappointment at an opportunity lost was palpable.
"There's a lot of heartbreak and disappointment to be honest," co-captain Chad Townsend said.
"We've had an incredible season...and we gave ourselves a chance to compete.
"They're disappointed next door (in the sheds) because of the opportunity that we had and we couldn't make the most of it."
Eels coach Brad Arthur said: "We wanted it really bad. You could see that.
"I've seen it in their eyes since the (42-6) win over the Bulldogs in round 22.
"The players did it, not me. They got together and had some real honest conversations about turning up every week regardless of how they feel.
"That was the mentality we took when we got up here. Just get on a plane, get up here and get the job done. That's what we did."
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