Parramatta Eels in late selection twist ahead of NRL grand final

Brad Arthur (pictured right) and Ivan Cleary (pictured left) before the NRL grand final.
The Eels could be set to start Nathan Brown in the NRL grand final, instead of bringing him off the bench. (Getty Images)

NRL great Jonathan Thurston has labelled the inclusion of Nathan Brown in the Eels' side for the NRL grand final a 'masterstroke' as reports suggest the fiery forward could start.

Arthur made the shock decision to pick Eels enforcer Nathan Brown for the season decider, despite having not played since Round 17.

'Don't like it': Ivan Cleary's tactics questioned before NRL grand final

INTERESTING: Cleary's sister 'banned' in furore surrounding grand final

Brown comes in at the expense of Bryce Cartwright.

The selection of the in-your-face defender appears to be a decision aimed at ruffling the feathers of Panthers halfback Cleary.

Now reports claim Brown will start the game, rather than from the bench, in an attempt to dominate the Panthers' forward pack from the get-go.

And the move to start the aggressive forward received the approval from Dragons forward Aaron Woods.

“I don’t mind (Brown starting) because you’re fighting fire with fire,” Woods said on Triple M radio.

“I actually don’t mind Marata Niukore starting, I’d probably put Paulo back to the bench and start Brown. We did that with Origin, you’ve got a massive body on the bench."

And NRL legend Thurston agreed that the inclusion of Brown is a 'masterstroke'.

“He’s got that aggressive mindset,” Thurston said.

“He loves the contact. He loves the aggression and that’s what they need because if the Panthers forward pack starts to get on a roll, that’s when Cleary and Luai come into their own and they’ll just dominate from there.”

Brown's inclusion is a tactical one in an attempt to put pressure on Cleary so the Panthers halfback doesn't have as much time as he is usually afforded.

Parramatta Eels to target Nathan Cleary in GF

Following their week one finals loss to the Panthers, Arthur was critical of his team.

The coach put the blame firmly at the feet of his forwards for not putting enough kick pressure on Cleary.

It's a point being well taken by the Eels in their bid for a drought-breaking title.

But, as has proven the case all season, talking about stopping Cleary is one thing, finding a way to actually get to him is another.

"Obviously they have a good system in how they protect their kicker," said Eels back-rower Shaun Lane, who will mark up on Cleary's side of the field.

Nathan Cleary (pictured) celebrating during an NRL match.
The Eels have made it clear they will target and put more pressure on Nathan Cleary (pictured) in the NRL grand final. (Getty Images)

"He stands quite deep as well and has such a big boot on him that he's able to stand a long way away from the ruck.

"So it's difficult to get to him unless you're 100 per cent with your kick pressure.

"They clearly have an emphasis on protecting him and getting him the best possible situation to put in a good kick.

"They get quick play-the-balls the play before it a lot of the time with (fullback) Dylan Edwards, which makes it very difficult to then get kick pressure."

with AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.