They haven’t been home since Sunday but Parramatta coach Brad Arthur says being out of Sydney is exactly what his NRL team needed.
After Monday night’s loss to the Titans, the Eels flew straight to Darwin from the Gold Coast in what is the final leg of a gruelling three-game stretch that began in Townsville.
But after taking in the sights and sounds of the Top End on Thursday, Arthur hopes a more relaxed squad can break a three-game losing streak against Penrith on Saturday night.
“A few of them went and did a little bit of fishing yesterday and saw some crocodiles. So it’s been good to take their mind off footy,” Arthur said on Friday.
“Every week there’s been something with us, so it’s good to get up here and be away from the spotlight.”
The 13th-placed Eels have been boosted by the return of their left-edge combination of Will Hopoate, Brad Takairangi and Corey Norman from injury.
It is Norman’s first game back since hurting his knee against Canterbury in round 19, and his first game at his regular position of five-eighth since round 14.
“I don’t think we’ve had our left edge all together for a long time now,” Arthur said.
“That edge seems to be our strike edge. Those boys sit pretty high in the NRL for tries scored as an edge, so it’d be nice and positive.”
Temperatures are predicted to reach a steamy 32 degrees on Saturday, and with both sides all but out of the running for the finals, Arthur predicted a free-flowing game for the Darwin locals.
“Come 7pm on Saturday night, the temperature should be good,” he said.
“It should be a dry pitch. Both teams like to throw the ball around, so I think it’ll suit that style of footy.”
A season-ending hamstring injury to young gun Robert Jennings forced Penrith coach Ivan Cleary to shuffle Lewis Brown into the second row, with Api Koroisau added to the bench.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Semi Radradra has failed to score in three straight games just once in his 44-game career. His 17 tries this year is more than the selected Panthers backline this week.
* Penrith’s first-choice spine of Matt Moylan, Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace and James Segeyaro have played just three games together all year – one of them for 11 minutes.
* Jamie Soward will make his 200th NRL appearance after debuting in 2005. His current 15-game tryscoring drought is the longest of his career.