Why the Eels must win on Friday

If the Eels hope to end their 36-year title drought, Friday night’s clash with Manly is practically a must-watch game.

A loss at Brookvale will put Parramatta behind the eighth ball in the hunt for the top four and history tells us that winning the premiership from the bottom half of the playoffs is nigh on impossible.

In the NRL era, no team has won the title after finishing fifth or lower.

Going back further, only the 1995 Bulldogs (who upset Manly in the decider after finishing sixth) and the ’93 Broncos (who defended their title from fifth place) in premiership history have lifted the trophy outside of the top four.

Parramatta is tied at three for fourth with Melbourne and Brisbane on 26 points with five rounds remaining. Cronulla is one win up and the Cowboys still have two more points on 30.

(Photo by Steven Markham/Speed ​​Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Cowboys and Sharks have relatively easy draws, so it looks like a three-horse race for that all-important second chance in the playoffs that comes with a top-four finish.

How important is it?

It breaks down like this – of the 24 teams that have won the minor premiership in the NRL era, 23 have made the preliminary finals, 16 have progressed to the grand final but only eight have lifted the trophy.

For teams that placed 2-4 on the ladder, 52 of those 72 teams made the preliminaries with only 24 of them progressing to the GF.

And for those ranked fifth or lower, a fraction of more than 20% of them survive until the penultimate week of the finals and of the 21 who did, 13 of them are not went further.

Position Preliminary finalists Grand Finalists prime ministers
Minor prime ministers 23/24 (96%) 16/24 (67%) 8/24 (33%)
Teams ranked 2-4 52/72 (72%) 24/48 (50%) 16/24 (67%)
Rank 5 or lower 21/98 (21%) 8/48 (16%) 0/24 (0%)

In the last decade since the demise of the McIntyre Finals system, only two teams have made the Grand Finals outside of the top four – the Cowboys in 2017 and the Bulldogs in 2014 – with neither team winning the title.

The anomaly that were the Wests Tigers of 2005 and Melbourne’s now-cancelled title race of 2009 are the only occasions the team that finished fourth has lifted the NRL trophy (before in Storm’s case, having to return it for the rorts salary cap).

All other premiership winners over the past quarter century have come from the top three at the end of the regular season.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 20: Reed Mahoney of the Eels is tackled by Jake Trbojevic of the Sea Eagles during the NRL Round 11 match between the Parramatta Eels and the Manly Sea Eagles at CommBank Stadium on May 20, 2022, in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Of the 48 teams that have played in the Grand Finals since 1998, all but eight have finished in the top four – the aforementioned 2017 Cowboys and Dogs, as well as the 2011 Warriors and 2010 Roosters from sixth place, the 2009 Eels. starting in eighth place, the fifth-placed North Queensland team in 2005, St George’s Illawarra Foundation team in 1999 and Canterbury the previous year when they made an unlikely run at start from ninth place before being beaten by Brisbane.

All eight ran out of steam the moment they reached the GF with the 99 Dragons the only one to come close.

Over the past decade, in the 1v4, 2v3, 5v8 and 6v7 system, on five occasions the top four teams have all qualified for the preliminary finals, with three of the four making it through to the others. years.

Under the McIntyre system that was used from 1999 to 2011, there was no season where all four progressed to the preliminary stage.

Three of the top four have made the preliminaries every two years with the exception of 2009 when the Dragons and Titans bombed in straight sets and the inaugural NRL season of 1998 when there was a final 10-team setup in because of the inflated team of 20 competition. Newcastle and Melbourne exited through the back door after finishing in the top four.

Only eight of the 98 NRL-era teams that finished fifth or lower even qualified for the GF and the number that became premier is a much rounder number.

So no pressure, Parramatta.

Of course, they can potentially lose this game and still recover to overtake Brisbane and Melbourne in the final month of the regular season. They will face the Broncos and Storm in the final fortnight so they can keep their fate in their own hands.

The Eels will be without star running back Mitchell Moses for at least the next three weeks with a broken finger.

Jake Arthur has been brought into the squad and coach Brad Arthur said his son was unaffected by recent fan backlash over his selection to the top tier.

DARWIN, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 30: Jake Arthur of the Eels catches a pass during the warm up before the NRL Round of 16 match between the Parramatta Eels and the North Queensland Cowboys at TIO Stadium on April 30, 2022, in Darwin, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Trolls flooded the club’s official account of his selection while the young playmaker was booed by a vocal minority of Eels fans when his name was read as bench utility during the announcement of the pre-match team a fortnight ago.

“He did a good job, he deserves his chance. We are happy for him. He just has to see it as a good opportunity to keep learning his craft in a very good team,” the coach said in his midweek press conference.

And if they can win the race for fourth place, they will likely face Premiers Penrith in the first round of the playoffs. The Panthers have only lost twice all year, but the Eels were the team to beat them on each occasion, so they would be far from scared against their Western Sydney derby rivals.

For the Sea Eagles, they dropped to 10th after last Thursday’s home loss when seven of their players refused to play due to the club’s inclusive jersey.

Why the Eels must win on Friday

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Their chances of making the final still stand, but they have as good a chance of finishing in the top four as they do of winning gold at the end of a rainbow, jersey or whatever.

Veteran coach Des Hasler tried to put a positive spin on the drama Thursday morning by saying the team cleared the air at a weekend meeting.

Five of the seven players who didn’t feature in the costly loss to the Roosters are set to return to the 17-man roster with second rower Josh Schuster on the extended bench and prop Josh Aloiai sidelined with a knee problem .

“It’s the old expression that you can’t control outside noise. The players decided to continue,” Hasler said.

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